"There is no doubt that there are some racist police," O'Brien added. "I think they're the minority. I think they're the few bad apples, and we need to root them out."
But studies suggest there have been discrepancies in how different races are treated by police:
- Latino youth are 65% more likely to be detained or committed than their white peers, according to a 2017 report from The Sentencing Project.
- In the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 17 million white respondents and 4 million black respondents reported having used an illicit drug within the last month. African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites, the NAACP said.
- Researchers analyzed traffic safety stops in Kansas City and found no major racial disparities in ticketing for speeding. But they found that "blacks were 2.7 times more likely to be pulled over in an investigatory stop," NPR station KCUR reported. "Blacks were also subject to searches five times more often than white drivers."
- That same study, by three University of Kansas professors, found stark differences in how white and black drivers were treated when they were pulled over. Many white drivers who were surveyed described brief interactions with police. But black drivers who had an infraction like a burnt out light were more often "questioned about what they were doing in a particular neighborhood, where they were heading, and whether they were carrying drugs," the report said. "Many were subject to vehicle searches."
Tim Wise, author of the book "White Like Me," took issue with O'Brien's belief that systemic racism doesn't exist in police forces.
"When you have the national security adviser saying he doesn't see systemic racism, well you know what? White folks also didn't see systemic racism even in the 1960s," Wise said.
He said polls prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 showed two-thirds of white respondents said they believed black people were already being treated fairly in America.
"White folks looked around and basically said 'Eh, what's the problem?'" Wise said.
"If white America didn't get it even when it was obvious in retrospect to everyone, what in the world would make the national security adviser believe that he or anyone else knows what they're talking about now? I think it probably stands to reason that black and brown folks know their reality better than we do."
The country's largest law enforcement labor group, the Fraternal Order of Police, expressed condolences to Floyd's family and said it is committed to helping improve the profession as a whole.
"Especially after a tragedy like we saw in Minneapolis, we need to do two things -- take a hard look at our own actions and conduct, correct them where necessary, and to regain that trust by continuing to hold ourselves to the highest possible standard in a transparent way."