Politics

Obama Uses Ferguson Uproar To Demand Changes In Criminal Law

Neil Munro White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama is using the Ferguson uproar to call for a rewrite of federal criminal laws.

He gave a short statement from the White House’s press podium shortly after the news broke that the police officer who shot a young black man in an August scuffle in Ferguson, Mo., would not be charged with any crime.

“We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to the broader problems that we still face as a nation,” he said, even as the TV screens showed young men challenging police and smashing police cars.

“There are good people on all sides of this debate… who are interested in working with this administration and local and state officials to start tackling much-needed criminal justice reform,” he said, shortly before looters began stealing goods from stores in Ferguson.

Obama’s demand for “reform,” likely includes a rollback of tough sentencing rules established in the 1980s. Those tough penalties have helped reversed a massive 1970s spike in crime, and also helped suppress 1980s street battles between rival drug gangs.

However, Africans-Americans are much more likely to commit crimes and be jailed. That racial disparity is unjust, say many progressives.

Obama has tacitly admitted that blacks are more likely than whites to commit crimes, be victimized by criminals, and to be jailed for crimes. But he has tried to blame racism by whites for the disparity.

Already, Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, has issued rules that require federal prosecutors to bypass federal sentencing laws to level racial disparities in legal penalties.

The Justice Department “will continue to work with law enforcement, civil rights, faith and community leaders across the country to foster effective relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and to improve fairness in the criminal justice system overall,” said a 10:54 pm statement from Holder.

In his short public statement, Obama — a former “community organizer” in Chicago — called for the police to negotiate with “community leaders,” rather than follow rules set by local elected politicians.

“The fact is in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color [and] some of this is the result of legacy of racial discrimination in this country,” Obama said.

Police should “work with the community, not against the community,” he said.

They should “distinguish the handful of people who may use the grand jury’s decision as an excuse for violence, distinguish them from the vast majority, who just want their voices heard in terms of how law enforcement and communities of color interact,” he said

A November 2011 report by the Justice Department said that young African-American men comprise only 1 percent of the population, but commit 27 percent of the murders.

The media-magnified clash in Ferguson has its upside for Obama — it draws media attention and political energy away from his unpopular Nov. 21 decision to offer work-permits to at least 4 million illegal immigrants.

That giveaway is expected to sharpen competition for jobs in poor districts, such as in Ferguson, which is located just outside the poverty-stricken city of East St. Louis.

Nationwide, wages have stalled since 2000, and almost half of young black men do not have full-time jobs.

The nation accepts 1 million new immigrants per year, plus 650,000 non-agricultural workers.

Obama’s amnesty plans will add 4 million new illegal immigrants to the legal workforce, and boost the annual inflow of guest workers.

Follow Neil on Twitter