Attorney General William Barr said on Wednesday that the unfair policing of African Americans is a ‘widespread phenomenon’ before rejecting calls to defund the police.
Protests over the recent police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and other African Americans have ignited a national conversation about the role of law enforcement in society.
During an interview with ABC News’ Pierre Thomas, Barr addressed policing in America, saying: ‘I do think it is a widespread phenomenon that African American males, in particular, are treated with extra suspicion and maybe not given the benefit of the doubt.’
‘I think it is wrong if people are not respected appropriately and given their due,’ he explained, ‘and I think it’s something we have to address,’ he added.
Attorney General William Barr said on Wednesday that the unfair policing of African Americans is a ‘widespread phenomenon’
During an interview with ABC News ‘ Pierre Thomas (left), Barr (right) addressed policing in America, saying: ‘I do think it is a widespread phenomenon that African American males, in particular, are treated with extra suspicion and maybe not given the benefit of the doubt’
Since May 25, when Floyd died under the knee of white Minneapolis cop, Derek Chauvin, demonstrators have taken to the streets with a rallying cry of ‘defund the police’, which supporters say isn’t about eliminating police departments or stripping agencies of all of their money.
But it’s more so about it being time for the country to address systemic problems in policing in America and spend more on what communities across the US need, like housing and education.
However, when asked whether there is ‘value in defunding the police’, Barr said: ‘No, because I don’t think the money should come out of the police.
‘We have to think about more investment in the police. 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.
‘That is, social workers and mental health experts who can go on certain kinds of calls to help.’
Barr then spoke to ABC News about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Thomas explained to Barr that ‘Black Lives Matter is a term that’s being used, it’s a group that pushes for civil rights of African Americans,’ before asking: ‘What’s– what’s your view of Black Lives Matter? And are you willing to say Black Lives Matter?’
‘Well, I make a distinction. I’d make a distinction between the organization, which I don’t agree with. They have a broader agenda,’ Barr responded.
‘But in terms of the proposition that black lives matter, obviously black lives matter. I think all lives all human life is sacred and entitled to respect. And obviously, black lives matter.
‘But I also think that it’s being used now is 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 are, you know, have been going down statistically.
‘I also think [the phrase] is being used now – it is distorting the debate to some extent, because it is used really to refer almost exclusively to black lives that are lost to police misconduct,’ he said.
‘Then you compare it to 8,000 homicides in the African American community, those are black lives that matter, too. And those are lives that are protected by the police.’
Protests erupted globally following the killing of George Floyd on May 25
Since then, proposed federal legislation that would radically transform the nation’s criminal justice system through such changes as eliminating agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration and the use of surveillance technology was unveiled Tuesday
Protests erupted globally following the killing of George Floyd on May 25.
Since then, proposed federal legislation that would radically transform the nation’s criminal justice system through such changes as eliminating agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration and the use of surveillance technology was unveiled Tuesday by the Movement for Black Lives.
Dubbed the BREATHE Act, the legislation is the culmination of a project led by the policy table of the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 organizations.
‘We stand on the shoulders of giants and there has been 400 years of work that Black people have done to try to get us closer to freedom,’ Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said.
‘This moment is a watershed moment. I think this moment calls for structural change and transformative change in ways that we haven’t seen in a very long time. We see this opportunity to push for the BREATHE Act as a part of what we’re calling the modern-day civil rights act.’
The proposed changes are sweeping and likely to receive robust pushback from lawmakers who perceive the legislation as too radical.
No members of Congress have yet said they plan to introduce the bill, but it has won early support among some of the more progressive lawmakers, including Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, who participated in Tuesday’s news conference.
The bill is broken into four sections, the first of which specifically would divest federal resources from incarceration and policing.
It is largely aimed at federal reforms because Congress can more easily regulate federal institutions and policy, as opposed to state institutions or private prisons.
The other sections lay out a detailed plan to achieve an equitable future, calling for sweeping changes that would eliminate federal programs and agencies ‘used to finance and expand’ the US criminal-legal system.
The elimination would target agencies such as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has come under fire in recent years for its aggressive deportation efforts, and lesser-known programs such as Department of Defense 1033, which allows local law enforcement agencies to obtain excess military equipment.
The act, which also seeks to reduce the Department of Defense budget, would institute changes to the policing, pretrial detention, sentencing and prosecution practices that Cullors said have long disproportionately criminalized Black and brown communities, LGBTQIA people, Indigenous people, and individuals with disabilities.
It would establish the Neighborhood Demilitarization Program, which would collect and destroy all equipment like military-grade armored vehicles and weapons in the hands of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies by 2022.
Federal law enforcement also would be unable to use facial-recognition technology, which many communities across the nation already have banned, along with drones and forms of electronic surveillance such as ankle-monitoring.