President calls for long-term solutions to police, community rel - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

President calls for long-term solutions to police, community relations

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said the National Guard was not deployed in time to save all businesses in Ferguson from violent protests Monday night. (Source: KSDK/CNN) Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said the National Guard was not deployed in time to save all businesses in Ferguson from violent protests Monday night. (Source: KSDK/CNN)
President Barack Obama speaks about the unrest in Ferguson, MO, during a planned speech about immigration in Chicago on Tuesday. (Source: CNN) President Barack Obama speaks about the unrest in Ferguson, MO, during a planned speech about immigration in Chicago on Tuesday. (Source: CNN)
Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump speaks to the media, criticizing St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch. (Source: CNN) Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump speaks to the media, criticizing St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch. (Source: CNN)

FERGUSON, MO (RNN) – President Barack Obama said he and the top law enforcement official in the country, Attorney General Eric Holder, would take more action to fight the perception of police injustice in communities.

Obama made brief comments about the turmoil in Ferguson before an address on immigration in Chicago on Tuesday night. He announced that Holder had been instructed to establish regional meetings throughout the country in an effort to build trust between law enforcement and citizens.

The president acknowledged distrust in the fair application of justice is not always founded, but it is enough of a problem in the U.S. to re-evaluate the process.

"The frustrations people have are generally rooted in some hard truths that have to be addressed," Obama said. “Don't take the short-term, easy route and just engage in destructive behavior. Take the long-term, hard but lasting route of working with me and governors to bring about some real change.”

His comments echoed those Holder made earlier in the day when he said the reaction in Ferguson revealed a "deep distrust" between the community and its police force.

"The reality is what we see in Ferguson is not restricted to Ferguson," Holder said. "There are other communities that have these same issues that have to be dealt with, and we at the Justice Department are determined to do all that we can to bridge those divides."

During a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said the National Guard was not deployed in time to save all businesses in Ferguson from violent protests Monday night.

"We will continue to work with National Guard and local authorities and we will work hard to build more diverse and stronger community," Knowles said.

Community leaders criticized the decision not to bring the Guard in earlier, and Knowles said Officer Darren Wilson's future is undecided.

Gov. Jay Nixon ordered National Guard forces to the city days before the announcement that the grand jury did not find probable cause to charge Wilson in Michael Brown's shooting death. Nixon increased the number of troops from 700 to 2,200 Tuesday to help police after riots broke out.

“The violence we saw in areas of Ferguson last night is unacceptable,” Nixon said. “That is why today I am meeting with leaders from the Guard and law enforcement to ensure the protection of lives and property.”

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar welcomed the move, saying it would help local law enforcement do their jobs better in the face of increasing violence.

"It is frustrating because I feel like certain individuals took advantage of not only the business owners and the community, but in many ways of Mr. Brown's life and legacy," Belmar said. "This has to turn into something good, otherwise, an 18-year-old man lost his life for nothing. It cheapens it when we look at the criminal activity that spun out of this."

Earlier on Tuesday, lawyers for Michael Brown's family criticized law enforcement officials in Ferguson and questioned an overall legal system they say unfairly favors police officers who use lethal force.

During the morning news conference, attorney Benjamin Crump focused much of his attention on Robert McCulloch, the prosecutor for St. Louis County.

"A first-year law student would have done a better job cross examining a killer of an unarmed man than the prosecutor did," Crump said.

There had been calls for McCulloch to step aside in favor of a special prosecutor since the case began, a notion he adamantly refused. McCulloch's impartiality was called into question because his father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty by a black man in 1964.

The Rev. Al Sharpton called for more accountability in community policing and said McCulloch improperly used the grand jury system in the case. He questioned the timing of the announcement of the grand jury's decision, 8 p.m. CT on Monday night.

But Sharpton also strongly denounced the use of violent protests, which reached a head after the nation learned charges would not be brought against Wilson.

"For over 100 days, young people old people, people of all races marched and did so peacefully and nonviolently," Sharpton said. "Those who acted last night do not reflect the spirit of Michael Brown. If you're on Michael Brown's side, you walk with dignity."

He said he and other civil rights leader have called for an emergency meeting next week in Washington, DC, to discuss continued marches, possible legislation and financial sanctions.

“It has been the legacy of the civil rights movement that you have to go to the federal government. You can't depend on the states," Sharpton said.

Brown's mother and father, Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, said they were "profoundly disappointed" in a statement Monday night after the announcement of the decision. They had also asked for people to remain peaceful in the final weeks of the grand jury deliberation.

The New York Times released video of McSpadden's husband, Louis Head, shouting "burn this [expletive] down" after the announcement of the decision Monday night. Soon after, looting and violence broke out on an unprecedented scale since Brown's shooting death.

Crump said that video was taken during a moment born from frustration and not to be taken at face value.

"That was raw emotion, not appropriate at all," Crump said. "God forbid, your child was killed and with that announcement, what would your reaction be? Don't condemn them for being human."

Wilson's lawyers released a statement about the decision.

"Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions," the statement said. "Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law. We recognize that many people will want to second-guess the grand jury's decision. We would encourage anyone who wants to express an opinion to do so in a respectful and peaceful manner."

Despite pleas for peaceful demonstrations from the president, the Missouri governor and civic leaders in Ferguson and nearby areas, protesters lit up the city with fires and smashed windows in businesses Monday night. Angry people burned more than a dozen buildings, set cars in a lot on fire and also tried setting several police cruisers ablaze.

Most of the damage was done along West Florissant Avenue, including a beauty supply store where multiple explosions went off because of chemicals inside. The street has been a hot spot for violence since uproar began in the city, and police are treating part of it as a crime scene.

Soon after Wilson, who is white, shot black 18-year-old Brown on Aug. 9, people flooded the streets and took up the chant "No justice, no peace." They and others around the country raucously demanded an indictment. Protesters brought that mantra to life after it was announced the grand jury did not find sufficient evidence to charge Wilson in the shooting.

At least 14 people were injured and treated at area hospitals in Monday night's riots, which were more destructive than any of the previous protests. According to the Associated Press, police arrested 21 people in St. Louis and 61 people in Ferguson.

Obama talked about the national importance of the decision, especially since protests on varying scales were held in cities around the U.S. About 120 different demonstrations are planned for Tuesday.

"We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation," Obama said Monday. "The fact is in too many parts of this country a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color."

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch released all of the evidence presented to the grand jury Monday evening, including photographs, testimony and diagrams.

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