Attorney General William Barr traveled to Boston and New York City on Thursday and Friday to visit with law enforcement leaders and members of each city’s police departments.
In Boston on Thursday, Barr met with Commissioner William Gross and members of his team. In New York City on Friday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a readout that Barr met with Deputy Commissioner Ben Tucker and other senior NYPD officials.
The aim of Barr’s visits, the DOJ stated, was to show the Trump administration’s “strong support for law enforcement” and discuss issues that include police relations with the community, officer training, and use of force.
“In both meetings, the attorney general expressed his deep appreciation for, and importance of, the service and work of their departments and discussed policing issues that have been at the forefront of national conversation and debate,” the department stated.
DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec shared a photo of Barr and Gross on Thursday, noting in the caption that “Commissioner Gross told us it was the first time a U.S. attorney general had visited Boston PD.”
Today, Attorney General Barr met w/ @BPDPCGross and his outstanding @bostonpolice team. Commissioner Gross told us it was the first time a U.S. Attorney General had visited Boston PD. Thank you, Comm. Gross, for your wonderful hospitality and invaluable insight and advice. pic.twitter.com/xOob3OiMyM
— Kerri Kupec DOJ (@KerriKupecDOJ) June 18, 2020
Gross told CBS that the topics the two covered in their talks included race relations, police reform, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu criticized Gross for taking the meeting with Barr, writing in a tweet: “Racism Is A Public Health Crisis…aka don’t welcome the person who dismisses systemic racism & creates/enforces racist policies through abuses of power!!! This is a disgrace to our city & a breach of trust to our communities.”
Gross defended his meeting with Barr, saying he took the opportunity to discuss issues of relevance to the black community.
“I wanted to have this discussion as a commissioner that made it this far in the community that raised me. So that’s what I did today. Shame on anyone that has me cornered by guilt by association because I had a discussion,” he said at a press conference.
Wu’s reference to Barr’s dismissal of systemic racism may have been in reference to comments the attorney general made on June 7, when he appeared on “Face the Nation” to talk about protests in the wake of the police custody death of George Floyd.
In the interview, Barr acknowledged the persistence of racist attitudes in society at large but rejected the notion that America’s institutions were “systemically racist.”
“I think there’s racism in the United States still but I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Barr said. “I think we have to recognize that for most of our history, our institutions were explicitly racist. They denied equal rights to African Americans, first under slavery, then under Jim Crow,” he added.
Further, Barr said it’s “undeniable that progress is being made” in regards to reforming the nation’s institutions, adding, “We have a generation of police leaders in this country, many of whom are now African American, in our major cities, who are firmly committed to equal justice and to fair policing.”
Expressing understanding for the distrust of the African American community “given the history in this country,” Barr noted that the administration would be expanding its efforts to further reform law enforcement.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order on policing, which included measures to incentivize enhanced police training regarding deescalation techniques and imposed tougher restrictions for the use of chokeholds as a restraining technique used to incapacitate non-compliant suspects.