America is "not even close" to where it needs to be in terms of resolving issues between police and the communities they serve, President Barack Obama said after concluding a more than three-hour meeting with community activists, politicians and law enforcement officials.
Obama expressed optimism, however, and said the participants -- who included members of the Black Lives Matter movement -- agreed such conversations need to continue despite emotions running raw.
Obama has devoted his attention this week to the gun violence directed at police officers as well as shootings by police. The focus comes a few days after a black Army veteran killed five police officers in revenge for police shooting black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the Minneapolis suburbs.
Obama said it would be key to repeat the "kind of respectful conversations we've had here" across the country.
"The conversation that took place around this table is very different than the one that you see on a day-to-day or hourly basis in the media," he said.
But Obama also said the "bad news" was that making progress is hard.
"We're not even close to being there yet, where we want to be," he said.
The nearly three dozen people invited to the White House included some police organisations that have little regard for Black Lives Matter, a group they blame for inciting violence against police officers.
Obama took to Facebook to encourage more participation. "Going forward, I want to hear ideas from even more Americans about how we can address these challenges together as one nation. That means you," Obama said.
He called on people to submit their stories and ideas.