Obama: police must hold officers accountable for wrongdoing

Published 11:44 am Wednesday, April 29, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said the Baltimore riots show that police departments need to hold officers accountable for wrongdoing “instead of just the closing-ranks approach that all too often we see.”

In an interview broadcast Wednesday morning on “The Steve Harvey Morning Show,” Obama said his heart goes out of the Baltimore officers who were injured by rioters. He said there’s no excuse for that kind of violence and Baltimore police showed “appropriate restraint.”

But he said police departments have to build more trust in minority communities by building accountability and transparency.

“It’s in their interest to root out folks who aren’t doing the right thing, to hold accountable people when they do something wrong, instead of just the closing-ranks approach that all too often we see that ends up just feeding greater frustration and ultimately, I think, putting more police officers in danger,” Obama said in the interview taped Tuesday and broadcast on black radio stations nationwide.

Obama said Attorney General Loretta Lynch is reaching out to mayors to let them know what resources are available for retraining police and providing body cameras to hold them accountable. But he said solving the problems is going to require a broader political movement that addresses problems like poor education, drugs, absent fathers and limited job opportunities.

“If all we’re doing is focusing on retraining police but not dealing with some of these underlying issues, then these problems are going to crop up again,” Obama said, while acknowledging those problems require sustained focus that might be hard to muster. “People have a tendency once the fires have been put out, the cars aren’t being tipped over, you know, there’s not some media crisis, then folks want go back and focus on whatever reality TV thing is going on.”

“Unfortunately we’ve seen these police-related killings or deaths too often now,” Obama said. “And obviously everybody is starting to recognize that this is not just an isolated incident in Ferguson or New York, but we’ve got some broader issues.”

“I’ve seen this movie too many times before,” he added.

Asked whether he would visit Baltimore, Obama said he didn’t want to draw resources away from addressing the violence. “Once things have been cleared up, I think there’s going to be a time I go back to Baltimore.”