Terrence Cunningham, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, issued a formal apology to "communities of color" on Monday for their "historical mistreatment" by police officers, the Washington Post reported.
But that apology was delivered to 16,000 police chiefs gathered at the association's annual conference in San Diego, California — and not to civilians in the communities where police killings and excessive use of force have led to protests and civil unrest.
"Events over the past several years have caused many to question the actions of our officers and has tragically undermined the trust that the public must and should have in their police departments," Cunningham, the chief of police in Wellesley, Massachusetts, said. He also called law enforcement "a noble profession" at its core.
"At the same time, it is also clear that the history of policing has also had darker periods," Cunningham continued, pointing to state and federal laws that "required police officers to perform many unpalatable tasks"
"While this is no longer the case, this dark side of our shared history has created a multigenerational — almost inherited — mistrust between many communities of color and their law enforcement agencies," he said.
His apology came next, according to the Post:
"While we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future. For our part, the first step is for law enforcement and the IACP to acknowledge and apologize for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society's historical mistreatment of communities of color."
The admission comes after FBI Director James Comey addressed the association's conference on Sunday, and claimed there was no basis for the widely held belief that police killings of African-Americans are at an epidemic level. Despite Comey's claim, there is plenty of evidence to show that blacks are disproportionately stopped, searched, arrested and shot by police in the U.S., compared to whites.
For his part, Cunningham said he hoped to continue working with police and community leaders to "break this historic cycle of mistrust and build a better and safer future for us all."