In a recent interview that touched on the Black Lives Matter debate, Attorney General William Barr said that black Americans have been policed differently than white Americans but still insisted that systemic racism is not a problem in law enforcement.
Barr told ABC News that unjust policing was a “widespread phenomenon” that should be explored further and corrected.
“I do think that it is a widespread phenomenon that African American males, particularly, are treated with extra suspicion and maybe not given the benefit of the doubt,” Barr said. “I think it is wrong if people are not respected appropriately and given their due, and I think it’s something that we have to address.”
Barr commented on George Floyd, the black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer, saying he hoped that Floyd will continue to be “a catalyst for the kinds of changes that are needed.”
“I think before the George Floyd incident, I thought we were in a good place,” he said, adding, “I think that this episode in Minneapolis showed that we still have some work to do in addressing the distrust that exists in the African American community toward law enforcement.”
However, Barr rejected calls to “defund the police.”
“We have to think about more investment in the police,” Barr said. “So one of the things we’ve been talking about is trying to direct some of the [Health and Human Services] money and grant programs and sync it up with law enforcement spending so we can enable the departments to have co-responders.”
Barr added, “That is, social workers and mental health experts who can go on certain kinds of calls to help.”
Barr brought up a DOJ investigation of a drug unit in Springfield, Massachusetts, which was found to commit civil rights violations.
“We found, in that case, that there was a drug unit in the Springfield (Mass.) police department that was engaged in a pattern and practice of using excessive force,” Barr said.
The Attorney General also made clear that he separated the spirit of “Black Lives Matter” as a movement and sentiment from the organization of that name which is little more than a Marxist front.
“I make a distinction,” Barr said. “I’d make a distinction between the organization, which I don’t agree with. They have a broader agenda.”
“But in terms of the proposition that black lives matter, obviously black lives matter,” he continued. “I think all lives, all human life, is sacred and entitled to respect. And obviously, black lives matter.”
“I also think that it’s being used now … sort of distorting the debate to some extent, because it’s used really to refer exclusively to black lives that are lost to police misconduct, which … have been going down statistically,” Barr said.
The AG continued, “Five years ago, there were 40 such incidents. This last year it was ten. So at least it’s a positive trajectory there.”
“But then you compare it to 8,000 homicides in the African American community,” Barr said. “Those are black lives that matter, too.”
“And those are lives that are protected by the police,” he finished.
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