Barr says he disagrees there’s systemic racism in police departments

Responding to a question from House Judiciary Committee member Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Attorney General William Barr said he “doesn’t agree” there is systemic racism in police departments.

Video Transcript

SHELIA JACKSON LEE: And so I ask you this question-- does the Trump Justice Department seek to end systemic racism and racism in law enforcement. I just need a yes or no answer.

WILLIAM BARR: To the extent there is racism in any of our institutions in this country, and the police, then obviously this administration will fully enforce it.

SHELIA JACKSON LEE: So you agree that there may be systemic racism.

WILLIAM BARR: To the extent-- in where-- where?

SHELIA JACKSON LEE: Let me continue my line of questioning.

WILLIAM BARR: I don't agree that there is systemic racism in the police department.

SHELIA JACKSON LEE: Specifically--

WILLIAM BARR: Generally, in this country.

SHELIA JACKSON LEE: I'm reclaiming my time, Mr. General. Specifically, do you understand the violent impact of racial profiling, and do you support the end racial profiling, racial and religious profiling, in the George Floyd bill, including the removal of the strict interpretation of qualified immunity, which would leave individuals like Brianna Taylor and George Floyd without any relief at all?

WILLIAM BARR: No, I'm opposed to eliminating qualified immunity. And I don't agree that it would leave the victims of police misconduct.

SHELIA JACKSON LEE: Well, let me share with you some aspect--

WILLIAM BARR: --without any remedy.

SHELIA JACKSON LEE: I'm reclaiming my time. Let me share with you some aspects of profiling. After the death of George Floyd found that while black people make up 19% of the Minneapolis population and 9% of its police, they were on the receiving end of 58% of the city's police use of force incidents. In addition, we have seen that Black men are twice as likely to be stopped and searched. Hispanic drivers, 65% just receive a ticket. And Native Americans in Arizona, three times more likely to search and be stopped.

Let me ask you the questions of how we respond to that. The Justice Department has many tools at its disposal to reduce police violence, the Pattern or Practice investigations, a practice to end bad policing and police violence. It addresses police violence at an institutional level rather than just focuses on acute cases. If you understand that, then why has your department only pursued one pattern or practice investigation since President Trump took office that could stop systemic racism?

WILLIAM BARR: The-- if you read my statement, or listened to my statement, I did specifically acknowledge that there was a difficulty in this country with the African-American communities.

SHELIA JACKSON LEE: Mr. Attorney General, I have short time-- can you just tell me why you have not done a Pattern in Practice? What was the reason?

WILLIAM BARR: And you asked me what I thought the response was. And I thought the response to this is in fact the training of police. And I think the police believe that that's a response. I was talking a Black--

SHELIA JACKSON LEE: Then let me continue.

WILLIAM BARR: Chief of police.

SHELIA JACKSON LEE: Mr. Attorney General, I want to respect you, but I have a short time. You-- for example, 18 USC, Section 242, which makes unlawful the denial of rights under the color of law-- can you defend the fact that in the first seven months of FY20, federal prosecutors filed only 242 charges-- 242 charges in just 27 cases in the Trump DOJ.

And were you aware that in FY2019, federal prosecutors brought section 242 charges in just 49 cases in the United States? And are you aware of how many cases we've had? 184,274, which means that in FY 2019, only about 27 out of every 100,000 prosecutions was related to section 242 charges. Do you have a reason for that?

WILLIAM BARR: Yeah. Yes I do. I will get you the numbers on it. I don't know them off the top of my head. But actually, our criminal prosecutions under 241 and 242 are extremely strong, and are comparable to, if not exceed, prior administrations. But at the beginning of this year, most of the-- very few jurisdictions had grand juries that were open. No grand juries--

SHELIA JACKSON LEE: I think the reason is because it was really skinny, it was not your focus. Your focus was more to let out friends like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, 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. Brianna 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."

I would hope that the DOJ would focus on systemic, institutional racism, because there is good policing. That's what we're trying to do in the Justice Inter-Judiciary Committee, and that's what we need you to join us on, Mr. Attorney General. And to recognize that institutional racism does exist. And until we accept that, we will not finish our job and reach the goals and aspirations of our late, iconic John Lewis.

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