FERGUSON, Mo. (CBS St. Louis) – NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley is defending police officers, calling it “ridiculous” that people claim white cops are just out there killing black people.

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Barkley stated that if it wasn’t for police, the ghetto would be like the “wild, wild west.”

“The notion that white cops are out there just killing black people – that’s ridiculous. That’s just flat-out ridiculous,” the TNT basketball analyst told CNN. “I challenge any black person to try to make that point. Cops are actually awesome. They are the only thing in the ghetto between this place being the wild, wild west. So this notion that cops are out there just killing black men is ridiculous and I hate that narrative coming out of this entire situation.”

Barkley previously had strong words about the violent protesters in Ferguson, calling them “scumbags” for looting and setting businesses on fire after officer Darren Wilson was not indicted in the death of Michael Brown. He told CNN the only time America discusses race is when something bad happens.

“We’ve always had a racial issue in this country and the biggest problem with it is we never discuss race until something bad happens. We never have meaningful dialogue over a cold beer when things are going good,” Barkley explained to CNN. “When something bad happens, everybody has a tribe mentality. Everybody wants to protect their own tribe, whether they’re right or wrong.”

Barkley stated that there’s a reason why police racially profile the black community.

“We as black people, we got a lot of crooks. We can’t just wait until something like this happens. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror,” Barkley told CNN. “There’s a reason they racially profile us at times. Sometimes it’s wrong, sometimes it’s right. To act like we hold no responsibility for some of this stuff is disingenuous.”

Barkley also said that there needs to be stronger black leaders, and not the same case of “sad characters.”

“Every time something happens in the black community, we have the same cast of sad characters. We don’t have to have Al Sharpton go there.”

Barkley continued: “We need some strong black men in St. Louis to stand up and say ‘Hey, let’s handle this situation.’”

Hundreds of protesters around the country have been arrested following last week’s grand jury announcement. The presence of police and National Guard in the Ferguson area has been scaled back following violent protests.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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