President Obama reacted to the Eric Garner verdict in his speech at the White House Tribal Nations Conference. During his speech, President Obama said that he and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder are going to continue to address the problem of racial tensions that exist between law enforcement officers and minorities in communities nationwide.
The statement came in the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict a white New York City police officer in the chokehold death of Garner, an unarmed black man.
"It is incumbent upon all of us as Americans -- regardless of race, region, faith -- that we recognize this is an American problem and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a native American problem," Obama said. "This is an American problem. When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that's a problem, and it's my job as President to help solve it."
Commenting on his conversation with Holder, Obama said, “We are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of accountability that exists between our communities and law enforcement.
"This is an issue we've been dealing with for too long, and it's time for us to make more progress than we've made. I'm absolutely committed as President of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everyone believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law."
CNN reports that the Justice Department is investigating Garner’s death to decide whether civil rights were violated.
The investigation was announced by Holder at a Justice Department event.
"This afternoon, I spoke with the widow of Eric Garner to inform her and her family of our decision to investigate potential federal civil rights violations," Holder said. "I've also been in touch with President Obama as well as Mayor de Blasio regarding our decision. Prosecutors will conduct an independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation. In addition to performing our own investigative work, the department will conduct a complete review of the material gathered during the local investigation."
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer supports the Justice Department investigation and wants to see it begin “as soon as possible.”
The Huffington Post reports that Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York wants the investigation to “take this cancer and cut it out once and for all.”
A national task force on policing following the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson was launched by Obama.
Obama said there is a need for law enforcement to improve training and for officers to become more accountable for their actions.
"We are going to take specific steps to improve the training and the work with state and local government when it comes to policing in communities of color," Obama said. "We are going to be scrupulous in investigating cases where we are concerned about the partiality and accountability that's taking place."