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White House task force calls for more oversight of local police

WASHINGTON — A White House-commissioned task force released a report on Monday recommending increased oversight of local police forces in response to what President Barack Obama has described as “simmering distrust” between police and communities they serve.

The task force called for police to report on the racial demographics of their departments and the citizens they stop, be more open to civilian scrutiny and seek consent before a search.

Obama charged the group of law enforcement officials, academics and advocates with reviewing policing practices after nationwide demonstrations protesting a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white Ferguson, Missouri police officer for last summer’s fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

The Justice Department’s investigations into the officer, Darren Wilson, and the Ferguson Police Department are expected to conclude soon.

The shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, which was later rocked by sometimes violent protests, threw the spotlight on racial tensions and policing across America.

Enforcing the task force’s guidelines will depend on whether the federal government is willing to fund police department grants that will hold recipients accountable, said Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Bennett said the recommendations were a “significant first step.”

“If we have these recommendations but the federal government can’t put money behind it to get this to state and local (police), then that’s where I think the problems are going to lie,” Bennett said.

The task force also called for local governments to relieve the burden of contributing to local revenue from their police departments.

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