Barr: Divide between African Americans, police 'must change'

Full Screen
1 / 2

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Federal officers stand outside the Department of Justice as Attorney General William Barr speaks during a virtual press conference inside the building Thursday, June 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr sought on Thursday to quell tensions over the death of George Floyd in police custody, acknowledging a divide between many black Americans and the police and promising to spare no resource as the Justice Department investigates whether a federal civil rights crime was committed.

“While the vast majority of police officers do their job bravely and righteously, it is undeniable that many African Americans lack confidence in our American criminal justice system,” Barr said at a news conference. “This must change. Our constitution mandates equal protection of the laws and nothing less is acceptable.”

Barr’s comments appeared to contrast with prior statements he’s made condemning protests against the police and what he’s described as a “disturbing pattern of cynicism and disrespect shown toward law enforcement.” But he insisted Thursday that his views have been consistent and that the overwhelming majority of police officers “try conscientiously to use appropriate and reasonable force.”

Throughout his tenure, Barr has similarly been a staunch advocate of police officers. But he vowed that the Justice Department would do its part to investigate and prosecute civil rights crimes.