Obama calls for healing of rifts between police, communities

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Obama: We Must Heal Rift Between Cops And Communities

WASHINGTON (AP) -- With police under increasing scrutiny after the highly publicized deaths of black suspects, President Barack Obama called on Americans Friday to honor law enforcement "heroes" by working harder to heal rifts with communities they serve.

Obama offered his gratitude for the sacrifices of police during an annual memorial service for fallen police on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. He said the law enforcement deaths are a too common reminder that of the risk inherent in their jobs.

"We cannot erase every darkness or danger from the duty that you've chosen," he said. "We can offer you the support you need to be safe. We can make the communities you care about and protect safer as well. We can make sure that you have the resources you need to do your job. We can do everything we have to do to combat the poverty that plagues too many communities in which you have served. We can work harder as a nation to heal rifts that exist some places between law enforcement and the people you risk your lives to protect."

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Obama calls for healing of rifts between police, communities
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. President Barack Obama attends the 34th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held since 1982, comes near the end of Police Week, a 53-year-old event first officially recognized in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, compared with 102 in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Law enforcement officers participate in the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) participates at the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama puts a flower at a wreath during the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Law enforcement officers participate in the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) attends the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (3rd L) arrives at the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. President Barack Obama greets people after addressing the 34th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held since 1982, comes near the end of Police Week, a 53-year-old event first officially recognized in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, compared with 102 in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. President Barack Obama embraces family members and survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty during the 34th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held since 1982, comes near the end of Police Week, a 53-year-old event first officially recognized in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, compared with 102 in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: Family members and survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty arrive for the 34th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held since 1982, comes near the end of Police Week, a 53-year-old event first officially recognized in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, compared with 102 in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. President Barack Obama embraces family members and survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty during the 34th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held since 1982, comes near the end of Police Week, a 53-year-old event first officially recognized in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, compared with 102 in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: Family members and survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty arrive for the 34th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held since 1982, comes near the end of Police Week, a 53-year-old event first officially recognized in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, compared with 102 in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch attend the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) embraces Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary President Linda Hennie before departing the 34th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held since 1982, comes near the end of Police Week, a 53-year-old event first officially recognized in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, compared with 102 in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L), Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson (R) attend the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama attends the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: Family members and survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty arrive for the 34th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held since 1982, comes near the end of Police Week, a 53-year-old event first officially recognized in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, compared with 102 in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. President Barack Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson attend the 34th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held since 1982, comes near the end of Police Week, a 53-year-old event first officially recognized in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, compared with 102 in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama looks at Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/YURI GRIPAS (Photo credit should read YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: Family members and survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty arrive for the 34th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held since 1982, comes near the end of Police Week, a 53-year-old event first officially recognized in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, compared with 102 in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama consoles a family members of Las Vegas Metropolitan police officer Igor Soldo after speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, May 15, 2015, during the 34th annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service, honoring law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) and Fraternal Order of Police National President Chuck Canterbury (R) arrives for the 34th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held since 1982, comes near the end of Police Week, a 53-year-old event first officially recognized in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, compared with 102 in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for the 34th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. The ceremony, held since 1982, comes near the end of Police Week, a 53-year-old event first officially recognized in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 126 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, compared with 102 in 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama bows his head during an invocation before speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, May 15, 2015, during the 34th annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service, honoring law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Obama did not mention any of the black men who died recently after police interactions, triggering a series of racially-charged protests across the country. Instead, the president spoke of some of the 131 officers who died last year in the line of duty.

He singled out Travis County senior deputy Jessica Hollis, who was swept away by Texas floodwaters. And he spoke of Officer Kevin Jordan of the Griffin County, Georgia, who was shot while working as an off-duty security guard at a Waffle House.

"We hold them up as heroes because that's what they are," Obama said. "It takes a special kind of courage to be a police officer."

A proclamation signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the entire week as Police Week. Every president since George H.W. Bush has spoken at the memorial services.

The 34rd annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service, sponsored by the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police and the Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary, comes amid shrinking budgets for law enforcement across the country.

"Mr. President it's a difficult time for law enforcement," Chuck Canterbury, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said in introducing Obama. "Our hope is that our nation will stand up for law enforcement and be thankful that we've kept them safe."

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