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Hillary Clinton Walks A Fine Line When She Addresses The Issue Of Policing


Hillary Clinton often walks a fine line when she talks about the issue of policing. In speeches, she tried to validate the concerns of groups like Black Lives Matter while also dodging criticism from Donald Trump, who accuses her of being anti-police. NPR's Sarah McCammon has more from New York City where yesterday Clinton met with law enforcement leaders.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: As she opened up the meeting with police chiefs from departments around the country, Hillary Clinton offered gratitude.


HILLARY CLINTON: They represent officers who get up every day, put on their uniforms, kiss their families goodbye and risk their lives on behalf of our communities.

MCCAMMON: During the brief part of the meeting that was open to reporters, Clinton referenced both Dallas where five police officers were shot and killed in July and Baton Rouge where that same week police fatally shot Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man while he was on the ground. Clinton said there's a lot of work to do to repair trust between communities and police.


CLINTON: We need to work together to bridge our divides, not stoke even more divisiveness.

MCCAMMON: Clinton struck a similar theme earlier this week in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. While campaigning before a largely white audience in Scranton on Monday, Clinton mentioned the protests in Milwaukee which broke out after police shot and killed a black man there last weekend.


CLINTON: Look at what's happening in Milwaukee right now. We've got urgent work to do to rebuild trust between police and communities and get back to the fundamental principle. Everyone should have respect for the law and be respected by the law.

MCCAMMON: Clinton's Republican rival, Donald Trump, also talked about Milwaukee this week. During a campaign stop in the nearby suburb of West Bend, Trump accused Clinton of being anti-police because of her calls for reform of the criminal justice system.


DONALD TRUMP: She is against the police, believe me. You know it, and I know it. And guess what? She knows it.

MCCAMMON: Critics on the left have also accused Clinton of being too slow to address concerns about aggressive policing from African-Americans and their allies, a key part of the Democratic base. Clinton herself has acknowledged that tension.


CLINTON: I know that just by saying all these things together I may upset some people.

MCCAMMON: Speaking to the African Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference on the day after the Dallas police shootings, Clinton called for national guidelines on the use of deadly force and better training for police.


CLINTON: I'm talking about criminal justice reform the day after a horrific attack on police officers. I'm talking about courageous, honorable police officers just a few days after officer-involved killings in Louisiana and Minnesota.

MCCAMMON: While Hillary Clinton tries to navigate those conversations, Donald Trump is walking another line. This week, he's been praising police while promising to bring law and order to African-American neighborhoods. So far, though, he's making that case in front of mostly white audiences. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.