Obama Defends Cops While Pushing For Tougher Gun Laws In Speech

By Kate Shepherd in News on Oct 27, 2015 9:59PM

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via Getty Images

While in Chicago today, President Barack Obama addressed the growing tensions between police and minority communities in a speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Obama defended the police force against the intense criticism it's faced in the wake of deaths in Ferguson and Baltimore. The police are blamed for societal problems coming from issues including unemployment, poor education and easy gun laws, he told the crowd.

"Too often, law enforcement gets scapegoated for the broader failures of our society and criminal justice system," he said. "I know that you do your jobs with distinction no matter the challenges you face. That's part of wearing the badge."

"But we can't expect you to contain and control problems that the rest of us aren't willing to face or do anything about—problems ranging from substandard education to a shortage of jobs and opportunity, from an absence of drug treatment programs to laws that result in it being easier in too many neighborhoods for a young person to purchase a gun than a book."

The conference sparked a march, rally and shadow conference held by community groups and activists to demand accountability and fair policing practices. Obama, who defended Black Lives Matter last week, told the police chiefs that he rejects the us vs. them storyline promoted by the media but says the debate about law enforcement and minorities should happen.

"I reject any narrative that seeks to divide police and communities they serve; that frames any discussion of public safety around 'us' and 'them,'" Obama said. "A narrative that too often gets served up to us by cable news seeking ratings, tweets seeking retweets or political candidates seeking some attention."

"That doesn't mean we shouldn't have a serious and robust debate over fairness in law enforcement and our broader criminal justice system when it comes to communities of color," he said.

FBI Director James Comey and Mayor Rahm Emanuel both recently blamed the rise in crime on the "Ferguson effect", which is police choosing to engage fewer people for fear of a situation becoming the next "Ferguson."

Obama rejects that idea, according to White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz.

"The available body of evidence does not support the notion that law enforcement officers around the country are shying away from doing their job," Schultz told reporters traveling with the president according to the AP.

The president will speak at a DNC fundraiser at the Public Hotel tonight and then he's expected to head over to the United Center for the Bulls' regular season home opener against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to ESPN. Obama faced criticism from pro-gun activists earlier this month when he visited Oregon in the wake of a mass shooting there.