Barack Obama says he is taking steps to ensure America is not building a “militarised culture” within police forces as he promoted the use of body cameras by officers in the wake of the shooting of an unarmed black teenager.
With protests continuing in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, President Obama, speaking after a White House meeting with police, civil rights activists and community leaders, acknowledged the participants told him that there had been task forces in the past and “nothing happens”.
“Part of the reason this time will be different is because the president of the United States is deeply invested in making sure that this time is different,” Mr Obama said.
He said he was upset to hear the young people in the meeting describe their experiences with police. “It violates my belief in what America can be to hear young people feeling marginalised and distrustful even after they’ve done everything right,” he said.
At least for now, Mr Obama is staying away from Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the uproar over a grand jury’s decision last week not to charge Darren Wilson, the policeman who shot dead 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Violent protests and looting erupted after the decision, resulting in at least a dozen commercial buildings being destroyed, despite Mr Obama’s pleas for calm.
In tandem with the meeting, the White House announced it wants more police to wear cameras that capture their interactions with civilians. The cameras are part of a $263m (£167.5m) spending package to help police forces improve their community relations.
Of the total, $74m (£47m) would be used to help pay for 50,000 of the small, lapel-mounted cameras to record police in action, with state and local governments paying half the cost
Mr Obama said young people had relayed stories about being marginalised in society and said those tales violated “my idea of who we are as a nation”.