WASHINGTON -- President Clinton expressed alarm yesterday about recent allegations of police brutality and called for increased funding for programs designed to improve community policing, train officers in ethics and restore public trust in law enforcement.
"I have been deeply disturbed by recent allegations of serious police misconduct and continued reports of racial profiling that have shaken some communities' faith in the police," Clinton said in his weekly radio address, which was recorded in Washington before he left for a weekend trip to Arkansas.
Although the president did not cite specific examples, his concern appeared to be directed at recent incidents in Riverside, Calif., New York and Pittsburgh in which young blacks were killed by police, as well as by reports that New Jersey state troopers have made traffic stops based on a driver's race -- a practice known as profiling.
In the Riverside incident, 19-year-old Tyisha Miller was killed in a fusillade of police bullets on Dec. 28 after pulling into an all-night gas station and falling asleep, a loaded handgun in her lap. Riverside police initially said Miller fired a handgun at officers, but later acknowledged it was not clear if she had fired the gun at all.
An array of civil rights groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Council of La Raza, have called on the Clinton administration to highlight the problems of police brutality. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, meanwhile, have complained repeatedly about racial profiling and introduced bills to study the problem.
Clinton announced a series of initiatives designed to increase community confidence in police by improving training and encouraging better relations between law enforcement officers and the people they serve.
Without such moves, Clinton said, the nation might lose the momentum it has gained in recent years in sharply reducing crime.
The initiatives, which will be included in legislation to be introduced later this year, would:
Nearly double federal funding for 30 regional community policing institutes, which train state and local law enforcement officials. The additional money -- $20 million -- would enable the institutes to add police integrity training and ethics courses at all 30 sites. Currently just two sites offer ethics training.
Increase by $20 million the amount available for college scholarships for police officers. Under a program called the Police Corps, which was created in 1994, young people can receive college scholarships in exchange for later service as law enforcement officers.
Increase spending on recruitment of minorities into state and local law enforcement from $1 million to $2 million.
Provide $5 million to establish civilian police academies to strengthen bonds between law enforcement officers and their communities, and ensure that local communities have a good understanding of police procedure.
"It is clear we need a new determination as a nation to restore those bonds of trust that have been absolutely critical to our success in lowering the crime rate," Clinton said in the radio address.
Pub Date: 3/14/99