Barr says police brutality against black Americans is 'false narrative'

Barr downplayed the suggestion that police departments were plagued by racism

Gino Spocchia
Wednesday 09 September 2020 16:12 BST
William Barr says police shootings of unarmed black men is 'false narrative'

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Louise Thomas

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The US attorney general, William Barr, has described white police brutality towards unarmed black Americans as a “false narrative”.

Those comments come amid national turmoil over the police shootings of George Floyd and Jacob Blake, two unarmed black men whose stories have provoked widespread anger and accusations about systemic racism across the US.

Mr Barr downplayed the suggestion that police departments were plagued by racism, saying on Wednesday there was not an “epidemic of cops shooting unarmed black men.”

“I think the narrative that the police are on some epidemic of shooting unarmed black men is simply a false narrative,” he told CNN.

That comes despite a series of high-profile police encounters with unarmed black Americans in 2020, whilst violent scenes have played-out between Black Lives Matter protesters and law enforcement sent to stamp-out demonstrations.

Mr Barr also misinterpreted statistics on police shootings, saying that “it’s very rare” for black Americans to be shot.

“The fact is that it’s very rare for an unarmed African American to be shot by a white police officer”, he told CNN.

But black Americans, who represent 13 per cent of the overall US population, are overrepresented amongst those killed by the police.

According to the National Institutes of Health, some 32 per cent of police shooting victims are black, meaning they are more likely to be killed than white Americans.

The NIH study also suggests that black shooting victims are more likely to be unarmed than white victims.

At the same time, a Washington Post database predicts that black Americans have been killed by police at a rate of 32 per million in the past five years, and white Americans at a rate of 13 per million.

Mr Barr’s remarks follow Donald Trump’s visit to Wisconsin, where he praised police officers who were condemned over the recent shooting of Blake.

The president said during his visit that “people have to understand that. They choke sometimes,” referring to widely derided chokeholds used by US law enforcement.

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