Terrence M. Cunningham, the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, apologized Monday for law enforcement's role in "society's historical mistreatment of communities of color."
He spoke about rebuilding trust between minority communities and the police at the association's convention in San Diego.
"While we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future. We must move forward together to build a shared understanding. We must forge a path that allows us to move beyond our history and identify common solutions to better protect our communities," he said.
"For our part, the first step in this process 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."
Cunningham, who also serves as chief of police in Wellesley, Massachusetts, went on to say that "those who denounce the police must also acknowledge that today's officers are not to blame for the injustices of the past."
"If either side in this debate fails to acknowledge these fundamental truths, we will be unlikely to move past them," he said. "Overcoming this historic mistrust requires that we must move forward together in an atmosphere of mutual respect. All members of our society must realize that we have a mutual obligation to work together to ensure fairness, dignity, security, and justice.
"It is my hope that, by working together, we can break this historic cycle of mistrust and build a better and safer future for us all," he concluded.
Some 18,000 police chiefs worldwide are members of the IACP.