- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2020

Attorney General William P. Barr said that there’s a “widespread phenomenon” that Black men are treated differently than others by police.

In a new interview with ABC News released Thursday, Mr. Barr said that unequal treatment is something the country and his department need to address.

“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,” Mr. Barr said.

“I think it is wrong if people are not respected appropriately and given their due,” he added.

However, that did not go as far as to say there is systemic racism in policing, which protest groups argue. The Trump administration has been staunchly pushing back against that charge.

Protests and outrage sparked in late May after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both Black and unarmed at the time, were killed by police.

Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed after a White officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Taylor was shot multiple times in her apartment after officers entered at night, on the basis of a “no-knock” warrant.

“Before the George Floyd incident, I thought we were in a good place,” Mr. Barr said. “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.”

The ongoing protests have put pressure on Congress to deliver some kind of policing overhaul package.

Both House Democrats and Senate Republicans have put forward proposals, but with the GOP rejecting the House-passed bill and Democrats blocking the Senate bill the issue is caught in a political stalemate.

In a press conference with the attorney general Wednesday, Sen. Tim Scott, the sole Black Republican senator and lead lawmaker on the GOP bill, said he’s still optimistic there could be a vote.

“Folks are now calling me about the legislation from the other side, suggesting perhaps it is not dead,” Mr. Scott of South Carolina told reporters. “We may have a Lazarus moment.”

Mr. Barr, meanwhile, called for a “right balance” to curbing controversial policing practices in that same press conference.

In his interview with ABC News, Mr. Barr said that won’t come from the “defund the police” movement, which calls for radically restructuring police departments by adding social workers or eliminating certain tasks and shifting funds to invest more directly into the community.

“We have to think about more investment in the police,” he said. “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.”

House Democrats bucked growing calls to defund the police from far-left groups in their Justice Department spending bill that was unveiled Tuesday, instead of investing nearly $600 million to help local police departments implement changes to their training and policies.

Mr. Barr also revealed that the DOJ’s only civil rights investigation on the issue did find a pattern of excessive force.

“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.

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