WASHINGTON — President Obama declared protecting police officers and addressing the concerns of protesters “complementary and not contradictory” after an Oval Office meeting today to discuss safety measures for cops.
Obama met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, White House counsel Neil Eggleston, and domestic policy director Cecilia Muñoz.
“Obviously, the loss of three more police officers in Baton Rouge over the weekend, three of them still wounded, one critically wounded — and we’re praying for him as we speak — right on the heels of Dallas indicates the degree to which it is very important for us to do everything we can to help police officers go home at night and to be safe,” the president told reporters after the meeting.
“And as has been consistent throughout all the conversations I’ve had over the last several weeks, I strongly believe that there is no contradiction between us protecting our officers, honoring our officers, making sure that they have all the tools they need to do their job safely, and building trust between police officers and departments in the communities that they serve… The more we can do to make sure that communities feel that these are their police departments and that they have a interest in protecting them, the easier it’s going to be for police officers to do their jobs.”
Obama said officer safety “has to be a local initiative in the 18,000 law enforcement jurisdictions that are out there all across the country” and not just “a federal top-down initiative.”
“We were talking — just to give you a few examples — about the great interest on the part of police departments around the country in training for safety, de-escalation, dealing with active shooter cases. Unfortunately, not all those departments who want to train their officers had the resources to do it. And the Justice Department has programs that can be made available, but we don’t have enough coverage, not as much as we’d like,” he said.
“Something as basic as bullet-proof vests — large numbers of departments do have bullet-proof vests for all their officers on patrol and in situations where there’s significant risk, but there are a number of places where they’re still short of bullet-proof vests. That can make a difference.”
Obama vowed to “look at best practices” in police departments during the remainder of his time in office.
“What kind of equipment do they need? What kind of training do they need? What kind of recruitment strategies do they need?” he said.
The president said his administration would continue “to encourage the kinds of conversations between police departments and communities so that we can incorporate — as part of a strategy to make the lives of police officers safer — encourage the kind of best practices that assure communities are embracing their police departments the way they should and the way they need.”