Obama to set up panel to boost trust between police and communities

Demonstrators protest to demand justice for the death of Eric Garner, at Grand Central Terminal in the Manhattan borough of New York, December 9, 2014.

President Barack Obama on Thursday will set up a task force to draw up recommendations to strengthen trust between law enforcement and local communities, following protests over several instances of police killings of unarmed people this year.

"There is a sense of urgency," White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told reporters before Obama was to sign an executive order setting up the Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

She said the order directs the 11-member panel to submit recommendations to the president by March 2.

Obama had said on Dec. 1 that he would use his last two years in office to address the "simmering distrust" between police and minority communities, after days of protests following a grand jury decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

Days after the Missouri decision, a New York grand jury decided not to bring criminal charges against a white police officer whose choke hold contributed to the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African American, in New York in July.

"The Task Force will examine ... how to strengthen public trust and foster strong relationships between local law enforcement and the communities that they protect, while also promoting effective crime reduction," the White House said in a statement.

Jarrett said one of the issues to be considered by the panel is formulating best practices for the use of body cameras by police forces.

Obama has asked the US Congress for US$263 million (S$345.6 million) to pay for body cameras for police officers and expand training for law enforcement.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, a George Mason University professor who is a former US assistant attorney general, will lead the task force.