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President Obama said Thursday he had called New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, one day day after a New York grand jury declined to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner, who died after the officer put him in a choke hold -- a decision that sparked protests in New York and around the country.

Obama, speaking at a college opportunity summit, said he applauded de Blasio for his remarks yesterday, in which the mayor spoke emotionally about his teenage son Dante. The president said he also praised the mayor and New Yorkers for protesting peacefully.

"I commended him for his words yesterday," the president said of de Blasio, and the way "New Yorkers have been engaging in peaceful protests and being productive."

Obama noted that the mayor had attended a meeting of officials at the White House last week in the wake of a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo.

Obama and de Blasio spoke about how the problem of distrust between law enforcement and communities they serve “is not just a problem in New York or Ferguson but in far too many communities across the country. They pledged to work together to strengthen the trust and bond between law enforcement and the community they serve,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

Earnest said the White House would not rule out Obama visiting Ferguson, New York or Cleveland, where a 12-year-old boy who was holding a BB gun was shot and killed by a police officer.

The Cleveland police have engaged in a pattern of recklessly using excessive force, the Justice Department said in a report issued Thursday.

“We saw too many incidents in which officers accidentally shot someone either because they fired their guns accidentally or because they shot the wrong person,” the report said.

The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the Garner case. It will be led by Loretta Lynch, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and Obama's attorney general nominee. There is also a federal civil rights investigation into the Ferguson case, though the Justice Department has all but concluded they do not have a strong enough case to bring charges against the officer, Darren Wilson.

Echoing comments he made after both grand jury decisions, Obama said that many feel as though there is a chasm between America's legal standards and how they are actually employed.

"Too many Americans feel deep unfairness when it comes to the gap between our professed ideals and how laws are applied on a day to day basis," he said.

Obama said that the nation must act as one - and follow the "heart of the American ideal," which is the "sense that we're all in this together," he said.

"At some level everybody is our kid," he said. "Everybody is our responsibility."

David Nakamura contributed reporting