Republican Sen. John Kennedy (La.) left Attorney General Merrick Garland dumbfounded on Tuesday after pressing the law enforcement leader on what percentage of America's police he believes are "bad" or "racist."
The pointed questioning came as violent crime continues to skyrocket in communities across the country, especially in Democratic-controlled cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia. Yet in response, the Department of Justice continues to allocate resources to probe local police departments for patterns of systemic racism and investigate law enforcement officers for use-of-force incidents against rioters rather than adopt a tougher stance toward criminals.
"What percentage of cops in America do you think are bad cops?" Kennedy asked Garland point-blank during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Tuesday, apparently hoping to elucidate why the attorney general has used his position of power to target law enforcement agencies and not criminals.
"A very small percentage," Garland responded, though failing to give a number.
"Is it under 10%?" Kennedy pressed, to which Garland acknowledged, "Yes."
When Kennedy asked if the number is under 5%, Garland sounded less confident but agreed the assessment was "probably" accurate.
"Do you think most cops are racist?" Kennedy then asked, adding, "What percentage of cops do you think ... are racist?"
"I don't know," Garland ultimately said in response, clearly annoyed and flustered by the senator's line of questioning.
Kennedy questions Attorney General Merrick Garland at Approps Committee www.youtube.com
Kennedy began his time by suggesting that the Justice Department is "losing" on "crime," "drugs," "immigration," and "Chinese espionage" and that something needs to change.
Later, he argued that Chicago has become "the world's largest outdoor shooting range," with gangs accounting for most of the gunfire. Yet, according to Kennedy, the attorney general has not been nearly aggressive enough in empowering and encouraging law enforcement to confront the rampant crime.
Taking at face value Garland's own admission that the large majority of police officers are neither "bad" nor "racist," Kennedy charged that the Justice Department should encourage police to stop, question, and frisk suspected criminals in places where crime is out of control.
"Why wouldn't you want to call the mayor and the police chief in Chicago and [tell them to] ... aggressively stop, question, and frisk these gang members? Why won't you do that?" the senator asked.
Garland responded by dancing around the question and vaguely suggesting that violent crime is a largely state and local issue.
"It's a resource allocation issue for each local police department," Garland offered.
Kennedy then shot back, saying, "Is that what we're supposed to tell the mothers of those kids getting killed in Chicago, 'You don't understand, it's a resource allocation issue.'"