President Obama’s task force on policing, meeting in Cincinnati, didn’t have to wait long to see the deep divide between police and some of the citizens they serve, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Its first panel discussion included a police chief, an officer, a researcher and a civil rights activist, and their perspectives were as wildly different as their job descriptions. Sarasota, Fl., police Sgt. Michael McHale said police officers use force only when necessary and blamed “inflammatory rhetoric” in the media for fueling anti-police sentiment. Rashad Robinson of the civil rights group ColorOfChange described police misconduct as a national crisis and “one of America’s great wrongs.”
The conversation hinted at how difficult it will be to come to a consensus on meaningful proposals. McHale, president of the National Association of Police Organizations, emphasized the threat to police and said citizens need to learn more about the risks officers face every day, possibly by attending police training sessions or going along with officers on patrol. Robinson focused on citizen complaints, arguing that African-Americans too often feel they are singled out for traffic stops or questioning because of the color of their skin, which sometimes leads to misunderstandings and violence. “Black and brown people in American cities face a very real threat,” said Robinson, whose group claims 1 million members. Police Chief Harold Medlock of Fayetteville, N.C., said police unfairly get blamed when violence occurs and urged more caution in passing judgment. He said police could do better, urging more open communication and saying police must be willing to change their policies and training when necessary.