KANSAS CITY -- Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver said he's in agony over the shooting deaths of police officers and young African American men killed at the hands of police.
"This is one of the most delicate moments I have experienced in public office," Cleaver said. "This is the single most delicate moment. I was mayor during the Rodney King decision. We were on the verge of some problems here that we were able to push aside. But this is a tough time."
Cleaver believes immeasurable damage has been done across the nation to what he calls the fragile relationship between police and minorities.
Cleaver said police officers can't help but wonder if today is the day when someone is going to take a shot at them.
At the same time, the Kansas City Democrat said there is legitimate frustration among young African American men over police shootings. He said turning that frustration into violence against police hurts everyone in the community.
"It’s not an accident that Kansas City has not had a racial explosion," Cleaver said. "There was great intentionality on the part of police and frankly on the part of community. Right now is a time when we should do some additional things and we are talking about that right now."
Cleaver said Kansas Citians should take pride in knowing police haven't been hunted down here. And there hasn't been racial unrest caused by questionable police shootings. He credits deliberate efforts to strengthen police/minority relations that have taken place since the 1980s. Cleaver said a string of police chiefs helped build those bonds in the community.
The congressman is also concerned about the death of an officer across the state line, which was prompted by a reported shooting at Juniper Gardens, a federally subsidized housing complex. He said the Department of Housing and Urban Development is clamping down on who can live in public housing, to make it safer for everyone.