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Bill Barr: ‘I Don’t Agree That There’s Systemic Racism’ in Policing ‘Or Generally in This Country’

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) asked Attorney General Bill Barr a couple lay-up questions about racism in American policing during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

“Does the Trump Justice Department seek to end systemic racism in law enforcement?” she queried. “I need a yes or no answer.”

Barr replied: “To the extent there is racism in any of our institutions in this country and the police, then obviously this administration is — will fully enforce –”

Lee then interjected to clarify: “So you agree that there may be systemic racism?”

“To the extent — in — where?” Barr pleaded. “Where?”

Through a bit of interrupting, Barr said this:  “I don’t agree there’s systemic racism in police departments — or generally in this country.”

Many criminal justice experts have long noted that there is overwhelming evidence and proof that American policing is systemically racist. (The suggestion that American society is generally not racist is also disputed by experts.)

But Jackson Lee had receipts to dispel Barr’s unfounded belief:

Let me share with you some aspects of profiling. After the death of George Floyd [we] found that while Black people make up 19% of the Minneapolis population and 9% of its police, they were on this receiving end of 58% of the city’s police use of force incidents. In addition, we have seen that Black men are twice as likely to be stopped and searched. Hispanic drivers–65% receive a ticket. And Native Americans in Arizona [are] three times more likely to be searched and be stopped.

“Let me ask you the questions of how we respond to that,” she continued. “The Justice Department has many tools at its disposal to reduce police violence.”

Jackson Lee then noted that pattern or practice investigations are generally considered effective civil investigations launched by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division that can “end bad policing and police violence.”

She also noted that such investigations address “police violence at an institutional level rather than just focusing on a few cases.”

“If you understand that, then why has your department only pursued one pattern or practice investigation since President Trump took office that could stop systemic racism?” Jackson Lee asked.

To which Barr responded: “If you read my statement or listened to my statement, I did specifically acknowledge that there was a difficulty in this country with the African-American community–”

The Texas Democrat interjected again to note that her time was limited and to reiterate her question.

“Can you tell me why you haven’t done a pattern and practice?” she demanded. “What’s the reason?”

Barr again hemmed and hawed.

“And you asked me what the response was,” he said. And I thought the response to this is, in fact, training of police–and I think the police believe that this is the response. I was talking to a Black chief of police–”

Jackson Lee, apparently realizing no answer was forthcoming, moved on again.

[image via screengrab/C-SPAN]

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