Holder, who was the first African American to hold the post, admitted to Reid that he’s proud of the Departments’s accomplishments under his leadership—the Smart on Crime initiative, among them—but confessed,”I wish I had more time, even though I think it’s time for me to transition to something else.”
When asked by Reid about the 1999 NYPD shooting of Amadou Diallo and the decades-long mistrust that remains between communities of color and law enforcement, Holder responded bluntly:
It means that we, as a nation, have failed. It’s as simple as that. We have failed. We have understood that these issues have existed... These are issues that we’ve been dealing with for generations.
And it’s why we have to seize this opportunity that we now have. We have a moment in time that we can, perhaps, come up with some meaningful change. It’s what I’m committed to doing, even in the limited time I have left as attorney general. And I’ll certainly continue to do it after I leave office.
But I also feel that the nation is really ready for this kind of change. And I would hope that, 10 years from now, 12 years from now, we will not look back on this as a lost opportunity.
On understanding the magnitude of the police brutality in America:
[O]ne of the things we need to do is do a better job of just collecting statistics. We don’t necessarily have the basis now for looking at this country as a whole and understanding how big the problem is. It’s one of the things our Bureau of Justice Statistics is trying to come up with, a way in which we can start to gather this kind of information. And that’ll give us a much better way in which we can get a handle on this problem.
On the disrespect he’s received from Congress:
Unfortunately, I think that’s part of Washington in 2014. I would hope that my successor would not have to endure some of the things that I did. And I say “endure” only because I think I’ve shown respect where, perhaps, I haven’t been given any.
There are times when I wanted to just snap back. And there are occasions when I have. But there have been, frequently, more times when I’ve wanted to be a lot more aggressive in the responses that I’ve made.
On ending the “war on drugs”:
Well, I think we certainly need to ask ourselves questions about our drug-enforcement efforts. Are we focusing the limited resources that we have in the appropriate places? Are we bringing the appropriate charges? Are we putting people in jail for the appropriate lengths of time?
You know, the sale of drugs has ravaged certain communities. I’m concerned, however, that some of our law-enforcement efforts, though well intentioned, have had a destabilizing influence in those same communities. And so we need to step back and ask ourselves some really fundamental questions about the approaches that we have used in drug enforcement over the last 30 or 40 years.
On the mass effort by young people currently mobilizing against injustice:
That’s the essence of who we are as Americans. We protest. We get loud. We disrupt things — all with the hope that we’re gonna make the country better. They have raised issues that we need to discuss.
UPDATE: Watch Holder’s interview with Reid below.