Obama requests $263 million for body cameras and police training

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama asked federal agencies on Monday for concrete recommendations to ensure the U.S. isn’t building a “militarized culture” within police departments, as he promoted the use of body cameras by police in the wake of the shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri.

Obama spoke after meeting with mayors, civil rights leaders and law enforcement officials at the White House to discuss a recently completed review of federal programs that provide military-style equipment to local police departments — such as the kind used to dispel racially charged protests in Ferguson after Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer. Although Obama didn’t call for those programs to be pulled back, he said there was a need to create accountability, transparency and trust between police and the communities they serve.

“This is not a problem just of Ferguson, Missouri. This is a national problem,” Obama said.

At least for now, Obama is staying away from Ferguson in the wake of the uproar over a grand jury’s decision last week not to charge the police officer who fatally shot Brown. Violent protests and looting erupted after the decision, resulting in at least a dozen commercial buildings being destroyed, despite Obama’s pleas for calm.

In tandem with the meeting, the White House announced it wants more police to wear cameras that capture their interactions with civilians. The cameras are part of a $263 million spending package to help police departments improve their community relations. Of the total, $74 million would be used to help pay for 50,000 of the small, lapel-mounted cameras to record police on the job, with state and local governments paying half the cost

Pushing back on concerns the task force would be all talk and no action, Obama said this situation was different because he was personally invested in ensuring results. He said young people attending the meeting had relayed stories about being marginalized in society and said those stories violate “my idea of who we are as a nation.”

“In the two years I have remaining as president,” Obama said, “I’m going to make sure we follow through.”

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