In an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr said he doesn’t believe that systemic racism in policing exists in the United States, despite being presented with data suggesting that it does.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, asked Barr whether the Department of Justice is committed to ending systemic racism in law enforcement.
“I don’t agree there’s systemic racism in the police department, generally, in this country,” Barr replied.
Jackson Lee then cited statistical examples showing the opposite.
“[A study] after the death of George Floyd found that while Black people make up 19 percent of the Minneapolis population and 9 percent of its police, they were on the receiving end of 58 percent of the city’s police use-of-force incidents,” Jackson Lee told Barr. “In addition, we’ve seen that Black men are twice as likely to be stopped and searched; Hispanic drivers, 65 percent receive a ticket; and Native Americans in Arizona three times more likely to be searched when they are stopped.”
Jackson Lee then asked Barr why the Justice Department has not implemented “pattern-or-practice” investigations to address the disparity.
“The response to this is, in fact, training of police, and I think the police believe that that’s a response,” Barr replied.
Jackson Lee said Barr was more concerned with defending President Trump’s political allies than with addressing the killings of unarmed Black people.
“Your focus was more to let out friends like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort,” she said, “while Tamir Rice, whose case has not been taken up, was playing with a toy gun, was killed by police at the age of 12; Breonna Taylor was sleeping in her apartment when she was killed by police at age 26; and Rayshard Brooks, 27, was killed just for sleeping in his car in a Wendy’s parking lot; and George Floyd, from Houston, Texas, known as ‘a humble man,’ was murdered in the streets of Minneapolis, crying, ‘I can’t breathe.’”
Jackson Lee began her line of questioning by asking Barr if he knew about “the talk” between Black parents and their sons, referring to the discussion on how to behave in police confrontations.
“I think I do,” Barr said.
“I don’t know if you do,” Jackson Lee responded.
In his opening statement to the committee, Barr pointed out that “the number of unarmed Black men killed by police so far this year is 8,” while “the number of unarmed white men killed by police over the same time period is 11,” citing figures from the Washington Post.
But an analysis by the paper published last month showed that while fatal police encounters are down overall, “Black people are still shot and killed at a disproportionately higher rate than white people.”
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., said that adjusting those numbers by the overall population, African-Americans are “four or five times” more likely to be killed by police than white people.
Barr responded by saying he had seen studies showing police are “less likely to shoot at a Black suspect” and are “inclined to use nonlethal force.”
“If that data exists, I would be more than happy to see it,” Richmond replied.
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