White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien on Sunday denied that there’s “systemic racism” across police agencies in the U.S., despite numerous incidents in which officers have harassed or killed unarmed Black men, including George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this week.
Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” whether systemic racism is a problem within these agencies, O’Brien said no.
″I don’t think there’s systemic racism,” O’Brien said. “I think 99.9% of our law enforcement officers are great Americans. And many of them are African American, Hispanic, Asian ― they’re working the toughest neighborhoods.”
O’Brien added: “But you know what? There are some bad apples in there. There are some bad cops that are racist, and there are cops that maybe don’t have the right training. ... And they need to be rooted out.”
O’Brien said that he’s “so proud” of the way police have handled the current protests “with restraint.”
Floyd died Monday in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck, sparking nationwide protests. Photos and videos from the protests show police in some areas fired rubber bullets and pepper-sprayed demonstrators. In New York City, a police van appeared to drive into a crowd of protesters.
Police have arrested several journalists, including HuffPost’s Chris Mathias, while they were covering the protests. Mathias was released hours after being taken into custody by New York City police officers on Saturday.
Black men and boys face the highest risk of being killed by police, according to a study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. They are killed at a rate of 96 out of 100,000 deaths, according to the study. By comparison, white men and boys face a lower rate of 39 per 100,000 deaths, despite representing a much larger portion of the U.S. population.
“We have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them,” Washington Post columnist Radley Balko wrote in 2018. “When you consider that much of the criminal-justice system was built, honed and firmly established during the Jim Crow era — an era almost everyone, conservatives included, will concede [was] rife with racism — this is pretty intuitive.”
Balko added: “It’s pretty clear to me that the evidence of racial bias in our criminal-justice system isn’t just convincing — it’s overwhelming.”
Earlier on Sunday’s “State of the Union,” Melvin Carter, the mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, dismissed claims that there are just a few “bad apples” within U.S. police forces. He pointed to bystander video that showed four police officers ignoring Floyd’s statements that he couldn’t breathe as one of them knelt on his neck.
“If it was just one, you might be able to say, ‘Rogue officer, bad apple,’” Carter said. “But when you have four officers in the video all responsible for the taking of George Floyd’s life, it points to a ... normalized culture that’s ... been accepted and that cannot be a part of our culture moving forward.”