- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Stung by criticism that his rhetoric has encouraged lethal attacks on police, President Obama met with Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and FBI Director James B. Comey on Tuesday to discuss ways to protect law enforcement officers.

Among the proposals debated were providing more police departments with bulletproof vests and funding more training programs for dealing with active shooters and “de-escalating” confrontations with civilians.

“I strongly believe that there is no contradiction between us protecting our officers and honoring our officers and making sure that they have all the tools they need to do their job, and building trust between police officers and departments and the communities that they serve,” Mr. Obama said. “These things are complementary.”

With 18,000 police departments nationwide and tensions on the rise, Mr. Obama said, “We have a lot of work to do.

“This is not going to be something we can do just from this office or from the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security,” the president said. “This is something that is going to have to be bottom-up.”

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett also attended the meeting in the Oval Office two days after a black gunman assassinated three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The city was roiled by protests over the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer two weeks ago.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Mr. Obama “is interested in understanding what more we can do to protect our law enforcement officers” and how to build trust between police and minorities.

“In too many of these communities, we’ve seen those bonds of trust start to fray,” Mr. Earnest said. “It only increases the risk that law enforcement officers face and making the streets were dangerous for the people who live in these communities. So it’s a cycle that we need to reverse.”

The president also took the unusual step of writing an open letter Tuesday telling the nation’s law enforcement officers that Americans “depend on you.”

“Time and again, you make the split-second decisions that could mean life or death for you and many others in harm’s way,” Mr. Obama wrote. “I want you to know that the American people see it, too. We recognize it, we respect it, we appreciate it, and we depend on you.”

After the killings of three police officers Sunday in Baton Rouge, the head of the police union in Cleveland, the city hosting the Republican National Convention this week, said Mr. Obama had “blood on his hands” for attacks against law enforcement, including the deaths of five officers in Dallas two weeks ago.

“Just as your tight-knit law enforcement family feels the recent losses to your core, our Nation grieves alongside you,” Mr. Obama wrote. “Any attack on police is an unjustified attack on all of us.”

Criticism of racial tensions and violence against police are prominent themes at the Republican convention. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke drew cheers Monday night when he told the convention, “Blue Lives Matter.” The White House again rejected a call Monday to light the president’s house in blue as a show of support for slain officers.

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani alluded to Mr. Obama’s 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention in which he said there is “not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

“What happened to ‘there’s no black America, there’s no white America — there is just America?’ What happened to it? Where did it go?” Mr. Giuliani asked.

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