On Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr acknowledged that black communities are often policed differently than white communities. Barr referred to the unfairness as a “widespread phenomenon.”
“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 confessed to ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas in an exclusive interview. He went on to add, “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 said that he hopes the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers turns out to be “a catalyst for the kinds of changes that are needed.”
“Before the George Floyd incident, I thought we were in a good place. 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,” Barr explained.
While Barr acknowledges that change needs to occur, he is not a fan of defunding law enforcement. When asked if there is “value in defunding the police,” Barr replied, “No, because I don’t think the money should come out of the police.”
“We have to think about more investment in the police. 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.”
Barr shared the results of his department’s only civil rights investigation exclusively with ABC News, which found that excessive force was used.
“We found, in that case, that there was a drug unit in the Springfield (Mass.) police department that was engaged in a pattern and practice of using excessive force,” He said.
When speaking about the Black Lives Matter movement, Barr said that while black lives do matter, he does not believe the group is totally meant for good.
“Well, I make a distinction. I’d make a distinction between the organization, which I don’t agree with. They have a broader agenda. 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,” he added.