- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden said relations between police and the communities they serve will improve when both sides acknowledge and value each other.

Biden spoke Monday at a White House event honoring “Champions of Change” who have created plans to strengthen relationships between law enforcement and youth.

“A law enforcement officer in a tough neighborhood looks at a corner and sees a kid with dreadlocks and sees gang banger, instead of a kid who has opportunity to be a great poet or author,” Biden said. “The truth is, we are not seeing each other, very much.”

The community also shouldn’t think of trouble at the first sight of law enforcement, he said.

Biden said cuts in community policing- from school outreach to building community skate parks- has forced neighborhoods to pick up the slack. He said the Obama administration is committed to restoring these fractured relationships.

The Department of Justice has awarded more than $125 million in grants to improve cooperation between law enforcement and the community. The grants will help fund body cameras, hiring more than 800 officers, and community engagement efforts. Officials in cities including Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Las Vegas will receive the federal funding.

Biden, who is eyeing a 2016 run for president, also defended a crime bill he pushed through Congress some 20 years ago. Critics have said the 1994 legislation spiked incarceration and police brutality.

Biden countered that a provision of the bill was to send drug offenders to rehabilitation centers instead of prison.

“The essence of the legislation was a very controversial notion,” he said. “A third of all the money in the crime bill was for prevention.

“We tried to divert children from prison, young people from prison,” he added.

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