Biden says there's "absolutely" systemic racism in law enforcement and beyond

Joe Biden on policing in America
Joe Biden on policing in America 06:41

Former Vice President Joe Biden says there is "absolutely" systemic racism in law enforcement, but noted the problem is much broader than just law enforcement. Biden made the comments in an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell in CBS News' primetime special "Justice for All." 

"Do you believe there is systemic racism in law enforcement?" O'Donnell asked Biden in the exclusive interview. 

"Absolutely," Biden responded. "But it's not just in law enforcement, it's across the board. It's in housing, it's in education, and it's in everything we do. It's real. It's genuine. It's serious. And it is — it is able to be dealt with. Look, not all law enforcement officers are racist; my lord, there are some really good, good cops out there. But the way in which it works right now is we've seen too many examples of it."

He is calling for a national standard for appropriate police conduct, as protesters demand change in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Floyd's funeral took place Tuesday in Houston, two weeks after his death in police custody sparked protests from sea to sea. 

"I've laid out a whole plan — how I would do that," Biden said. "Number one, you have to start off by insisting that the police departments meet a national standard of what constitutes policing that is appropriate. And that's one of things we gotta set out, that national standard. And all police departments are gonna have to adopt it. We'll put together a commission to do that."

The presumptive Democratic nominee does not support the notion of defunding the police — which some within the Black Lives Matter movement are pushing for — but he does support conditioning federal aid for police departments based on meeting "certain basic standards of decency and honorableness."

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 was introduced Monday by House Democrats, and Biden told CBS News he agrees with a number of the proposals in it, including making lynching a federal hate crime, creating some type of national police misconduct registry, and federally banning choke holds. 

Biden said the nation also needs to ensure that police officers are "not only fired but held accountable if there's a criminal offense," and the U.S. must "change the way the entire criminal justice system functions and the prison system. It should turn into a rehabilitation system, not into just punishment."

Biden met with Floyd's family Monday, ahead of the funeral. This moment, he said is "one of those great inflection points in history." 

"Jill and I talked to 'em about — it's hard enough to grieve, but it's much harder to do it in public," Biden said after meeting with Floyd's family. "It's much harder with the whole world watchin' you. They're an incredible family. His little daughter was there, the one who said, 'Daddy's gonna change the world.' And I think her daddy is gonna change the world. I think what's happened is one of those great inflection points in American history, for real in terms of civil liberty, civil rights, and — and — just treating people with dignity."

Asked why he believes Floyd's recorded death is a turning point, Biden pointed to unity among protesters who marched across the country for change. 

"When people saw George's face being pushed against, his nose almost being broken, being held for 8 minutes and 42 seconds — whatever it was exactly — they said, 'Oh my God. This is happening,'" Biden said. "And all the people coming forward — but you know what they told me? They told me how they were encouraged by the fact that the protests here in Texas and other places, they were telling me that guess what, Mr. Vice President, all the young white men and women marching with young black men and women, almost as many. It's going to change. There's hope. They have hope."

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    Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.