With Jayland Walker's mother looking on, Biden says 'we have to do better' on police reform

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Joe Biden called attention to the death of Tyre Nichols last month at the hands of police in Memphis, Tennessee — and he spoke about the need for more training and resources for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve to prevent such actions.

Nichols' parents were guests at the speech at the U.S. Capitol, as was Pamela Walker, the mother of Jayland Walker, the Black man shot and killed by Akron police last year. It could be early April before state prosecutors present the deadly use of police force case to a grand jury in Summit County, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told the Beacon Journal in January.

Walker's death hastened a push for police reforms in Akron through the November passage of Issue 10, which established a Citizens' Police Oversight Board with the authority to review police investigations and offer recommendations.

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address Tuesday in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address Tuesday in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Biden said more must be done to build trust between police and the public.

Here are his State of the Union remarks on police reforms and public safety:

We have an obligation to make sure all our people are safe.

Public safety depends on public trust. But too often that trust is violated.

Joining us tonight are the parents of Tyre Nichols, who had to bury him just last week. There are no words to describe the heartbreak and grief of losing a child.

But imagine what it’s like to lose a child at the hands of the law.

Imagine having to worry whether your son or daughter will come home from walking down the street or playing in the park or just driving their car.

I’ve never had to have the talk with my children – Beau, Hunter, and Ashley – that so many Black and Brown families have had with their children.

If a police officer pulls you over, turn on your interior lights. Don’t reach for your license. Keep your hands on the steering wheel.

Imagine having to worry like that every day in America.

Here’s what Tyre’s mom shared with me when I asked her how she finds the courage to carry on and speak out.

With faith in God, she said her son “was a beautiful soul and something good will come from this.”

Imagine how much courage and character that takes.

It’s up to us. It’s up to all of us.

We all want the same thing.

Neighborhoods free of violence.

Law enforcement who earn the community’s trust.

Our children to come home safely.

Equal protection under the law; that’s the covenant we have with each other in America.

And we know police officers put their lives on the line every day, and we ask them to do too much.

To be counselors, social workers, psychologists; responding to drug overdoses, mental health crises, and more.

We ask too much of them.

I know most cops are good, decent people. They risk their lives every time they put on that shield.

But what happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often.

We have to do better.

Give law enforcement the training they need, hold them to higher standards, and help them succeed in keeping everyone safe.

We also need more first responders and other professionals to address growing mental health and substance abuse challenges.

More resources to reduce violent crime and gun crime; more community intervention programs; more investments in housing, education, and job training.

All this can help prevent violence in the first place.

And when police officers or departments violate the public’s trust, we must hold them accountable.

With the support of families of victims, civil rights groups, and law enforcement, I signed an executive order for all federal officers banning chokeholds, restricting no-knock warrants, and other key elements of the George Floyd Act.

Let’s commit ourselves to make the words of Tyre’s mother come true, something good must come from this.

All of us in this chamber, we need to rise to this moment.

We can’t turn away.

Let’s do what we know in our hearts we need to do.

Let’s come together and finish the job on police reform.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: With Jayland Walker's mother present, Biden calls for police reforms