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Trump officials claim there is no systemic racism in policing as protests sweep US

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Several Trump administration officials on Sunday denied the existence of systemic racism in law enforcement, even as protests across the U.S. demand broad changes to policing and the rallying cry “defund the police” spreads.

Elected Democrats and activists pushed back on the claim Sunday as House lawmakers prepare to unveil a sweeping police reform bill this week.

“I think there’s racism in the United States still but I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Attorney General William Barr said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” 

Barr acknowledged that “for most of our history, our institutions were explicitly racist” but argued that reforms undertaken since the 1960s have created change in most of those institutions, including law enforcement.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson similarly said though he grew up in a time “when there was real systemic racism,” such problems are “very uncommon now.” 

And acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf claimed on ABC’s “This Week” there is no “systemic racism problem” in law enforcement, only individual police officers who “abuse their jobs.”

Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), a vice presidential contender who served as the first female chief of the Orlando Police Department, immediately pushed back on Wolf’s claims.

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

Demings noted “extremely troubling” videos of police responses to the protests, including two Buffalo, N.Y., officers knocking a 75-year-old man to the ground and leaving him there, despite him visibly bleeding. After the two officers were suspended, more than 50 other members resigned from the unit to which the two belonged.

“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.

Numerous studies have found black Americans to be the disproportionate targets of both arrests and use of force by police.  

While the government has not published comprehensive data on racial disparities in policing, a study by the group Mapping Police Violence, which tracks the deaths of unarmed people due to police harm, found people of color and black Americans in particular are disproportionately affected.

About a third of the more than 1,000 unarmed people who died due to police harm between 2013 and 2019 were black, according to the data, and 17 percent of black people who died due to police harm were unarmed, outpacing the national average of 13 percent.

In Minneapolis, where George Floyd died in police custody, setting off a wave of protests around the nation, a New York Times analysis of city data found police use physical force against black residents at seven times the rate of white ones.

While the nationwide protests were sparked by Floyd’s death after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, demonstrators are demanding an acknowledgement of the broader issues. The slogan “defund the police” is commonly heard.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said while “it’s not a slogan I will use,” even those who disagree with the idea should consider the sentiment and anger that drives it.

“This is the outrage that I think people on the streets are feeling and that I share is that we are over policing as a society, that we are investing in police, who are not solving problems, but are making them worse, when we should be in a more compassionate country,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Booker added that during his tenure as mayor of Newark, he frequently spoke to police who said they were used as an all-purpose to solution to more complex issues like addiction and poverty. “There’s so much money going into our police departments that is a more expensive way to deal with it,” he said.

Meanwhile Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, also addressed the slogan, saying “When we talk about defunding the police, what we’re saying is ‘invest in the resources that our communities need’,” on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Why can’t we start to look at how it is that we reorganize our priorities so people don’t have to be in the streets protesting … in a global pandemic?” she added.

Tags Alicia Garza Ben Carson Black Lives Matter Black Lives Matter Chad Wolf Cory Booker Donald Trump George Floyd Joe Biden police brutality Racism Val Demings William Barr

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