Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush sat down with the influential Des Moines Register Editorial Board today, discussing a plethora of topics including the shootings of unarmed African Americans by police officers.
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Bush was asked if he sees a role for the federal government in investigating such cases. He expressed support for the idea if there was "overt discrimination" by the officers.
"Putting aside a police officer shooting a black man, most of the crimes are black on black in the communities. Most by far," he said. "The police shooting of unarmed black males, which is what the conversation is about as I understand, it is very small."
Bush added that investigations from the Justice Department can deepen the mistrust between law enforcement and community residents.
"Police need to be community policing. They need to be engaged in the community, and if they feel that the risk is too high to do it…that people don’t have their back, then you’re gonna have serious problems,” Bush noted.
Bush's presidential competitors have also been reluctant to criticize law enforcement. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has said that the debate over federal involvement must not “demonize” law enforcement, though he added that there were some departments where “police officers use excessive force.”
Donald Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have been more bombastic in their responses, criticizing advocacy groups like Black Lives Matter.
Trump has called Black Lives Matter "trouble" while Christie warned the group's organizers not to "call me for a meeting."
Democratic candidates have taken a markedly different approach.
During the recent Black and Brown Forum hosted by the Fusion network, Hillary Clinton said, "[Our current system] is such a violation of what we say our values are. We have systemic racism and bias that is implicit in our system, and unless we begin to go after that and expose it and end it, we won’t solve this problem.”
During ABC News’ Democratic debate in December, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders advocated for sweeping criminal justice reform.
“For a start it means that police officers should not be shooting unarmed people, predominantly African-Americans," the Democratic presidential candidate said.