Obama makes push for sentencing reform while awarding police medals
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President Obama on Monday urged Congress to pass an overhaul of the criminal justice system as he honored law enforcement officers who risked their lives in the line of duty.

“We’re going to keep pushing Congress to move forward in a bipartisan way to make our criminal justice system fairer and smarter and more cost-effective and enhance public safety,” he said at the White House.

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The president said he signed several bills into law Monday, including one that helps state and local police departments purchase bulletproof vests to better protect officers.

Obama said a broader overhaul of the nation’s criminal justice system would “ensure the men and women in this room have the ability to enforce the law and keep their communities safe.” 

The president is seeking to boost law enforcement support for legislation that would reduce minimum sentences for many nonviolent drug offenders. 

Rolling back the sentences has received bipartisan support in Congress, but some Republican lawmakers and law enforcement groups worry it could keep many dangerous criminals on the street. 

Police groups have also criticized Obama’s response to a string of officer-involved killings of young black men such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Freddie Gray in Baltimore. 

Obama used Monday’s ceremony to laud law enforcement officers, saying people around the country should listen to the concerns of those who wear the badge. 

“Our nation has a responsibility to support those who serve and protect us and keep our streets safe,” he said. “We can show our respect by listening to you, learning from you, giving you the resources you need to do the jobs.” 

He handed out the Medal of Valor to 13 officers during a ceremony in the East Room, including to Philadelphia Sgt. Robert Wilson III, who was shot to death trying to protect employees and customers during an armed robbery. 

“This is an award that none of them sought, and if they could go back in time, I suspect they would prefer none of this had happened,” the president said.  

“If they had their way, none of them would have to be here, and so we are grateful that they are and our entire nation expresses its profound gratitude.”