Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton said Wednesday “balance” should be restored in the US criminal justice system, denouncing discrimination blacks often face by police.
Clinton said African American men are more often stopped by police, charged and jailed, and said trust between police and the public must be “urgently” rebuilt.
“There is something profoundly wrong when African-American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are given to white counterparts,” Clinton said, speaking at Columbia University in New York.
“We need to restore balance to our criminal justice system,” she urged.
Clinton was speaking in the wake of riots in Baltimore, where protests over the death of 25-year-old African American Freddie Gray from injuries suffered while in police custody turned violent on Monday.
Clinton said a string of high-profile deaths of unarmed African-American men in police hands should provoke wide reform, not only in the justice system.
“These recent tragedies should galvanize us to come together as a nation to find our balance again,” she said.
“We must urgently begin to rebuild the bonds of trust and respect among Americans. Between police and citizens, yes, but also across society.”
Clinton called for all police officers across the country to be outfitted with body cameras to “improve transparency and accountability.”
“It will protect people on both sides of the lens. For every tragedy caught on tape, there surely have been many more that remain invisible,” she said.
– ‘Hard truths’ about race –
She denounced the violence in Baltimore, adding that the death of Gray and others have brought tough questions about race relations in the United States to the fore.
“Those who are instigating further violence in Baltimore are disrespecting the Gray family and the entire community. They are compounding the tragedy of Freddie Gray’s death and setting back the cause of justice. So the violence has to stop.”
“We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America,” added Clinton, the sole announced US Democrat presidential contender.
African Americans account for one million of the 2.3 million people jailed in the United States, according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Blacks are jailed at six times the rate of whites and African Americans account for more than a quarter of juvenile arrests nationally, the organization said.
The killings of unarmed black men by police, including 18-year-old Michael Brown shot dead in the St Louis suburb Ferguson last August, have sparked nationwide protests and reignited a debate about race and police tactics.
Clinton also spoke of a bloated prison population and said too many people — of all races — are jailed for minor crimes.
“It’s time to end the era of mass incarceration. We need a true national debate about how to reduce our prison population while keeping our communities safe,” she said.
Clinton, 67, announced her bid to run for president this month, her second White House campaign.
A Quinnipiac University poll this week revealed she has the backing of 60 percent of Democrats, with her nearest potential rival, Vice President Joe Biden trailing on 10 percent.
The entirety of Clinton’s speech, as posted by C-SPAN, can be seen below.