The Slatest

President Obama Addresses Fatal Police Shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

President Obama weighed in Thursday evening from Warsaw, Poland, on the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. The shootings reignited outrage over the police treatment of black Americans; both instances were illustrated by graphic videos. The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Sterling’s death. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has called for a DOJ investigation of Castile’s death, but the department has yet to intervene.

On Thursday, Obama spoke about the need to do better as a nation when it comes to how people of color are treated by police and that doing so is not a repudiation of the work of every police officer everywhere. Here are some of the president’s remarks:

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When incidents like this occur, it’s a big chunk of our fellow citizens that feel as if because of the color of their skin they are not being treated the same, and that hurts. That should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue. It’s not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about. All fair-minded people should be concerned.

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Let me just say we have extraordinary appreciation and respect for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day. They’ve got a dangerous job. It’s a tough job. As I’ve said before, they have a right to go home to their families just like anybody else on the job. They’re going to be circumstances in which they have to make split second decisions. We understand that. But when we see data that indicates disparities in how African-Americans and Latinos may be treated in various jurisdictions around the country, then it’s incumbent on all of us to say we can do better than this. We are better than this.

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To be concerned about these issues is not to be against law enforcement. There are times when these incidents occur and you see protests and you see vigils and I get letters, well-meaning letters sometimes, from law enforcement that say how come we’re under attack? How come not enough emphasis is made when police officers are shot? And so to all of law enforcement, I want to be very clear. We know you have a tough job. We mourn those in uniform who are protecting us who lose their lives. On a regular basis, I have joined with families in front of Capitol Hill to commemorate the incredible heroism that they’ve displayed. I’ve hugged family members who have lost loved ones doing the right thing. I know how much it hurts.

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There is no contradiction between us supporting law enforcement, making sure they’ve got the equipment they need, making sure their collective bargaining rights are recognized, making sure that they’re adequately staffed, making sure that they are respected, making sure their families are supported, and also saying that there are problems across our criminal justice system, there are biases, conscious and subconscious that have to be rooted out.

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So, you know, when people say black lives matter. It doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter, and all lives matter, but right now the big concern is that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of instances. This isn’t us comparing the value of lives. This is recognizing that there is a particular burden that is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens, and we should care about that. We can’t dismiss it. We can’t dismiss it.

Earlier on Thursday, Obama released a lengthy statement on the president’s Facebook page saying “what’s clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents.”

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