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DHS chief denies systemic racism in law enforcement

DHS chief denies systemic racism in law enforcement
© Greg Nash

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfTravel industry calls on Trump administration to prevent the need for quarantines by creating a testing plan Voting rights group files suit against Trump, administration officials alleging voter intimidation Business groups, universities file lawsuit over new rules targeting H-1B visas MORE in an interview released on Tuesday denied any problems with systemic racism within U.S. law enforcement. 

Wolf said there is “absolutely not” an issue of systemic racism in law enforcement, arguing that issues over police brutality are instead due to individual officers abusing their authority. 

“Do we have individuals in the law enforcement community that probably abuse their authority? We saw that in George Floyd’s death. But we see that around the country, absolutely, and they should be held accountable,” he said in an interview with “Axios on HBO” released Tuesday. 

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“But this idea that we have systemic racism is not accurate in my view,” he added. 

Axios’s Mike Allen pressed Wolf, asking him if he thinks the current system is working. 

“Absolutely,” Wolf responded, calling Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody in May “a good example of that.” 

“Those individuals and officers that are responsible for that, that justice system has moved very quickly. Can we always improve and be better? Absolutely,” Wolf added. 

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Floyd died in May after a now-former white police officer, Dereck Chauvin, was seen kneeling on his neck during an arrest for more than eight minutes as Floyd said he could not breath. Chauvin and three other officers were fired and charged over Floyd’s death. 

The killing of Floyd sparked nationwide protests over racial inequality and police brutality. Many demonstrators drew parallels between Floyd’s death and other police killings of Black Americans, especially including Eric Garner's death in 2014 in New York City. Garner, like Floyd, was seen on video saying he could not breath as police held him down.

“I’m not saying that there’s not racist tendencies in some law enforcement officers. I think I want to be clear about that,” Wolf said in the interview. “But again, what people mean by systematic racism is that we have designed an institution, a law enforcement institution to be racist from the get-go, and I just don't subscribe to that. I don't believe in that.”

In recent years, body camera footage and footage taken by cellphones have highlighted issues of police brutality with videos of incidents spreading across social media. Allen noted that while the videos are now coming out to show these incidents, they “clearly existed before.” 

“That’s systemic,” Allen said, pressing Wolf on his denial. 

“So again, all for calling out inappropriate behavior, inappropriate procedures. But the way to get at that is not to call for defunding the police,” Wolf responded. “The way to do that is not to cut their budget by half. It's actually to increase the training, increase the oversight and find individuals that are willing to go in.”