The mother of a 25-year-old Baltimore police officer asked President Obama how cops are supposed to protect themselves while facing hostile crowds during a town hall discussion moderated by ABC News' David Muir.
Interested in Freddie Gray?Add Freddie Gray as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Freddie Gray news, video, and analysis from ABC News.
The mother, Teri George, described her son, Timothy, as an "honest police officer" who addresses community members as "sir" and "ma'am" when he walks the beat. She said after the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015, her son had water bottles and rocks thrown at him, a brick thrown through his car window, which caused glass to go in his eye.
"But he was still out there," George said. "What's he supposed to do to protect himself?"
Obama spoke as part of a Disney Media Networks town hall titled "The President and the People: A National Conversation," which aired Thursday at 8 p.m. ET and was simulcast commercial-free on ABC, ESPN, Freeform, ABCNews.com, Freeform Digital, Watch ABC, Watch ESPN, Yahoo, ABC News’ Facebook page and YouTube channel as well as ABC Radio and ESPN Radio. Disney is the parent company of ABC News.
The president started by telling George she should feel "proud" of her son because he is a public servant and sounds like a "wonderful young man."
He then went on to discuss the violence that escalated in Baltimore in the wake of Gray's death.
"There are no excuses for the kinds of violent activities that we see in response to anything," he said, because it tears down the communities that actually need to be built up.
It's important for communities to lift up "good police officers who are genuinely taking the time to get to know the community," Obama said.
Police officers do not get enough 'thank yous,' Obama said, and when they do the right thing, like save a life or help somebody in need, "We can't take that for granted."
"The community has to stand up for them and speak out on their behalf and recognize that they are partners in this process," he added.
According to the president, sometimes incidents like Gray's death become "the catalyst for all the other stuff that may not even have to do with policing coming out," he said. "That's why it's so important for us to do everything we can to create healthy communities."
Obama suggested sending police officers to elementary schools, not when there's a disturbance, but to be a positive presence so that young children may end up wanting to be police officers one day.
"I hope that your son knows how much we appreciate the good work that he's done," Obama told George.