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White House Trust Conversation To Include Police, Civil Rights Leaders


Police and civil rights leaders will be at the White House today for a conversation on rebuilding trust between law enforcement and minority communities. At the memorial in Dallas for the five slain police officers, President Obama also spoke of the deaths of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, which, as he put it, quote, "have laid bare uncomfortable challenges."


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If we cannot talk honestly and openly, not just in the comfort of our own circles, but with those who look different than us or bring a different perspective, then we will never break this dangerous cycle.

MONTAGNE: Here's NPR's Scott Horsley with more.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama praised the men and women of the Dallas police force, saying their courage and professionalism last week saved more lives than we'll ever know. At today's White House meeting, he's likely to repeat his caution to critics not to paint all officers with too broad a brush.


OBAMA: We know that the overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally. They are deserving of our respect and not our scorn.


HORSLEY: At the same time, Obama will point to research showing persistent disparities in the way whites and blacks are treated by police. He says that can't be ignored as idle complaints from troublemakers.


OBAMA: To have your experience denied like that, dismissed by those in authority, dismissed, perhaps, even by your white friends and co-workers and fellow church members again and again and again - it hurts.

HORSLEY: Often, he says, the real problem is bigger than the police, who are expected to deal with a variety of social ills the rest of the community has neglected.


OBAMA: We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs and do so without causing any political blowback.

HORSLEY: Obama's been wrestling with these issues since his days in the Illinois state Senate, where he championed legislation to document racial profiling. In addition to today's White House gathering, the president will also take part in a town hall meeting on ABC tomorrow night. Obama has encouraged both supporters and critics of law enforcement to do more listening to one another. That message was echoed yesterday by former President George W. Bush, who says the best way to bridge what divides us is to imagine ourselves in our fellow citizens' shoes.


GEORGE BUSH: Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.

HORSLEY: Obama notes the Dallas Police Department has been in the forefront of improving relations with the community it serves. One woman who took part in last week's protest of police misconduct elsewhere later praised the Dallas officers for protecting her four children. The president says her 12-year-old son now wants to be a policeman. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.

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