Demings fires back at acting DHS secretary: 'Systemic racism is always the ghost in the room'

Demings fires back at acting DHS secretary: 'Systemic racism is always the ghost in the room'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsDemings on Florida: 'We're excited about what we're seeing' but 'taking absolutely nothing for granted' Why it's time for a majority female Cabinet Sunday shows preview: The final push to Election Day MORE (D-Fla.) said Sunday that “systemic racism is always the ghost in the room” after acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfBiden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Republican senators urge Trump to label West Bank goods as 'Made in Israel' Judge says acting DHS secretary appointment unlawful, invalidates DACA suspension MORE’s said that he doesn’t think there is a “systemic racism problem” in law enforcement.

The Florida Democrat, who has been mentioned as a possible running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE, told “ host Martha Raddatz on ABC's "This Week" that the country has to be “painfully honest.” She added that the U.S. has been “fighting systemic racism in this country for 400 years,” long before protests broke out over George Floyd’s death after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.

Wolf earlier said on the show that a “systemic racism problem” does not exist among law enforcement, but he acknowledged that some officers “abuse their jobs” and need to be held accountable.

“While I heard what the secretary said, we have a lot of work to do,” she said. “And systemic racism is always the ghost in the room.”

Demings, a former  Orlando Police Department chief, said she has found recent videos of law enforcement officers reacting to protesters “extremely troubling.” She called for legislation to back more officer oversight, training and the examination of use-of-force policies, hiring patterns and diversity within police departments. 

The Florida representative said she is also requesting law enforcement agencies across the country to “not wait for the federal government to have to tell you what to do.”

“You see what’s going on, you know what’s right and what’s wrong, take a critical look at yourselves, do a deep dive, and begin to change policies on your own because there are some things that we need to happen right now, like banning neck restraints, for example,” Demings said. 


Floyd’s death sparked demonstrations across the country that have continued into this week over police treatment of minority populations. 

Video footage of several confrontations between officers and protesters have spread online, appearing to show law enforcement allegedly mistreating demonstrators.