President Barack Obama said police officers need to be aware of their “biases” when it comes to black men and vowed to put "federal muscle" behind improving police practices and training.
During a series of interviews with YouTube personalities Thursday, one of the interviewers, GloZell Green, said she “cut all the hoods” off of her husband’s hoodies because, "I’m afraid when he goes outside, that somebody might shoot and kill him."
"And it’s not, like, regular folks. It’s the po-po," she said. "How can we bridge the gap between black, African-American males and white cops?"
"First of all, we always have to remind ourselves that the overwhelming majority of police officers, they are doing a really tough job and they're doing it well," Obama said. "What we also know is that there are still biases in our society, that in split-second situations when people have to make quick decisions, that studies have shown African-American males are seen as more threatening, which puts them in a more vulnerable position. Young African-American males are typically seen as older than they are."
"A lot of the ways to solve this is to improve training so that people can be aware of their biases ahead of time," Obama said.
He noted that when he was a member of the Illinois state legislature, he helped push an anti-racial profiling bill to have police track the races of every person they stopped.
"Suddenly each cop, when they were about to make a traffic stop, they had to think, am I stopping this person because I should be stopping them or is some bias at work?" Obama said. "Just that kind of mindfulness about it ended up resulting in better data, better policing, more trust by the communities affected."
Obama has put together a task force with police and community activists in the wake of Ferguson to discuss and improve police practices and training.
“We’re going to take some of those recommendations and we’re going to put federal muscle behind them to see if we can make sure that communities all across the country are implementing them," Obama said. "It's something that I think everybody, not just African-Americans and Latinos, but everybody should be concerned about because you get better policing when communities have confidence that police are protecting and serving all people."