Barack Obama Makes 3 Police Reform Suggestions in First On-Camera Comments About George Floyd Protests

On Wednesday, former President Barack Obama made three specific suggestions regarding police reform as he delivered his first on-camera comments regarding the death of George Floyd and its resulting protests in a town hall on Wednesday called "Reimagining Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence."

Foremost, Obama said he wanted every U.S. citizen to read the report from his administration's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, a report originally released on May 18, 2015, which outlines "specific evidence-based reforms ways to build trust [between police and community members], save lives and not increase crime."

"A lot of mayors and local elected officials, read and supported the Task Force report," Obama said. "But then there wasn't enough follow-through."

Making his second ask, Obama said, "Today, I'm urging every mayor in this country to review your use-of-force policies with members of your community, and commit to reforms."

Former U.S. President Barack Obama
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to young leaders from across Europe in a Town Hall-styled session on April 06, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty

"We have more information and more data as to what works," Obama continued, "and there are organizations like Campaign Zero, Color of Change and others that are out there, highlighting what the data shows that works and what doesn't in terms of reducing incidents of police misconduct and violence. Let's go ahead and start implementing those."

"We need mayors, executives and others who are in positions of power to say 'This is a priority, this is our specific response," Obama added.

Third, Obama said he hopes every city in America would become a "My Brother's Keeper community," an Obama initiative to help to reduce barriers and expand opportunities for boys and young men of color through programs, policy reforms and public-private partnerships.

Before Obama made his suggestions, he expressed support for the families of people affected by police violence, those working towards racial justice and law enforcement officers who have exemplified their shared goals.

After making his suggestions, Obama said he felt heartened by the broad coalition of people from different races and backgrounds who have come together to work towards racial justice and police reform. He said that protesting coalitions weren't nearly as diverse in the '50s and '60s Civil Rights Era.

These are Obama's first on-camera address regarding Floyd's death, but he has shared thoughts on Floyd's death online via a statement shared on social media and a lengthy piece posted to Medium titled "How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change."

In the piece, Obama wrote that the majority of protesters deserve "respect and support," as they have been "peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring." He also criticized protesters who have become violent.

"[T]he small minority of folks who've resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause," Obama wrote. "If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back. So let's not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves."

Obama also said that those looking to make real change must be sure to vote for the changes they wish to see and know which officials in both local and state elections, aside from just national elections, can implement change.

"So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn't between protest and politics. We have to do both," Obama wrote. "We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform."