Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Attorney General William Barr said he did not believe law enforcement in the United States was “systemically racist.”
Partial transcript as follows:
BRENNAN: Do you believe there is systemic racism in law enforcement?
BARR: I think there’s racism in the United States still but I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist. I understand the- the distrust, however, of the African-American community given the history in this country. I think we have to recognize that for most of our history, our institutions were explicitly racist. Since the 1960s, I think we’ve been in a phase of reforming our institutions and making sure that they’re in sync with our laws and aren’t fighting a rearguard action to impose inequities.
BRENNAN: And you think that’s working?
BARR: I think the reform is a difficult task, but I think it is working and progress has been made. I think one of the best examples is the military. The military used to be explicitly racist institution. And now I think it’s in the van m guard of- of bringing the races together and providing equal opportunity. I think law enforcement has been going through the same process.
BRENNAN: Do you think there should be some tweaking of the rules, reduced immunity to go after some of the bad cops?
BARR: I don’t think you need to reduce immunity to- to go after the bad cops, because that would result certainly in police pulling back. It’s, you know, policing is the toughest job in the country. And I- and I frankly think that we have generally the vast, overwhelming majority of police are good people. They’re civic minded people who believe in serving the public. They do so bravely. They do so righteously.
BRENNAN: But the bad cops.
BARR: I- I think that there are instances of bad cops. And I think we have to be careful about automatically assuming that the actions of an individual necessarily mean that their organization is rotten. All organizations have people who engage in misconduct, and you sometimes have to be careful as for when you ascribe that to the whole organization and when it really is some errant member who isn’t following the rules.
BRENNAN: But doesn’t the opening the pattern-or-practice investigation into a place like Minneapolis where there are questions about the broader issues with policing, it wasn’t just the one officer, wouldn’t that answer that question?
BARR: Well, that’s exactly the reaction that I think has been a problem in the past, which is it just, again, just reacting to this incident by immediately putting the department under investigation doesn’t necessarily result in- in improving the situation. But I would say that in the first instance, the governor has announced an investigation of the police department. The governor, Governor Walz, a Democratic governor, is investigating the police department. The attorney general of- of Minnesota is looking into the police department. We stand ready to act if we think it’s necessary. But I don’t think necessarily starting a- a pattern-or-practice investigation at this stage is warranted. Another thing is we have to look at some of the evidence. I mean, people, you know, the fact is that the criminal justice system at both the state and the federal level moved instantaneously on this. And we moved quickly with our investigation. But we still have to look into what kinds of use of force policies are used in that department, what the training has been and things like that. That’s not something we can do overnight.
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