PHILADELPHIA — Hillary Clinton on Friday said the there is still “implicit bias” across America that is contributing to a deterioration of trust between minority communities and police.
“There is too little trust in too many places between police and the communities they are sworn to protect,” Clinton said at the African Methodist Episcopal Church general conference in Philadelphia. “With so little common ground, it can feel impossible to have the conversations we need to have, to fix what’s broken.”
“Let’s acknowledge that implicit bias still exists across society and even in the best police departments. We have to tackle it together,” she added.
Clinton’s comments come hours after five police officers were shot dead in Dallas and seven others were wounded after they were fired upon by a gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle.
According to Dallas police, before the shooter was killed in a standoff with police, he claimed that “he was upset about the recent police shootings” and “said he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”
The mass deaths left an already-shaken country rocked by yet another tragedy. Earlier in the week, two black men — one in Louisiana and another in Minnesota — were killed in encounters with police.
The videos documenting death and its aftermath in those two incidents prompted outcry and protests across the country from people who said the cases were proof that racial bias led to both men dying in what should have been routine encounters with law enforcement officers.
“We know that there is something wrong in our country,” Clinton said. “There is too much violence, too much hate, too much senseless killing, too many people dead who shouldn’t be.”
Clinton pledged that as president, she would push to develop national standards for the use of force by police and she would commit $1 billion to police training programs and new research into the best policing practices.
“We’ll make it clear when deadly force is warranted, and when it isn’t,” Clinton added. “And we’ll emphasize proven methods for de-escalating situations before we reach that point.”
But she also reiterated her call for more "understanding" between communities and police in the wake of the string of tragedies this week.
"We have to make up our minds that we’re going to bring this country together," Clinton said earlier in an interview on CNN.
Clinton canceled a planned campaign stop and fundraising event with Vice President Biden in Scranton, Pa., earlier in the day in the aftermath of the Dallas shooting. But Clinton kept her speaking commitment at the AME convention before an audience that would be most likely to inject her message into the bloodstream of the black community.
Minutes before Clinton addressed the audience of thousands of congregants and leaders, gospel music from a choir echoed through the cavernous hall of the Philadelphia Convention Center.
But she told them that her effort to unify a country increasingly divided along racial lines would begin with white people.
“White Americans need to do a better job of listening when African Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers you face every day,” Clinton said. “We need to try, as best we can, to walk in one another’s shoes – to imagine what it would be like if people followed us around stores, or locked their car doors when we walked past… or if every time our children went to play in the park, or just to the store to buy iced tea and Skittles, we said a prayer – “please God, please God don’t let anything happen to my baby.”
“Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to do a dangerous job we need them to do,” she added.
Prior to the shooting in Dallas, Clinton had already planned to address the deaths of Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot in Baton Rouge, and Philando Castile, who was fatally shot in Falcon Heights, Minn., this week. Both shootings were fully or partially recorded by witnesses.
Clinton has long said that the country needs to do more to address the racial disparities in how often force is used by police against African Americans and people of color.
"There is clear evidence that African Americans are much more likely to be killed in police incidents than any other group of Americans," Clinton said.
But in an interview with CNN earlier in the day, she declined to endorse the view expressed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D): that Castile, an elementary-school cafeteria worker who had no criminal record, would not have been killed if he were white.
"We’ve got to figure out what is happening when routine traffic stops, when routine arrests, escalate into killings," Clinton said. "I don’t think we know all the answers to that."
"We’ll have to find where the evidence leads us," Clinton added.