President Obama said Friday that it was "absolutely vital that the truth comes out" about what led to the death of Freddie Gray while in custody of six Baltimore police officers who were charged Friday with homicide in the case.
"What the people of Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth,” Obama said at the White House just after the charges were announced in Baltimore. “That's what people around the country expect. And to the extent that it's appropriate, this administration will help local officials get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”
The president also said he was gratified to see "constructive, thoughtful" protests taking place in Baltimore, and hoped it would continue. Days earlier, he condemned what he called criminal activity in Baltimore during this week's rioting.
He added that “justice needs to be served,” but said he was withholding further comment on the ongoing criminal case.
The White House says the president has monitored events in Baltimore and that the administration is in contact with local officials who are guiding the response.
“We have seen exposed that the police department in a major U.S. city has some important work to do to build trust with some of the citizens that they're sworn to serve and protect,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
The president was to speak with a group of mayors Friday afternoon about ways to rebuild trust between law and enforcement and minority communities, following up on the recommendations from a policing task force he convened last year after unrest in Ferguson, Mo., stemming from the shooting death of an unarmed black man by a white police officer.
The White House has also reached out to prominent people who live in Baltimore “to stand up and encourage their fellow Baltimore residents to express their legitimate concerns publicly but also peacefully,” Earnest said.
Earlier this week, Earnest bristled at suggestions that Obama had only discussed issues of race amid crises like the one in Baltimore. He pointed to a trip the president took to the city in 2013 where he discussed issues affecting minority communities, and the ongoing work of the president’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative directed at young men of color. Obama will travel to New York next week to launch the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a new nonprofit organization that will facilitate similar work after the president leaves office.
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