Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a press briefing chalked up fatal police shootings of Black men to a local matter” and said the president does not have to comment on them.
Reporter April Ryan asked Sanders about the Alton Sterling and Stephon Clark shootings. Sanders called it a terrible incident” but a local matter.”
Sanders reiterated President Donald Trump’s support for law enforcement and added in these specific instances, those would be left up to local authorities and not something for the federal government to weigh into.”
The Trump administration has consistently taken a hands-off approach when it comes to fair and just policing. Last April U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III ordered a review of police reform agreements established during the Obama administration. Sessions at the time said it was not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies.” This directive came despite previous Justice Department findings of systemic racism in police departments in cities including Chicago and Baltimore.
Regardless, the White House showed this week it has not changed its viewpoint.
But Sarah, a lot of African American moms all across the country feel as though their sons are dying. So doesn’t the president feel like he needs to do something about that” asked reporter Kristen Welker.
Sanders went in a different direction and turned the conversation into one about gang violence, protecting children and border security.
I think the president, whether they’re Black, white, Hispanic, male or female, rich or poor, we look for ways, uh, to protect the individuals in this country, particularly, uh, children. That’s why you’ve seen the president take an active role over the last several months in school safety and looking at ways we want to do that across the board, whether a kid is in a school, whether they’re at home, no matter where they are in this country, kids should feel safe. And that’s why this president has focused on safety and security as a big part of the priorities of this administration, both through securing our borders, and stopping the flow of drugs, stopping the flow of gangs, stopping, um, the number of school shootings by the Stop School Violence Act, the background system. I’m not saying it’s perfect, and until every child is safe we can always do more, and we’re going to show up every day for work trying to do exactly that.”
Sanders did not mention Trump’s comments on local issues when they pertain to topics like immigration, or how he attacks local leaders at will, including calling Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf a disgrace” or saying San Juan Mayor Carmen Yuln Cruz was demonstrating poor leadership ability.”
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) responded on Twitter.
Dear @WhiteHouse, your IGNORANCE is showing. Police brutality is not a local matter”. It is a NATIONAL crisis. #BlackLivesMatter
Racial bias in policing should be cause for national concern. According to Mapping Police Violence’s 2017 report, police killed 1,129 people last year. Officers were only charged with a crime in 1 percent of cases. And of the 1,129 people officers killed, 27 percent were Black despite Blacks being just 13 percent of the population. Of those unarmed when they were killed, 35 percent were Black, and of those unarmed and not attacking, 37 percent were Black despite only constituting 13 percent of the population.
But changes don’t appear to be coming in 2018. Stephon Clark, 22, was shot and killed in California this month. Police said they believed he was holding a weapon which turned out to be a cellphone. In Houston, 34-year-old Danny Ray Thomas was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy while his pants were around his ankles. The sheriff’s office claimed that Thomas was believed to have had an object in his hand, but no weapons were recovered at the scene.
Without federal intervention, local police departments can continue their deeply rooted practices of bias in policing. In Baltimore, a long-held practice of racism and corruption in the police department was brought to new light recently. Two detectives were found guilty in February on charges of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and robbery. The verdict simply confirms what has already been common knowledge about the corrupt Baltimore Police Department, a problem detailed by a Justice Department report in 2016. The men were both members of the Gun Trace Task Force, a now defunct arm of the police department whose members were known for being corrupt, robbing suspects and being prepared to plant fake weapons at crime scenes to justify illegal searches.