Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn participated in a nationally televised town hall Thursday night with President Barack Obama.
The ABC News event focused on race relations and policing, and was prompted by last week’s fatal shootings of two black men by police officers, and the five white police officers shot and killed in a revenge attack during a protest in Dallas.
Flynn sat near the 15-year-old son of Alton Sterling, who was a shot by a Baton Rouge police officer.
He said the police and the community have to work together to promote change.
“The heart of the police dilemma is those neighborhoods that demand our services, need us the most, request us the most, depend upon us us the most for social or historical reasons, distrust us,” Flynn said.
Obama recognized the Flynn’s dilemma, and said repairing the relationship starts with community investment and gun control.
As 32-year-old Philando Castile’s funeral was underway in St. Paul, Minnesota, Obama took a question remotely from Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, who livestreamed the aftermath of his shooting by police on Facebook.
She said she’s scared for her daughter’s future and asked the president, “What do we do?”
Choosing his words carefully, Obama said it’s key for officers to get to know the community they’re protecting. Also critical, he said, was to better train police to avoid “implicit biases.”
“We all carry around with us some assumptions about other people,” Obama said. If people are honest with themselves, he added, “oftentimes there is a presumption that black men are dangerous.”
In a particularly tense moment at the end of the town hall, the daughter of a man who died in a police confrontation started screaming after being denied a chance to question the president. Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, later met briefly with Obama in private, the White House said.
The question-and-answer session at a Washington theater capped a dizzying week for the president as he sought to connect with the public in a series of hastily arranged appearances: a meeting with police, a summit with law enforcement leaders and Black Lives Matter activists, a trip to Dallas to honor five white officers killed in a revenge attack.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.