Attorney General William Barr decried mounting calls nationwide to defund police departments on Monday in the wake of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Barr, in an appearance on “Special Report with Bret Baier” on Fox News, said he understood “the history of racial injustice in this country” and why the African American community would view Floyd’s death in Minneapolis as “manifestations of institutional racism in police departments.” However, he disagreed with dismantling police departments because there would be an increase in “vigilantism” and “more killings" in major American cities.
“Police chiefs, the rank and file officers understand the need for change and there has been great change,” he said. “And I think defunding the police, holding the entire police structure responsible for the actions of certain officers is wrong, and I think it’s dangerous to demonize police.”
Activists and some elected officials have called to defund, disband or significantly downsize police departments following Floyd’s death as well as other deaths of African Americans by police. Recently, in a veto-proof majority, the Minneapolis City Council committed to dismantling its police department — pledging to reallocate law enforcement funds to create a new public safety system.
President Donald Trump on Monday also criticized the efforts to defund or disband police departments after Democratic lawmakers unveiled Monday sweeping legislation to address racial discrimination in law enforcement and police misconduct.
“There won’t be defunding, there won’t be dismantling of our police, and there’s not going to be any disbanding of our police,” Trump said at a roundtable with law enforcement on Monday.
Barr also said he saw nothing wrong with police forcefully pushing back peaceful protesters outside the White House last week in which rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, and flash-bang grenades were used to make way for Trump to pose for photos with a Bible at St. John's Episcopal Church.
He said there was already a plan in place to extend the perimeter around the White House prior to last week’s protest at Lafayette Square because the administration was “reacting to three days of extremely violent demonstrations.”
Barr also appeared to contradict Trump, who said he only went to the White House bunker during the initial protests to "inspect" it. But Barr said “Things were so bad that the Secret Service recommended the president go down to the bunker.”