Tensions between police and blacks likely to worsen: Obama

WASHINGTON • US President Barack Obama said the profound tensions between the police and African-American communities were likely to worsen "for quite some time" after the series of wrenching shooting deaths this month.

At a lengthy and at times tense White House gathering, he urged law enforcement officials and civil rights activists to keep pressing to bridge their differences.

"Not only are there very real problems but (also) there are still deep divisions about how to solve these problems," he said at the White House, after meeting all afternoon and into the evening with the group.

"There is no doubt that police departments still feel embattled and unjustly accused, and there is no doubt that minority communities, communities of colour, still feel like it just takes too long to do what's right," he added.

"We have to, as a country, sit down and just grind it out - solve these problems."

During a session that lasted for more than four hours and which included administration officials and community activists from the Black Lives Matter movement among the 40 or so in attendance, Mr Obama led what he later called an "excellent" and "encouraging" session about building trust between law enforcement and communities of colour.

"We are not even close to being there yet," the President said, adding that it will take time to achieve such trust. "Sadly, because this is a huge country that is very diverse, and we have a lot of police departments, I think it is fair to say that we will see more tension between police and communities this month, next month, next year, for quite some time."

The hastily arranged meeting came a day after Mr Obama travelled to Dallas to attend a memorial service for five police officers killed last week by an African-American man who said he wanted to kill white people.

The deaths have opened the latest chapter in what has become an increasingly passionate debate in America over racial justice, discrimination and violence.

Mr Obama has conceded in recent days that he has felt powerless to shift the conversation or the realities driving it, whether by legislation or by persuasion, a cruel conundrum for the first African-American President, who campaigned for the White House arguing that there was no such thing as "black America" and "white America".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2016, with the headline 'Tensions between police and blacks likely to worsen: Obama'. Print Edition | Subscribe