Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) acknowledged Salon's editor-at-large D. Watkins was "right" about police officers after he claimed "they just harass and take up space in poor communities."
Harris's campaign released a 31-minute campaign video on Monday that included Harris speaking with black leaders about the U.S. criminal justice system. Near the beginning of the video, Watkins criticized police officers and their role in poor communities.
"We shouldn't have to acknowledge their trauma because they're paid to be there. We live in these places. Police officers have historically not been held accountable because they protect and serve the rich and then they just harass and take up space in poor communities," Watkins said. "I don't see any type of big shift happening with the one term because it's like a cultural thing."
"Right," Harris said while nodding her head.
Watkins went on to ask Harris how she would change the law enforcement culture on a national scale, prompting her to ask, "Is the responsibility of law enforcement to make sure there is consequence and accountability for crime or is the responsibility of law enforcement to ensure public safety?"
Despite her focus on criminal justice reform during her presidential campaign, Harris faced backlash from the black community and several black leaders for her record of sending at least 1,560 people to state prisons for marijuana-related offenses during her tenure as California attorney general between 2011 and 2016.
MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson on Monday compared Harris proposing her new criminal justice plan to a burglar offering to help install security systems during an appearance on Morning Joe.
"Her attempt to roll out this brand new criminal justice program is one of her ways of saying, ‘Hey, I'm coming back into this. I've got something to say, I'm an expert in this area," Johnson said. "But politically, it's kinda difficult. She's sort of like a burglar saying, ‘Hey, let me set up your home security system.'"
"Many liberals have said she is a part of the very criminal justice system that she's now saying, ‘Hey this is how I'm going to reform it,'" Johnson added. "So, a lot of this is about Senator Harris convincing people that she can initiate the changes she seemed to symbolically represent when she first got into the race."
Harris was also hit on her criminal justice record in July by Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), accusing her of hypocrisy.
"Senator Harris said she was proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she'll be a prosecutor president, but I'm deeply concerned about this record," Gabbard said. "She put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana."