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National

Obama Promises Regular Meetings With Police Groups

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Six leaders of law enforcement organizations arrived at the White House yesterday. They expected a meeting with Vice President Biden. Then they were moved to a different room to meet a different official, President Obama. The president spoke with them as he prepares to travel today to Dallas, the city where a gunman killed five officers last week.

One participant in the meeting at the White House was Jim Pasco of a police union, the National Fraternal Order of Police. He's on the line from Edgewater, Md. Good morning.

JIM PASCO: Morning.

INSKEEP: What did you talk about?

PASCO: Well, it was a whole broad range of issues. But obviously, the focal point was the recent tragedies across the country involving police and civilian interaction and a horrible ambush of police in Dallas.

INSKEEP: Did you have something to say to the president - you think that he needed to know or didn't get?

PASCO: Well, part of - the president actually pre-empted us to a degree, in the sense that in his opening remarks, he compared the assassinations in Dallas to the horrible shootings not too long ago in Charleston at the church where Dylann Roof killed a number of black people and is currently awaiting trial.

He suggested that if the shooter were still alive in Dallas, he most certainly would be prosecuted by the federal government for a hate crime, which is, in terms of assaults on law enforcement officers, unprecedented in our research.

INSKEEP: That's what you wanted?

PASCO: Absolutely. And the Fraternal Order of Police has been arguing for that since the late '90s. And we had met on Friday with the attorney general, who let us know that this would've been on the table but again, was a moot point because of the death of who is believed to be the only participant in this event in Dallas. But the president was even more adamant on it yesterday.

INSKEEP: Well - now, let me put a big thing on the table here, though, Mr. Pasco. We had a deputy sheriff on this program last week, actually, before the latest incidents. And he referred to the string of shootings of black men by police - been highly publicized incidents going back several years, of course. And he said the president has made our job harder with his lack of support over these incidents. Have you seen a lack of support from the president?

PASCO: I wouldn't go so far as to call it a lack of support. I think part of the problem is in tone. And the president has never been a police officer. He's never walked in a police officer's shoes. And while he might feel he's expressing at times that - you know, exactly the right sentiments - from a police officer's perspective, he's expecting something somewhat different.

And therefore, there's kind of a breakdown in communication more than there is a breakdown in insincerity or intent on the part of the president. And that was something that was discussed at some length yesterday.

INSKEEP: Meaning that you think he is thinking and saying the right things but in the wrong way?

PASCO: I think at times that's true, yes. But in fairness, and as he pointed out to us, sometimes, we're thinking and saying the right things and expressing them in the wrong way, as well. So there's plenty of room on all sides for improvement in how we communicate with one another. And even though - on this tonal thing, I think it's more optics, if you will, than anything else. I think that there's plenty of room for improvement in the way we interact on all sides.

INSKEEP: OK. Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police. Thanks.

PASCO: Mhmm. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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