As protests of police brutality continue across the country in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in police custody, the acting secretary of Homeland Security pushed back against the notion that incidents like Floyd’s killing are the manifestation of systemic racism within law enforcement agencies — a position that put him at odds with a member of Joe Biden’s vice presidential shortlist.
“I do not think that we have a systemic racism problem with law enforcement officers across this country,” Chad Wolf said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, arguing that such a sweeping diagnosis is “a disservice” to the upstanding members of law enforcement.
“Do I acknowledge that there are some law enforcement officers that abuse their job? Yes. And again, we need to hold those accountable,” Wolf told “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz, before claiming that “painting law enforcement with a broad brush of systemic racism is really a disservice” to the upstanding members of the law enforcement community.
The comments, which strike at the core argument behind the demonstrations that have swept throughout the nation in the past two weeks, were quickly criticized by Rep. Val Demings in a subsequent “This Week” interview.
“Look, if we’re going to solve some of America’s toughest problems we’ve got to be painfully honest about what those problems are,” Demings, D-Fla., said. “And we know that we have been fighting systemic racism in this country for 400 years.”
“We know that it has … reared its ugly head in law enforcement agencies, and housing, and education, and many other places,” she continued. “And so while I heard what the secretary said, we have a lot of work to do, and systemic racism is always the ghost in the room.”
Demings has been thrust into the national spotlight in recent weeks as she has come under consideration as a potential running mate for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. And as the former chief of the Orlando Police Department, she has been outspoken on the topic of law enforcement reform, a topic she was questioned about Sunday.
“What we have to do as a nation is hold police accountable, provide the necessary oversight to do that, look at training standards, look at use-of-force policies, look at who we are hiring, look at diversity within those agencies, and come together and create legislation that will support initiatives like that,” Demings said, adding that she would instruct the thousands of agencies across the United States to move forward on such evaluations immediately, rather than wait for the federal government to implement them.