Attorney General William Barr acknowledged that nonwhite communities are frequently policed differently than other communities.
“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,” Barr said in an interview with ABC News. “I think it is wrong if people are not respected appropriately and given their due, and I think it’s something we have to address.”
Barr also admitted a degree of naivete about race relations and law enforcement, but the response to the May 25 death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, which led to protests and rioting in every major city in the United States and several others around the world, was an eye opener.
“Before the George Floyd incident I thought we were in a good place,” he continued. “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.”
He said, however, that he disagreed with protesters’ call to “defund the police” saying that money shouldn’t come out of law enforcement budgets.
“We have to think about more investment in the police,” he added. “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.”
He also said that he has a different view on the Black Lives Matter movement than many, but does agree with the concept.
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. Five years ago, there were 40 such incidents. This last year it was 10. So at least it’s a positive trajectory there. But then you compare it to a thousand homicides in the African American community. Those Black lives matter, too. And those are lives that are protected by the police,” Barr said