WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday acknowledged a “widespread phenomenon” where communities of color are treated differently by police in the US.
“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 told ABC News.
The comments stand in stark contrast to other Trump administration officials such as White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who last month claimed systemic racism doesn’t exist.
Barr told ABC News that the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis showed the country still had work to do to correct decades of mistrust.
“I think it is wrong if people are not respected appropriately and given their due,” he said, “and I think it’s something we have to address.”
“Before the George Floyd incident I thought we were in a good place,” Barr 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.”
The nation’s top law enforcement officer — who was criticized for his aggressive response to protests in Washington, DC, in the wake of Floyd’s death — said he hoped the Minnesota man’s murder would be “a catalyst for the kinds of changes that are needed.”
Congress is seeking its own changes to policing in the US but a police reform bill introduced by GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina ultimately died in the Senate after Democrats voted against it.
A similar bill passed by the House seeking to ban chokeholds is also unlikely to pass the Senate.