WARSAW, Poland -- President Barack Obama on Thursday said "all Americans should be deeply troubled by the shootings" of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. He also said whatever the outcomes of the investigations of these deaths, they are not isolated incidents.
The two fatal shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota were partially captured in cell phone videos that quickly went viral and sparked renewed discussions about fatal police force against African-Americans.
"We've seen such tragedies far too many times, and our hearts go out to the families and communities who've suffered such a painful loss," Obama wrote in a message posted to his Facebook account.
He said he was "encouraged" that the Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the death of Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.
But, he wrote, "Regardless of the outcome of such investigations, what's clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve."
He continued, "To admit we've got a serious problem in no way contradicts our respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day. It is to say that, as a nation, we can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement."
He concluded his statement by saying all Americans should "recognize the anger, frustration and grief that so many Americans are feeling" over the shootings.
"Michelle and I share those feelings," Obama wrote.
Vice President Joe Biden also weighed in Thursday, saying he has "more anger I share with the country" over the incidents.
Earlier Thursday, video surfaced of a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minn., fatally shooting Castile, an black man, during a traffic stop. Sterling, 37, died earlier in the week after a police shooting in Baton Rouge.
Speaking to reporters earlier Thursday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest called on community leaders to do more to strengthen the bonds of the trust between law enforcement officials and the communities they are sworn to protect.
"What I can say in general is that (President Barack Obama) is deeply disturbed by these reports. He is following the situation closely," Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Poland for a NATO summit.
Obama and Earnest cited the 21st Century Task Force the president created in response to similar incidents in recent years and to efforts across the country to implement the committee's recommendations.
The committee calls for promoting diversity in law enforcement agencies, encouraging a culture of transparency within agencies and encouraging officers to more closely engage with members of communities where there is a high law enforcement presence through non-enforcement activities.AlertMe