In a nearly hour-long address today at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference President Barack Obama outlined a three-part plan that he said will improve America's criminal justice system and make law enforcement officers safer.
The President said officers can be made safer and criminal justice reform effected by making sure officers have the resources they need to do the job, through criminal justice reform that will make the system smarter and fairer, and by taking steps to reduce the risk to law enforcement officers, namely more rigid gun laws.
On the topic of criminal justice reform, Obama said, "Too often law enforcement gets scapegoated" and that citizens can't expect police officers to fix problems that the public is unwilling to face itself.
Obama thanked law enforcement officers for putting their lives on the line to protect and serve America and said America needs to back its law enforcement professionals. "We need to start with supporting you, the men and women who walk the thin blue line," he said.
Obama listed measures taken during his administration that have helped law enforcement, including setting aside additional money for law enforcement, creating the Blue Alert system, launching an anti-ambush training program, and arguing against Republicans who wanted to cut funding to the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
During the speech to the packed ballroom of law enforcement executives, Obama advocated for alternative solutions to incarceration for non-violent offenders. And he highlighted the importance of providing ways for non-violent offenders to re-enter the community and become productive members of society as well as the need to provide young people with opportunities so they don't turn to crime in the first place.
Obama argued that in order to make law enforcement officers safer, it's critical to make it harder for criminals to acquire guns. He said he's not out to take everyone's guns away, just to keep them from criminals.
The President closed his speech with the story of Officer William Stacy, who was called to a store to arrest a woman who had been caught shoplifting. The woman, who had stolen three eggs because she was 50 cents short of the dozen, told him her grandchildren hadn't eaten in days. Instead of arresting her, Officer Stacy purchased the dozen eggs for her.
Obama said the effects of such kindness by officers can be powerful. "'He pushed my world in the right direction,' the woman said, and I will never forget it," President Obama said. "That's America at its best. That's some good police work. That's what so many of you represent. I thank you for the work you do."--Melanie Basich