Amid Protests, National Security Adviser Denies Systemic Racism In US Policing
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said he does not believe there is systemic racism among American police forces, pointing instead to the existence of “bad apples” within law enforcement ranks that must be “rooted out.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper asked O’Brien on Sunday: “Do you think systemic racism is a problem in law enforcement agencies in the United States?”
O’Brien responded: “No, I don’t think there is systemic racism. I think 99.9 percent of our law enforcement officers are great Americans.”
He noted that many police are African Americans, Hispanic and Asian, adding that “They’re working in the toughest neighborhoods.”
O’Brien said police officers have the most difficult jobs in the country and are his “heroes.”
President Trump’s national security adviser went on at length about the “few bad apples” among law enforcement officers, some of whom are racist, that “are just bad cops.”
“And they need to be rooted out, because there’s a few bad apples that are giving law enforcement a terrible name,” O’Brien said, adding that they are “the minority.”
He then pivoted to praise the job police officers are doing amid the protests against George Floyd’s death, who was killed by a police officer last week.
O’Brien also called into question why the officer was not fired sooner, having had numerous complaints against him.
But I’ll tell you, I’m just so proud of the way our law enforcement professionals are protecting us and handling this situation with restraint. We love our law enforcement, but we do have to get rid of those that are — like the dirty cop that killed George Floyd. I mean, we need to get rid of those people.
By the way, where were the local prosecutors and where was the police commissioner? [The officer who killed Floyd] apparently — I’m told he had a long record of this sort of conduct. Why was he still on the force?
The officer’s continued employment despite those complaints readily points to a lack of police accountability, which plays out in police departments across the United States and goes hand-in-hand with the notion of systemic racism rather than a “few bad apples.”
In 2015, Amnesty International issued a groundbreaking report that found that all 50 states and the District of Columbia failed to comply with international law and standards on the use of lethal force by police. There are not adequate laws on the books to prevent unlawful use of lethal force or to hold police accountable for using it.
And as Mother Jones noted, systemic racism does not mean most police officers are racists, as O'Brien and other conservatives attempt to argue against. It means "that the system as a whole creates racially disparate outcomes—like the one in Ferguson, Missouri, another city famous for police shootings, that resulted in 95 percent of all jaywalking tickets going to African-Americans, even though they only made up 67 percent of the population."
But Tapper did not push the matter, telling O’Brien, “It’s a good question, and I’d like to have you back to talk about system racism versus bad apples, because I think there’s a lot we could talk about there.”
Watch (discussion begins at 9:05 mark):