Police departments have a lot of work to do to build trust with the African American communities they serve, President Obama said in an interview that aired Wednesday, but remarked that officers in Baltimore showed appropriate restraint in recent days.
Obama condemned the violence of the city's rioters, whom he called "criminals and thugs" in a news conference at the White House on Tuesday, the same day he recorded the interview with radio and TV host Steve Harvey.
In speaking to Harvey, Obama also urged law enforcement officials everywhere to "hold people accountable" when police officers do something wrong. Riots erupted in Baltimore on Monday after the funeral for a black man, Freddie Gray, who was mortally injured while in police custody.
Obama said his new attorney general, Loretta Lynch, is reaching out to cities and local leaders to talk about resources available to help train police and equip them with body cameras.
But the cycle of accusations of police abuse and widespread violence will continue as long as the country doesn't deal with broader social problems such as lack of education and job opportunities, Obama warned, a theme he hit on extensively at the nationally televised news conference as well.
The interview with Harvey aired after a relatively quiet night in Baltimore as police enforced a curfew to curb the violence seen Monday, when looting broke out and fires were set. A CVS was burned, and several police officers were injured.
On Tuesday, Obama told reporters in the Rose Garden that he believes the country must grapple with deep social problems such as poverty, substance abuse and mass incarceration if it is ever to deal with the simmering anger that boiled over in Baltimore.
Obama said he has "seen this movie too many times before" and expressed frustration with the destructive nature of the violence.
"These are our communities that get torn up," he said. "So whoever was working at the CVS, they right now are wondering if they’re going to get a paycheck. ... This kind of stuff is always self-defeating.”
Obama hinted to Harvey that he would eventually go to Baltimore, but said he tries to stay away from the scene of such crises so he doesn't complicate local efforts to manage them.
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