House Majority Whip James Clyburn Says 'Nobody Is Going to Defund the Police,' But U.S. Needs to 'Deconstruct' System

House Majority Whip and South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn said that protesters should aim to "deconstruct" the U.S. policing system that targets young black people, not to simply "defund the police."

The Democrat responded Sunday to the latest police shooting death of a black man, Rayshard Brooks, by an officer in Atlanta Friday evening, saying there is a "culture" problem with the country's police departments.

But Clyburn said "nobody is going to defund the police" anywhere in the United States or in Congress, telling CNN host Jake Tapper that police officers "have a role" in future changes to law enforcement.

The longtime South Carolina lawmaker said it's clear there is a police problem in the U.S. because young black men weren't even afraid of police during segregation -- but now they are.

"Nobody is going to defund the police. We can restructure the police forces, restructure and re-imagine policing, that is what we are going to do," Clyburn said Sunday morning. "The fact of the matter is the police have a role to play. What we've got to do is make sure that that role is one that meets the times. One that responds to these communities that they operate in."

"I didn't grow up in fear of police, even in a segregated environment, we never feared the police," the 79-year-old congressman said. "But all of a sudden now I do fear the police, the young blacks fear the police. Why? Because we have built in a system that ... we've got to deconstruct. So I wouldn't say 'defund,' deconstruct our policing."

Clyburn responded directly to the death of Brooks in Atlanta Friday night, which led to protesters setting fire to the Wendy's where the incident took place and the resignation of Atlanta's police chief. Police dashcam footage recorded the deadly interaction between Brooks and police.

"I was very incensed over that. And sometimes you wonder when you're dealing with an issue like this for two or three weeks and then you see another police officer still being insensitive to the life of a young African-American man," Clyburn replied. "The fact of the matter is he was drinking, fell asleep in the Wendy's drive-thru. And they have already patted him down. He had no weapon on him. Where did they think he was going to go?"

Newsweek reached out to Clyburn's South Carolina office for additional remarks Sunday morning.

Clyburn said Brooks' shooting death is illustrative of the wider, systemic cultural problems within U.S. police departments.

"This did not call for lethal force and I don't know what's in the culture that would make this guy do that," he continued. "It's got to be the culture, it's got to be the system."

The congressman went on to say the Jim Crow era "institutionalized second-class citizenship of black people," and said today's police targeting of black Americans is just the latest ripple effect of such racist thinking.

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South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn reacted to the Atlanta shooting death of Rayshard Brooks and said U.S. police departments need to be deconstructed, not defunded. Screenshot: Twitter | CNN