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Yesterday President Obama traveled to Chicago to address police chiefs from around the country. The President sought to defend their work telling the group that “too often law enforcement gets scapegoated for the broader failures of our society”. The message comes as a national debate goes on about police force and the death of unarmed black men. It follows recent statements from FBI Director James Comey who said police anxiety has led to a spike in crime in some cities — the so-called “Ferguson effect” which many, including the President, dispute. Diane and her guests discuss police, race relations and trends in violent crime.
- Carrie Johnson Justice correspondent, NPR
- Paul Butler Professor, Georgetown Law School
- Darrel Stephens Executive director, Major Cities Chiefs Association; former Chief of Police for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department
- Kimberly Kindy National reporter, The Washington Post.
- Heather MacDonald Fellow, Manhattan Institute
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Over the past few days, FBI Director James Comey has said that following high profile killings, police are using restraint and that's contributing to a rise in violent crime in some areas. The White House is pushing back on this idea saying there's no evidence to support it. Here to talk about police, race relation and violent crime trends, Carrie Johnson of NPR, Kimberly Kindy of The Washington Post.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining us from New York City, Paul Butler of Georgetown University and by phone from Charlotte, North Carolina, Darrel Stephens of Major Cities Chiefs Association. Throughout the hour, I'll look forward to hearing your contributions. Give us call at 800-433-8850. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And thank you all for joining us.
MS. CARRIE JOHNSONIt's a pleasure.
MS. KIMBERLY KINDYThanks for having us.
MR. PAUL BUTLERIt's great to be here.
MR. DARREL STEPHENSIt's good to be here.
REHMCarrie Johnson, I'll start with you. The President was in Chicago yesterday. What did he have to say? What was his message?
JOHNSONWith regard to violent, Diane, the President said we shouldn't make policy based on anecdote. He says there's no evidence to support a spike in violent crime nationwide and he said that crime rates remain near record lows. He also said that police need resource and his administration wants to provide some of those resources. And he said police should not be scapegoated for all the ills of society, all of our problems with mental health and lack of mental health care, addiction and the like.
JOHNSONBut he did say, Diane, the rift between police and communities of color is real. He talked in personal terms about experiencing himself that being pulled over for driving while black is the shorthand. And he said that one way in which to heal that divide is to change the laws that put too many people behind bars. He made another push again yesterday before those police chiefs for his sentencing reform proposals moving through Capitol Hill right now.
REHMAnd Kimberly Kindy, how does that compare/contrast what FBI Director James Comey had to say?
KINDYWell, very controversial comments that he made saying that this push for police reforms has caused police officers to hesitate, to dial back their approach to policing, to essentially, as the term goes, de-policing is happening, staying in the patrol cars, not going out and trying to deal with crime. And as a result, because they've dialed back, he's saying that crime has spiked. Now, I have to say that I've talked to a number of people who are police experts and they pointed out to me that this is kind of an old thing that seems to come up whenever there is a call for police reforms.
KINDYFor more than two decades, as the Department of Justice has gone in and worked with police departments that have use of force problems and have entered into consent decrees that require that they use less force, this is the common refrain. They say, oh, because of what DOJ has told us, the Department of Justice has told us we must do that is less force, we are now endangered. We are now not being aggressive crime fighters and crime is spiking.
KINDYAnd I must say that there have been independent analysis of the claims over and over again. In 2009, when the LAPD was saying that their consent decree was causing them to de-police or not be using the same kind of force and it was therefore endangering them and causing crime to spike, Harvard University had three researchers go in and analyze this and they came out and said the answer appears to be an emphatic no.
KINDYThat's a direct quote.
REHMPaul Butler, talk about what's meant by the so-called Ferguson effect because that seems to be part of what's going on here.
BUTLERSo it's this claim that because of all the attention on the police it's increased the crime rate because it makes the police less willing to do their job. The problem is there's no evidence to support that. It's true that violent crime has gone up in some cities, like St. Louis, but guess what? Violent crime started going up before Ferguson, that moment happened.
BUTLERIn other cities, like LA and Cincinnati and Newark, violent crime has actually gone down. Here's a number that, I think, tells you everything you need to know about the Ferguson effect in Chicago and how it's not there. The police, this year, have recovered 25 percent more guns than they did last year so that, obviously, means that they're doing their job.
BUTLERAnd for the FBI agent, the leader of the world's best law enforcement agency, to be critical of the police at this moment, just isn't helpful. Why? Because everyone's going towards this evidence-based approach of police because you understand that the speculating, the guessing about crime is what got us to this crisis in American criminal justice where we're the world's leading jailer and we have these vast race disparities.
BUTLERSo we really need to evidence and facts, not speculation from the FBI director.
REHMSo you call it a classic confusion of correlation and cause. What do you mean?
BUTLERSo it's true, again, that in some cities, crime has gone up. That's a correlation with this Ferguson moment. In other cities, crime has gone down. The really good news is that we're on track to have fewer officers who die in the line of fire this year than in any other year in recent years. So that's really good news. So all of those are correlated with this attention on police. To say that the attention on the police caused any of this, crime to go up, crime to go down, fewer officers to die in the line of duty, we just don't have enough facts to know.
REHMAll right. Let's turn now to Darrel Stephens. He's former chief of police for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. What do you think about the so-called Ferguson effect? Do you think police are anxious about heightened scrutiny?
STEPHENSI -- they're certainly anxious about heightened scrutiny, but that's been going on for five or six years now, since everyone got a Smartphone with a video recorder. But I don't believe that following Ferguson that we've seen a wholesale pulling back from the work that they've been asked to do. I expect that probably for a few weeks people were concerned and every time you have one of these horrible incidents show up, it may cause them to think about it for a little bit, but police officers are not wired to not do their work.
STEPHENSAnd my impression from speaking with police chiefs who talk about the data that they have that would suggest that their police officers are continuing to do the work that they've expected to do is that I don't think that they have pulled away and I don’t think that has anything to do with the crime rates that are changing now.
REHMAnd yet, Carrie, we have yet another viral video this week, one with a police officer really dealing more than a little roughly with a female student. What happened?
JOHNSONYes. This incident in South Carolina in a school where fellow students used their cell phones to record a confrontation involving an officer posted to the school and an African-American female student who was sitting at a desk. The video depicts the officer approaching the student, more or less yanking or dragging her out of that chair...
REHMDo we hear anything from the officer? Do we hear anything from the student?
JOHNSONWell, the officer's supervisor has since come out to say, Diane, that the student was being noncompliant. But once again, this focuses attention on use of force in some of the de-escalation strategies that law enforcement is not being taught to use. In other words, we're now having this national conversation about police needing to be guardians, not warriors. Is there a smarter approach to dealing with a student who may be noncompliant other than yanking him or her out of their chair in the classroom?
JOHNSONThe Justice Department and the FBI, I might note, are investigating this incident now.
REHMAnd what do you see in this incident, Kimberly, that perhaps applies more broadly?
KINDYWell, I think the thing that we keep seeing -- and, yes, this is kind of a repeat of what we keep seeing, is that officers aren't being trained properly so that they know when somebody's not being compliant how to get the situation under control without turning quickly to extreme violence. And there certainly are techniques out there and strategies for how to de-escalate things.
KINDYBut all too often, what we're seeing is a situation that is potentially volatile and officers handling it in a way where the violence goes through the roof very quickly, instead of it being scaled back and somebody being safely taken into custody.
REHMDarrel Stephens, is more training needed?
STEPHENSCertainly, more training is needed and the police, for the past several years have been focused on procedural justice. They've been focused on de-escalation training to help officers handle these situations without resorting to force or making the situation worse. But I think it's important for people to understand that obviously these viral -- these incidents that go viral have an impact on what people see and what they believe about the police.
STEPHENSBut the police handle millions of encounters every day and these viral incidents are clearly an indication that we need to do something different and do the training, but that's not reflective of the policing that goes on in our country every day.
REHMAll right. Darrel Stephens, he's executive director at the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Short break.
REHMAnd joining us now is Heather MacDonald. She is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Heather, welcome to you. Explain why you agree with FBI Director James Comey in the comments he's made.
MS. HEATHER MACDONALDWell, Diane, I look at the drop, the documented drop in police activity in urban areas. In New York City, for example, criminal summons are down about 20 percent. Misdemeanor arrests are also down about that amount. And I've spoken to so many officers who say that they are reluctant to engage in proactive policing because that -- exactly that type of policing has come under such strenuous attack over the last year, and they are reluctant to engage and possibly end up on a YouTube video that could go viral, and even if it doesn't necessarily capture the entire engagement with a civilian.
MS. HEATHER MACDONALDSo I think also the crime drop is just so significant, and as I say, it's accompanied by a drop in enforcement.
REHMBut tell me how you respond to those who say that in places like Baltimore, arrests were done, homicides and shootings were up, before Freddie Gray died.
MACDONALDWell, I think that I would like to see stronger evidence of that data, but if it was trending in that direction, things nevertheless took a strong spike afterwards, and that doesn't explain other cities, where you do have a very close temporal link between the really strong arguments against the police and officers saying okay, we're getting a political message here that proactive enforcement is said to be oppressive, and it's quite understandable that they're backing off on that. I would think that's exactly what the Black Lives Matter movement has asked for in deeming broken windows policing racist or pedestrian stops racist.
MACDONALDSo the cops have gotten that message, and they're doing much, much less of it.
REHMHowever, there are many who would argue that the viral videos we're now seeing are showing police abuse that was happening for decades and happening out of sight. What's your reaction?
MACDONALDWell, there are officers who make mistakes. There are officers who are poorly trained. There are officers who develop just offensively hostile and discourteous attitudes towards civilians, and they need to be retrained or taken off the force. But those viral videos do not capture the vast majority of police-civilian interactions. And what we're also not seeing is the enormous amount of crime that is going on, that continues to mow down black lives, that dwarfs in magnitude anything that the police have done.
MACDONALDAnd obviously, Diane, any police shooting of an innocent, unarmed civilian is a stomach-churning tragedy, and it is also the case that the history of policy complicity in this nation's sorry history of segregation of slavery is a history that does not go away easily. The memory of that does not go away easily. But I would argue that the much larger problem facing black communities today is the high rates of crime that are a result of family breakdown and just some serious problems that need to be addressed, and I think that the discourse we've been having about the police is somewhat of a tangent to what really needs to be addressed.
REHMCarrie Johnson, do you want to comment?
JOHNSONI just argue that the Justice Department and senior leaders at the FBI aren't monitoring closely the spike in violent crime in some of these big cities, DC, New Orleans, Baltimore, Chicago. At the same time, though, Diane, some of the police chiefs in these areas, including the superintendent in Chicago, Gary McCarthy, has just attached his name to a new group called Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. He's not stepping away from this broken-windows style of policing that was popularized in New York and spread around the country.
JOHNSONAnd Chicago has a terrible, terrible gun problem right now, a terrible violent crime problem, and gangs. Gangs are recruiting kids as young as the second grade. But what McCarthy and some of these other chiefs in LA and New Orleans and Houston are saying is that we need to devote law enforcement resources to the most serious and violent threats to the community and not going around expending law enforcement resources arresting people who are drug addicts or have mental illness.
REHMPaul Butler, do you want to comment?
BUTLERSo if Ms. MacDonald is saying that there's something about the Black Lives Matters movement that's stopping the police from doing their jobs, I guess I just have a little bit more respect for the police than she does. I see no evidence that they're falling down on the job. Again in Chicago, gun recoveries are way up. Black Lives Matters is a movement to make the police stop shooting unarmed African-Americans. There's nothing about that that's anti-law enforcement. It's pro-democracy. It's pro-equal justice under the law.
REHMHeather MacDonald, do you believe that police should wear body cameras?
MACDONALDI think body cameras are a good thing. I think they will vindicate officers far more often than incriminate them. But when they deserve to be incriminated, they absolutely need to be held accountable. The problem I have with it is it's extremely costly, and I guess the federal government is going to be funding some pilots, but this is arguably a massive investment for a problem that I think is overstated. I really disagree that we have a police racism or police lethal force problem in this country.
MACDONALDAll of this is a sideshow to what really is taking black lives, and that is crime, and the police need to be supported in proactive enforcement. I think Mr. Butler is -- characterizes the Black Lives Matter movement at a level of generality that doesn't really capture what's going on in many inner-city neighborhoods when the police are trying to make a lawful arrest, and they are surrounded by crowds jeering at them, trying to interfere with the officers' lawful authority.
MACDONALDAnd also I think he sanitizes a little bit the rhetoric that is actually being expressed on the streets. I was just at the October Rising movement on Saturday in New York City, and I saw numerous T-shirts with F the police, you know, cop killers, cops are destroying the black community. This is something that's very virulent. And again, officers are simply responding in a completely human and understandable way in saying I'm -- we are said to be racist in our enforcement, and they are understandably backing off.
MACDONALDThey are of course -- Mr. Butler's absolutely right, they are answering 911 calls, but things that are discretionary, getting out of your cop car and asking a few questions, that -- those types of enforcement actions are falling away.
REHMAll right, Paul Butler, I know you'd like to respond.
BUTLERYes, so I agree with Ms. MacDonald that the vast majority of officers want to serve and protect their communities. And trust me, they deal with a lot more issues than some protestors waving signs. So that's not going to stop them from doing their jobs. We do have to be concerned, though, about why so many people in the African-American community, Latinos and poor people, have these problems with the police. They feel that the police aren't really there to serve and protect them, and so the only way we're going to move forward on this issue is if we bring cops and communities together, and frankly it's cops who really need to move closer to the communities.
BUTLERYou know, a lot of African-American people, if -- you can't go to a black church any Sunday without hearing the problem of black-on-black crime. So that's an issue that my community, our communities have been working on for years. This moment is about the police and why they so disproportionately use force and these harsh tactics against African-Americans and Latinos and poor people. We've got to do better on that.
REHMKimberly, you wanted to comment on the use of cameras by police.
KINDYRight, so I, a couple weeks ago, a story of mine, investigation of mine, ran in the Washington Post, and what I found was that with body cameras, there's a lot of talk from police chiefs, a lot of talk from police organizations, about these being tools of transparency and accountability. But in truth, when I called every single police department that has had a fatal shooting captured on body camera this year, almost every one of them, a majority of them I should say, refused to release the body camera video.
MACDONALDAnd they are passing policies and blocking state law, state bills, that are trying to move through the legislature that would make these a public record. So my question is, how can these be tools of transparency and accountability if what the police departments and the police organizations are doing behind the scenes is ensuring that policies and laws get passed that block it from public disclosure.
REHMDarrel Stephens, can you comment?
STEPHENSCertainly. That's -- they are tools of transparency for policing, and -- but the policy on release of video is still unsettled. The law is still unsettled on when video should be released. They can't release shootings, for the most part, immediately because they're evidence, and prosecutors are not prosecutors, and those are doing the investigations are very reluctant to allow that to go out before the investigation is completed.
REHMAt the same -- I'm sorry to interrupt. I was just wondering, at the same time, however, couldn't release of that video help to quiet public distrust or mistrust of what has actually happened, Darrel?
STEPHENSIt certainly can, and it -- and we have seen instances where it has served to do that. A recent case in Baltimore, the Baltimore County police released a video of a shooting that took place in an alleyway that did help people understand and see the circumstances that happened in that case. And I think going forward that you will see a lot more of that, but it's new technology, it's an unsettled policy issues, and people want to put them on the streets, want to use the, but there are still people trying to sort out how we handle the release of this information.
KINDYHere's one of the problems with the policy and laws that I've seen so far. It leaves it to the discretion of the department. And the concern of civil rights groups and civil liberties groups is that we're only going to see the videos released that make the departments look good. So if you don't have a general release policy, so that no matter what happens the public gets to see it, these are not going to be tools of transparency and accountability. The concern is they will become tools of surveillance and tools of propaganda, and those are concerns that are out there and need to be addressed by police organizations.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Paul Butler, your response on body cameras.
BUTLERYou know, I think that they're the wave of the future. I think in five years, every law enforcement officer is going to be filming her interactions with the police...
REHMBut then the question becomes how quickly that film is released.
BUTLERYou know, there are privacy issues. This is an area that the law is actually good at working out. So between technology, using technology to erase things that are private but still allowing citizens to see how their public servants are working, again we're going to work that out. Really what we're talking about is evidence of how democracy works, how the government works. It's just all about data gathering. And on that, Diane, shout-out to Kimberly and the work that she's doing at the Washington Post. They're collecting data.
BUTLEREven the government doesn't tell us everything we need to know about the police and how they act. So it's up to the media and private groups to do what the government so far has been unwilling to do, again collect the data about what the police are doing.
REHMHow much data have you been able to glean?
STEPHENSI have to step away for just a minute.
KINDYSo one of the things that the Washington Post did this year was keep track of every time there was a fatal police shooting in America, and it's something that the FBI is supposed to be tracking, but it's police departments, it's voluntary if they want to give that information to the FBI. So it's woefully underreported, and they don't keep track of the details of those incidents so that there can be analysis done, so they can figure out how to properly train officers.
KINDYIf you know that 25 percent of the time things go sideways when you pull somebody over in a traffic stop and that, you know -- and you know the details of why things kind of come unraveled, it will help you better prepare your police and train them. But if you're not collecting any of the data, and you're not collecting the data that allows you to analyze it, then you're not able to do that. And we're doing it, but the FBI is not.
REHMHeather MacDonald, where do you come out on this?
MACDONALDI think we absolutely do need more data, and I think what the data we have shows that it is not the case that there is a disproportionate use of force, as Professor Butler said, against blacks and Hispanics when you take into account their crime rates. The -- all of the analyses so far, whether it's the Washington Post or the FBI, puts the rate of police fatal shootings of blacks at less than a third.
MACDONALDThat rate is completely consistent with the rates of crime that blacks sadly have. That means that the police are going to be engaging disproportionately with black suspects. Blacks commit homicide at 11 times the rate of whites and eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined. If you look at resisting arrest data in Chicago, it's off the charts. I mean, virtually all of the resisting arrests that the police make are of blacks. So -- and blacks make up about 40 percent of all people who shoot the policy fatally.
MACDONALDSo again, the answer here is yes, we absolutely need more courtesy and respect, but policing in an epiphenomenon of crime.
REHMAll right, we'll have to leave it there. Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute, thanks for joining us. Short break.
REHMAnd welcome back. As we talk about police treatment of individuals, be they black, white, Hispanic, whatever. I know that you, Kimberly, can be wanted to correct something Heather MacDonald said.
KINDYYes. In our first set of analysis, we were looking at the likelihood of being shot based on race. She's right, the whole numbers show that there are more whites than blacks, but if you, when we did a statistical analysis, looking at populations and it was -- it ended up that you were eight times more likely if you were black to be shot by police than if you were white. You have to account for populations and a number of other things when you do statistical analysis. And so that's, that wasn't quite right.
REHMHere is a message from Twitter. Listening to "The Diane Rehm Show" and my six-year-old wants to know why an officer would be mean to a student. I don't know what to say.
JOHNSONDiane, this is all part of an issue that's gaining national attention from criminal justice researchers, civil liberties groups, civil rights organizations, and prosecutors themselves. It's called the school to prison pipeline. And the argument goes that many schools now have police stationed in the schools to protect public safety there. But too often, students are taken into custody and get into the justice system for tardiness, insubordination and the like. And once those students, who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic, enter the juvenile justice system, it affects them for the rest of their lives moving forward.
JOHNSONIt greatly increases the chances they'll wind up as adults in the justice system. And the US Justice Department, for the first time in this Obama administration, has actually gone into juvenile justice systems Mississippi, in Memphis, Tennessee, to try to root out some of these problems and make sure that people are punished when they need to be punished. But that students get help, counseling, resources when they haven't really done anything wrong.
REHMDarrel Stephens, I would think you'd be very much in favor of that.
STEPHENSAbsolutely. I think, first, let me say that I think police officers in schools, school resource officer programs add a lot of value to the school environment. Having said that, they shouldn't be involved in the disciplinary process in the schools. They should be there for police matters and to handle those. School staff should be able and capable of handling the disciplinary process. Police officers get involved in some of the things that they get involved in because of the school system policies and procedures. And it's not just the fault of the police that some of these young men and women end up in that pipeline.
STEPHENSThat pipeline is something that we really, really need to change. But it's more complicated than just having a police officer at school.
REHMHowever, there is this need to understand the process of de-escalation. How do you see that, Darrel Stephens?
STEPHENSWell, it's a process of training and re-training police officers. And again, I have to say that they, for the most part, they do a good job of de-escalation. They walk into chaotic situations where the people are fighting and yelling and they are able to sort those out and bring it down to a calm level. We do have situations though, where there's not sufficient training across the board. There's a vast difference from one part of the country to the other in the training requirements.
STEPHENSIt's not universal. There's a vast difference in resources that are available to police departments to do the training that's needed to be done. But it's a continual training and re-training process for police officers. The other thing is that they do make mistakes, they do make errors. They're human. And unfortunately, those errors, the errors that they make, sometimes turn out to be tragic and they become the fodder for evening news and conversations. The vast majority of encounters are not.
REHMGo ahead, Paul.
BUTLERSo, they make a lot more errors in African-American schools and Latino schools and schools where poor kids go than suburban schools. If you think about what happened on Monday in South Carolina, the 16-year-old girl was using her cell phone. My mom, Legertha Walton (sp?), was a teacher in Chicago public schools for 20 years. She would know how to handle that kid without calling the police, without getting the police involved. And the tragedy, after seeing the cop do the takedown of the girl, pulling her hair and throwing her across the room.
BUTLERNow the girl is under arrest. She's got charges pending against her. And again, that's what happens too often to African-American girls, Latino girls in the school system. I really just don't think the police should be there. Let my mom, Legertha Walton, handle that problem.
REHMAnd Kimberly, another example of this attempt at de-escalation, which hasn't yet taken place, happened in Cleveland with the case of the young man, Tamara Rice.
KINDYCorrect. And that's a perfect example of how things went sideways and didn't need to be. The officer did not need to pull up, right up to Tamara Rice. They created a situation where the officer, once he was just feet away from someone he thought actually had a gun pointed at him, felt like he had to shoot. But, you know, police experts have analyzed that particular situation and said, he could have pulled up, you know, much farther away from the scene, used the car as a protective device, a barricade.
KINDYGot behind it, called out for Tamara to drop the gun. And it could have easily been resolved with his life being spared. And that's the very kind of thing that we're seeing over and over and over again that shows that yes, the training for de-escalation is out there, but many, many departments are not training all their officers in it. They maybe sent a handful of officers to de-escalation training. All officers need to be trained, across America, so that they know how to avoid those situations so they don't create a situation where they feel they have no choice but to shoot and kill.
REHMAll right, let's open the phones. We'll go to Barbara in Indianapolis. You're on the air. Go right ahead.
BARBARAHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
BARBARAI was calling specifically about the girl in South Carolina, but it kind of applies overall. There's a national organization that trains the school police officers and it was on the national news last night that that was available and South Carolina, along with a handful of other states, had not bothered to access that for their officers. And I was just curious why, when it is available, why these states would not access that.
STEPHENSWell, part of the reason why is that they don't have the resources to be able to do all the training that they should be doing. They, taking the amount of training that's required takes police officers away from the jobs that they're there to do. Necessary and important, but departments have a difficult time being able to continue to do the work while taking them off the street to do the training. Now, why, I don't know if South Carolina, as a state, has rejected the training.
STEPHENSI can't answer that. What I am familiar with the training that the -- that is available for SRO's and it's something that they absolutely should have and should be required to have.
JOHNSONWell, you know, it is true that it is difficult in a time of limited resources to make time to do this training. That said, could there hardly be anything more important, in terms of public confidence in the justice system? Everybody seems to acknowledge now, from the President of police organizations to the President of the United States, that we have a crisis in policing. And it goes a long way to have some good judgment and some good training to solve that problem.
REHMKimberly, I gather you've done a lot of reporting on police body cameras. How widespread is their use?
KINDYWell, there are about 6,000 of the 18,000 police departments out there that have at least a handful of body cameras. But many of them are in the pilot stage. Full blown programs, really, are not the norm yet. Even the LAPD is in the pilot stage and is starting to rule it out. So, it's becoming common, but it's not as if you can count on when an officer arrives at the scene of a crime, or an incident that they're being asked to be involved in, you can't count on them having a camera on. Not at this stage. But I agree, we're probably five years out from it being the norm.
REHMAll right, to Jose in Coral Springs, Florida. You're on the air.
JOSEGood morning, Diane. Good morning, panel. I was calling in regards to the lady, you know, girl as well. And my question, my concern is, when I saw the video, I was wondering where does law enforcement start when, you know, literally, this lady is not really committing a crime. As some of the gentlemen in your panel said, he was just using a cell phone. And that, to me is, if you don't want to follow the rules of the teacher, either you call your parents or you deal with it at a local level resource, not calling a police officer to deal with a non-violent criminal, you know, action.
JOSEAnd I was puzzled by, maybe the lack of sense of judgment or the common sense of the officer on dealing with a simple situation in which, clearly, he could have just said, you know what, this is not my department. This is not for me to solve. I see no crime being committed. Go back to the teacher and say, you deal yourself with it in a very nice way.
REHMDarrel Stephens. What's your reaction?
STEPHENSDiane, that's the crux of the problem. The gentleman is correct. Why does a police officer need to engage a student who's refusing to put his cell phone down and -- in a classroom. That should be handled by the school, the school administration. Unless the student turns violent, then that should be handled by the schools, not the police officers.
BUTLERBut the problem is -- the problem is it's almost inevitable if the cops are in the schools that they're going to use their policing tools.
STEPHENSThat's not true.
BUTLERYou know, they say if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. So, if you're a cop, the way that you deal with problems is to arrest people. And really, that's just what, overall, our criminal justice system...
STEPHENSThat's not true, professor.
BUTLERWe're looking at these social problems and we're dealing with social problems using criminal justice tools like arrest and punishment...
REHMAll right, let, Paul, let Darrel respond. Go ahead, Darrel.
STEPHENSI just disagree with that. It's -- they don't react that way all the time. There's been research that's been conducted over the past year to help define the role of school officers. And they shouldn't be, and everyone agrees they shouldn't be involved in the disciplinary process. Those school systems still bring them in that way. They can be in the schools, they can be a positive force without resorting to arrests unless there's a criminal matter involved.
BUTLERJust a quick response, though.
BUTLERWhen your other guest talks about the school to prison pipeline, she's not making that up. It's true that the outcomes that a lot of kids have in school, based on discipline problems, end up being problems in police precincts. And that just starts them on this route that doesn't have good outcomes.
REHMAnd you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Let's go to Julie. She's in San Antonio, Texas. You're on the air.
JULIEWell, obviously, this is a hugely complicated and heart wrenching issue. I think there are a couple of things I never hear. First of all, just, that's a kid, you know? What if it was your kid being pulled across a desk for not using her cell phone? What if your son, who's playing -- my boys have that same air gun. And I can promise you no one would ever, a policeman would never have done that. So, and people aren't, I don't know, I'm just frustrated. My heart is aching.
JULIEI think part of what's going on is everybody wants to do something, and so people are pulling their cell phones out, because that's something they can do.
REHMJulie, Julie, let me just clarify something. Are you saying that your sons are white and therefore they would not be treated that way?
JULIEAbsolutely. And one thing, like in the school, what I'm interested in is, how many kids are quote, unquote, non-compliant? And of those, who's being pulled across the desk? And of those, how many are black? I mean, I don't think, I think the reason these videos are so devastating is because, at some level, everybody knows the people who are being shot and killed and the children in the playground. They're all black. Not all of them, but this problem of police overuse of force and how we define crime.
JULIEYou know, white kids are called unruly and misbehaving. A black kid might be called non-compliant and needs to go to jail. I mean, the problem is insidious.
JOHNSONIt is an insidious problem and one way the federal government and newspaper and radio and TV reporters can help is by defining the problem. By providing data to figure out how often this happens and where. And for instance, a couple of years ago, I went to Memphis, Tennessee where the Justice Department Civil Rights Division did a big investigation of the juvenile courts. Nine out of 10 of the kids moved into the adult justice system were African-American.
JOHNSONMost of those were boys. And most of them had no money. So, young white men who had resources and had parent advocates, did not have the same outcomes.
REHMBut Darrel, President Obama mentioned being pulled over himself. There was a big article in the New York Times this weekend about this too. I wonder an analysis of the Times of tens of thousands of traffic stops and years of arrest data, in Greensboro, North Carolina, of 280,000 uncovered wide racial differences in measure after measure of police conduct. How do you speak to that, Darrel?
STEPHENSWell, it's an issue that police have actually been working on for some time and going on dealing with ensuring that stops are made on the basis of reachable suspicion. That meet the requirements of the law. Part of the breakdown, and it's why we're doing procedural justice training, is to ensure that officers, in these encounters, explain to people why it is that they've stopped. Part of the problem with the analysis that is done by most of the journalists is they limit the analysis to the number of stops in relationship to the presence in the population.
STEPHENSAnd the fact of the matter is is that unfortunately, in our high poverty areas, where most of our, many of our minority residents live, that's where a lot of the street contacts are made. So, that's where a lot of the crime is made, and so those analyses are fairly shallow for the most part.
REHMKimberly, fairly shallow? I'm going to give you the last quick word.
KINDYWell, I can't speak to the New York Times article, but I can tell you that, you know, when we do look at these things, when we do look at how often something happens, we do look at the overall population so that we can do statistical analysis that shows what your chances are of being pulled over or being shot. And time and time again, the New York Times, Washington Post, other papers, if you're black, higher rate.
REHMAll right, and we'll leave it there. Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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