A look at what's behind the sudden strain in relations and why lawmakers can't agree on just how big of a threat Iran now poses to the U.S.
Last night, an African-American Minnesota man was shot to death in a car by police. This just a day after a black man died at the hands of police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Parts of both incidents were captured on video. According to data from the Washington Post, these represent two of the 123 fatal shootings of African-Americans by police so far this year. About two years after the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, many are asking why more progress has not been made. The latest on the Baton Rouge and Minnesota shootings, and what they mean for race and policing in America.
- Khalil Muhammad Director, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library
- Nancy La Vigne Director, the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute
- David Harris Professor of law, University of Pittsburgh; author of "Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Rejects Science"
- Darrel Stephens Executive director, Major Cities Chiefs Association; former Chief of Police for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department
- Mark Zdechlik Reporter, Minnesota Public Radio
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. This week, violent conflict between police and African-Americans is front and center once again, with two deaths just hours apart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Minnesota. 32-year-old Philando Castile and 37-year-old Alton Sterling both died after being shot by police. Here to talk about these latest incidents, what they mean for race and policing in America, Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center of the Urban Institute.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining us by phone from New Jersey, Khalil Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. By phone from Charlotte, North Carolina, Darrel Stephens of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and from Pittsburgh, David Harris of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
MS. DIANE REHMI'm sure many of you will want to comment, have questions. Feel free to join us on 800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you all for being with us.
MS. NANCY LA VIGNEIt's great to be here, Diane.
MR. DARREL STEPHENSGood morning, thank you.
MR. DAVID HARRISGood morning.
MR. KHALIL MUHAMMADGood morning.
REHMAnd Khalil, could I start with you? Tell us what we really know about last night's shooting in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
MUHAMMADWhat we know is that a 32-year-old man, Philando Castile, was pulled over by police with his girlfriend and daughter in a neighborhood called Falcon Heights just outside of St. Paul, Minnesota. What we know is according to the girlfriend, he was asked for license and registration. He indentified that he was a licensed gun carrier. This is all according to that witness' account.
MUHAMMADAnd when reaching for his gun, he was shot several times -- I'm sorry. When he was reaching for his license, he was shot several times in his arm. It was recorded following the shooting by his girlfriend, which posted live to Facebook, and at this time, she and her daughter were removed from the car. There's an investigation by local police and Mr. Castile died yesterday.
REHMWhat I am confused about, because of the videos, was Philando Castile in the driver's seat at the time the car was stopped? The video following that seems to show him in the passenger side.
MUHAMMADSo we know, according to technologists and reports, that the camera reversed the image. So he was, in fact, the driver at the time and was therefore investigated by the police after being pulled over. So he was the driver.
REHMWell, that video has now been seen by thousands. What has been the public reaction, Khalil?
MUHAMMADThere were protests at home in Minnesota, which is located in St. Paul, not from far from where the shooting occurred and it has launched another hashtag describing the death of another unarmed -- well, in this case, armed, but legally licensed to carry black man. It's an interesting twist. Obviously, in a moment of a national debate about the availability of guns, both lawfully and unlawfully, in our country, it certainly complicates how we generally think about circumstances, in this case, of a apparently licensed-to-carry black man, innocent of anything other than potentially a broken tail light killed by the police.
REHMKhalil Muhammad, he's director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. Nancy La Vigne, turning to you, obviously the investigation is ongoing and is probably going to go on for quite some time. What do we hope we can learn from the investigation?
VIGNEWell, Diane, this is really about transparency and communication with members of the public and specifically, members of communities that have heavy police presence. They're largely African-American communities where trust between community members and the police has eroded over time and every time one of these incidents happens, that trust erodes even more so. So what we've seen from similar incidents is that the way in which law enforcement respond to these incidents, the way leadership responds and the way the investigation unfolds is going to be critical for whether this further erodes trust or maybe gives some hope for better relations in the future, number one, and number two, informs police practices in a way that these types of incidents don't continue to occur.
REHMDavid Harris, turning to you as professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh specializing in issues of police conduct, you have, as many of us have, already seen the video. What do you make of police conduct in this case in Minnesota?
HARRISWell, Diane, the first think I make of it is as a human being, I mean, you can't help but have an absolutely broken heart when you watch either of these videos and see the tragic outcomes, especially of the little boy of the man killed in Baton Rouge and the girlfriend of the gentleman killed in Minneapolis. What you see in the police conduct here is incomplete, I'm afraid. It is a tragic situation. We have two more people dying at the hands of law enforcement, but the videos themselves don't give us all of the facts that we will need.
HARRISSo it's important that the other video be collected. There's video that is already circulating from the store owner in Baton Rouge, from the surveillance cameras that are around there and there will be other witnesses, people to talk to as well. What we see is that police seem to get into these situations very, very quickly and it is a difficult thing to pick apart all of the incident and all of the facts because each one of these cases is highly factually specific. We have two here in which there was a gun present, one a licensed-to-carry gun owner.
HARRISThis is something new, as Khalil said. The other, a man had been reported to have a gun and to be threatening people with it. These things change the scenario for how officers go into them. So while the outcome has been the same and tragic in each instance, it's important to remember that the individual case facts have a lot to say about the determination of what we will eventually learn. The second thing I guess I would add is what Nancy La Vigne said. These things are part of an argument that we're having about transparency and about whether police will be accountable to communities when these accidents, when these tragic circumstances, when these shootings happen.
HARRISAnd third, they're all part of this sort of national narrative. We no longer think of these as isolated incidents. What we know is that they are part of some kind of pattern and we're trying to pull this apart in policing and to improve policing because what we can see here, again, is that things slide very quickly out of control. We don't know exactly what happened, but it appears that the gentleman, the police officer in Minneapolis made a split second decision to shoot when the gentleman in the car thought he was taking out his license, which we know police would tell him to do.
HARRISSo we have a break down in communications, at best, and perhaps it's worse than that. In Baton Rouge, we simply had hand to hand combat that got out of control very, very quickly. So the main question, as we look at these things as incidents, is how we can slow these kinds of encounters down so that there doesn't have to be a shooting, so that there -- nobody feels threatened enough that his occurs. That would save lives.
REHMAll right. Darrel Stephens, turning to you now as former chief of police for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, now executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, how is that transparency going to be created in light of what has happened here, what has already seen on video and how police are responding?
STEPHENSWell, the videos do provide a lot of insight into what took place and in the second shooting for sure, or excuse me, in the Baton Rouge shooting. The one in Falcon Heights is a little bit different because we don't actually see the shooting take place. What's important in both of these cases, though, is that in the Falcon Heights case, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has taken the lead on the investigation. In Louisiana, the Justice Department has already indicated that it would be opening a civil rights investigation.
STEPHENSNormally in Louisiana, the state police conduct the investigation of the shooting itself. So you have, in both cases, something that advocates have been calling for quite some times, it's to have the independent...
REHMAll right. I have to take just a short break here. When we come back, Darrel Stephens, we'll come back to you and have you continue.
REHMAnd welcome back. I want to go back to you, Darrel Stephens. We've already gotten a number of emails asking why police are not given better training in which to handle these types of situations. It seemed as though the police officer in Minnesota panicked. Is that your interpretation?
STEPHENSWell, first, let me finish before the...
STEPHENS...before we took the break...
STEPHENS...talking about the independent investigations that's going to be conducted. That is an important first step. And hopefully...
STEPHENS...is a source of some comfort to the families and to the people in those communities that the police departments where the officers were employed are not actually conducting the investigation. So I think that will provide an opportunity for hopefully greater trust in the outcome. And it -- and during the investigation in both of those agencies, it's really important that they share as much information as they possibly can without compromising the investigation as they continue to conduct it.
STEPHENSOn the training side, there are -- police departments have been engaged in providing much more scenario-based training. We've been seeing these tragedies now on these viral videos for the past couple of years. And departments have responded in the way that they train officers in their scenario-based training. The departments have responded in working on de-escalation steps so that it doesn't reach the point where force or deadly force has to be used. Departments have been working on helping officers understand their biases that they have and manage those in a way so that they don't react in a inappropriate way.
STEPHENSWe didn't actually see the shooting take place. There's -- in Falcon -- so there's -- there are lots of questions, I have lots of questions in my mind as to what would cause the officer to shoot Mr. Castile in those circumstances. But I -- we didn't see that and I can't say for certain.
REHMAnd from your perspective, Khalil Muhammad, what can we, who have seen this video, interpret from the video and the young woman's continuing dialog throughout that video and what happened afterwards?
MUHAMMADWell, one thing that we know is that the young woman, whose last name is Reynolds, was very conscious of what was happening. So by contrast to the officer, she was not emotionally reacting to a very intense situation. What, to me, that suggests is that the climate of what was going on inside the vehicle as a result of the traffic stop was not an escalating one. And we can't know for certain because we can't see everything that happens just before the shooting. But if we are to be reasonably perceptive, it's hard to imagine that she was screaming before the shooting and then wasn't screaming after the shooting.
MUHAMMADAnd she is giving testimony along with the mother of Mr. Castile that he was a 15-year veteran of a Montessori school. He worked in an environment with small children. Clearly, he was the kind of person who was suitable for such work. He was a cafeteria supervisor. He, according to his girlfriend and his mother, knowingly carried his weapon as a licensed gun owner. And as a consequence, one can also assume, like any NRA members across the country, was a very thoughtful person with a gun. Because you can't be an unthoughtful person with a gun unless you want to find yourself in situations where you might be shot by the police. So I am interpreting the video as an indication that likely they were complying with the officers orders.
REHMAll right. And joining us now from St. Paul, Minn., is Mark Zdechlik. He's a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio. Mark, thanks for joining us. I want to ask you first how frequently drivers are stopped by police for a single, rear broken light.
MR. MARK ZDECHLIKI can't tell you, Diane, with any, you know, good quality statistical information how frequently it happens. But I do know just from personal experience, I've been pulled over for having expired tabs, for example. I think that, you know, if you have some violation -- and I've been pulled over for having tinted windows, so if you have a violation and you're not street legal, you can probably expect to possibly have an encounter with the police, if they're not busy doing something else.
ZDECHLIKBut I can't tell you with any certainty, you know, how many times that happens.
REHMOkay. Tell me about the reaction in the community right now.
ZDECHLIKWell, we're about now 26 hours or 25 hours post-shooting -- it happened at about nine o'clock local time -- all night long, there were protests of, we're saying, hundreds of people in the area where the shooting took place. Then, very early in the morning the protests moved to outside the governor's mansion, which is in the capital of St. Paul, Minn. Those crowds began thinning as the morning dragged on. There are, as I understand, dozens. I don't know if more will be, you know, showing up now. And there is obviously a huge amount going on all over the world with the video and -- that's gone viral. Millions have seen it.
ZDECHLIKAnd in Minnesota, lawmakers -- state lawmakers are weighing in on this. The member of Congress, Betty McCollum, who represents that district has called for a federal investigation. The head of the Democratic Party in Minnesota put out a statement at about -- just before 8:00 a.m. local time here, saying that this Philandro Castile was, quote, "a victim of senseless violence," end quote. So very, very, very quickly -- and I assume because of the nature of the video -- it seems like a lot of people, relative high-up people, are fairly, you know, convinced this may very well have been a wrongful shooting.
REHMDavid Harris, video streaming seems to have changed the picture rather dramatically.
HARRISOh, it has, Diane. We know this -- not -- this isn't the first time. Remember Walter Scott, who was killed in North Charleston, S.C.? When we saw the video of him running away from that police officer and being shot in the back, that case immediately changed from, oh, officer get back on the street to officer under -- indicted for murder. These videos have changed the public perception and the national conversation in a very, very substantial way. It's no accident that Chief Stephens, when he talks, two years, not quite, on from Ferguson, he talks about transparency and independent investigations. Those are all good things.
HARRISAnd that conversation has in large measure been forced by these videos, which show people that these things do happen, it's not made up, it is not something that people dream up. Even if we don't have the full picture yet -- and I do want to stress that -- it's very clear that these two men who died were the victims of police shootings and now we have to know what the circumstances are. Without the video, these conversations would undoubtedly be quite different.
REHMAnd yet, Nancy La Vigne, here's an email from Grant, who says, with the lack of convictions for police officers in these types of situations, do we need a separate legal judicial system for public service? District attorneys don't like bringing charges against people they know and the feds rarely prosecute if they aren't sure they can win.
VIGNEWell, I think that's why Baton Rouge brought in the Department of Justice in this case. And I think that was the wise decision, to take it out of the local context. But I did want to get back to a point that David Harris made and that is the fact that, you know, video footage can enhance transparency and it really has. And it's been really transformative over the last several years. We have citizen footage. We have body-worn cameras. We have public-surveillance cameras. We have private business cameras. And all of those are capturing important evidence. The one thing I would caution is that none of those tell the full story, right? They're only from the perspective of the person holding the camera.
VIGNESo while they're useful in building more evidence, they're not the be all and end all. And we've seen that in our own research at the Urban Institute.
REHMNow, what about in-car police videos?
VIGNERight. So police dashboard cameras, those have been in use for many years now. They're a precursor to body-word cameras and they do produce a lot of important investigative data. And I'm sure there will be a demand soon enough, if not already, for what was captured by the patrol car that pulled over the gentleman in -- outside of Minneapolis.
REHMKhalil Muhammad, the -- in the Baton Rouge vigil last night there were leaders calling for a business boycott. Do you believe that that's the kind of thing that may propel these discussions forward and perhaps lead to a significant retraining of officers?
MUHAMMADWell, I think that activists are trying to expand the conversation about premature death in black communities, unarmed men being shot and excessive use of police force in any number of cases by expanding the stakeholders of these issues. Because what we know in municipal politics, that the Chamber of Commerce, the local business elite and the political establishment work hand-in-glove to lead these communities. And to the extent that they are taking the page from the Civil Rights Movement, it was often the business community that could make or break the anti-segregation campaigns by getting onboard with the civil rights community.
MUHAMMADSo they are trying to be innovative in building on the activism that we've seen play out over the past two years. Of course, it's too early to tell whether this will work in Baton Rouge. But it is, I think, an important step in the right direction to expand the stakeholders who care about the many lives in this local community.
REHMAnd to you, Darrel Stephens, one challenge for police chiefs in reforming departments is distrust, not only between the public and the police, but within the police ranks, between the rank-and-file officers and police chiefs. How do you fix that?
STEPHENSWell, that's -- with the public, it's one relationship at a time, one encounter at a time that police officers have with people that they meet and encounter on a day-to-day basis. They have to have the training, of course and they -- you have to have the right kind of culture. But relationships are built on the day-to-day contacts that the people -- that officers have with people in their community. Those relationships, in spite -- even if they're very strong, can be tested sorely by the kinds of incidents that you see with these videos that have -- that raise so many questions about what happened and what role the police officers played in allowing those to go the way that they went.
STEPHENSSo, and then in inside police organizations, the police chiefs face the challenge of holding officers accountable and for that -- for misconduct and for inappropriate activities when they're dealing with folks. And so that causes some difficulty for them...
STEPHENS...and in doing -- or defending them when they should be defended -- and there are times when they should be -- but to hold them accountable at the same time, puts them in a position where those who are held accountable create lots of difficulties within the organization for having been held accountable for the behavior.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I wonder, Mark Zdechlik, can you talk about the relationship between the police and the public there in St. Paul and Minneapolis prior to this incident?
ZDECHLIKDiane, it's been very, very strange. You'll recall, I assume, that last fall a young man, Jamar Clark, was shot outside a party in Minneapolis. There were allegations by people who were around the scene of the shooting that Clark was in handcuffs at the time he was shot and killed. There was a massive protests about that, literally like shutting down a whole block in front of the precinct in North Minneapolis that took care of that area of the city, fires burning, people camped out in tents, moving on to marches down into downtown Minneapolis, spilling out onto the freeway and blocking traffic. It went on and on and on.
ZDECHLIKAnd not long ago, federal officials announced there would be no indictment. Of course, the folks who were convinced that that was an unjustified shooting were very unhappy with that. And there is a very, very active Black Lives Matter movement in the Twin Cities and they were on this...
ZDECHLIK...very quickly. The nature of the way this video, Diane, went to I think is, you know, something kind of relatively new too, in that it was being live-streamed on this new Facebook capability. And it -- what ended up being posted is nine minutes long. It starts right after the shooting happened, presumably immediately after the shooting happened. It shows this young man with blood on his shirt. It's nine o'clock at night, so the lighting is good, you can see what's going on. And then a woman, who identifies herself as his girlfriend, repeatedly explaining what she says happened.
ZDECHLIKAnd what she said happened is they were pulled over for a broken taillight. That he was asked to provide his license and registration. That in the process of getting to that, he explained to the police that he was carrying a weapon and legally doing so, with a permit. Then he was reaching in his back pocket, according to the woman who claims to be his girlfriend, and then all of the sudden shots started happening and -- shots to his arm. And she says this over and over throughout the video that he was shot for no apparent reason. She does have some contradictions about the number of shots. Sometimes she says three, sometimes she says four or five, sometimes she says four.
ZDECHLIKShe also says that the young man, Philandro Castile, was a law-abiding person, not a member of a gang. But she did acknowledge in the video that they had some quote, "weed, in the car," end quote.
REHMAll right. We'll have to stop right there. And when we come back, we'll talk about the officers themselves, what we may or may not know about them. We'll also be taking your calls, your comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnd as we talk about the recent shootings by police of two civilians, one in Baton Rouge, the other in Minneapolis, we have many people with us here in the studio. We do have Nancy La Vigne of the Urban Institute. Joining us by phone, Khalil Muhammad, he's at the New York Public Library. He's director for research in black culture at the Schomburg Center. Darrel Stephens is former Chief of Police for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. He's now executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. And David Harris is professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He's host of the podcast, "Criminal Injustice" produced by NPR member station WESA in Pittsburgh.
REHMDavid Harris, do we know anything about these police officers? How long they have been police officers? How much training, how much experience they had had?
HARRISDiane, all I know about the police officers were that the two police officers in Baton Rouge had been on the police force three and four years, respectively. We don't know anything about the individual training that they would have had. One would assume and hope that they would have been exposed to the best practices that are out there on things like encounters with citizens and the use of force and thoroughly trained in the continuum of force and the law involving force. But we don't have specific information about that.
REHMAll right. Let's open the phones. First to Lou in Orlando, Fla. You're on the air.
LOUHey, Diane. I'm going to miss you when you're gone. I love your show.
LOUI -- my question is this. The one in Minneapolis -- I don't know if your guests, any of them remember -- it was about a year ago that a African-American man, elderly man, in South Carolina was pulled over in a pick-up truck. He tells the young, white police officer, I'm going to get my ID from the front seat of my car. The minute he turns for the ID -- and somebody filmed the whole event -- the young cop just completely panicked. There was not a second's hesitation and he just went and started, you know, emptying his magazine on the guy. And a -- miracly, the guy didn't die.
LOUAnd this case sounds so familiar to that one. I'd just like to see if they have a comment, if they remember that case and if they think this one's, you know, familiar. Because I think it goes down to training officers to just, you know, take a breath -- at least one breath before you just start unloading on somebody.
REHMNancy La Vigne.
VIGNEI think that's exactly right. But it's a sad commentary that I want to share, that in places like Pittsburgh and other areas throughout the country, now there's an effort to train African-American youth, young men of color and others, on how to deal with traffic stops, how to not reach for an ID until you're sure that that's what you should do. Very, very sad commentary, but this is what it's come to.
REHMHere's an email from Sheila, who says, the national anxiety around black men has reached untenable levels. My son, a 38-year-old black male living in Philadelphia, called me this morning in absolute turmoil over this shooting. He feels targeted, as do his friends. We must change the dialog. How do we do that, Khalil?
MUHAMMADWell, the first thing is we have to change the laws. And the laws won't get changed until we change the culture. I mean, we keep having a conversation about police reform and about best practices. But everything we know about the legal structures that exist across our states and local systems and even the federal government allow tremendous latitude and discretion for officers with the perception of threat. So nothing's going to change as long as that legal infrastructure remains as it is. What we are trying to do is fit the behavior of officers and their trainers into a legal structure that is fundamentally flawed at its core. It is designed to essentially allow police officers to shoot first, ask questions later, under the vast majority of circumstances.
MUHAMMADAnd what we're seeing in this moment is the rejection of at least a significant part of the black community saying, this is not the kind of society that represents the world we want to live in. Because this falls disproportionately on members of the black community, unfortunately their small numbers in the overall population has not swayed the majority population to take this as seriously as it should be taken. What we have to see in terms of fundamental shift is the legal structure change, which means that we've got to essentially allow for a narrower band of acceptable behaviors by police officers when facing people in motor vehicles, when facing people in dark corners on our streets.
MUHAMMADAnd economists will tell you in a heartbeat, well, that means that you're raising the risk that an officer might in fact be short by a quote, unquote, "criminal." Well, that's true anywhere in the world, including in many of the white communities that exist in America. Officers take a longer time, they are more thoughtful and they're willing to have a conversation with people, including armed motorists, when they say, you know, I have a right to carry my gun. That doesn't apply in the black community. So we need a cultural shift...
MUHAMMAD...that is beyond policing. And we need legal changes at every level of government.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Frank in Charlotte, N.C. You're on the air.
FRANKHello, Diane. It's an honor to speak to you.
FRANKI don't know what happened. I've seen the videos. I'm not a legal expert. I'm not a police expert. But I do think it's fair -- whether these officers are white, black, of foreign descent, it doesn't matter, whatever the event is -- I think we're real quick to jump to an automatic guilty verdict in the court of Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, whatever it may be. And I think that's the dialog that's missing in every one of these conversations is that, while, you know, black lives matter, white lives matter, everybody's life matters, so does the rights of these officers who deserved a right to have their day as well.
FRANKI mean, we did not see a complete video in either instance. But the one video down in Louisiana, that young man was on the ground, from what I've seen of that video when it started, that young was putting up some sort of struggle before he was shot. And, you know, there's no doubting that.
REHMDavid Harris, do you want to talk about how those videos may in fact work against fair trials for officers involved?
HARRISWell, I'd say, first, in response to the caller, in fact several people on this hour have said exactly what he's saying, that we don't have the full picture yet. and that we have to accumulate and study all the evidence before we decide what the legal judgment is. I think another thing that has been said repeatedly is that the videos don't give the full picture and there's more to it than that. But I think the discussion is actually larger than any one case.
HARRISAs I said off the top, the conversation that's being had here is an accumulation of evidence. It is a feeling amongst many people that this is something that goes on far too often and there needs to be fundamental change -- whether it's the change that Khalil was talking about a minute ago in the legal structure, whether it's the change that Nancy has talked about in terms of police training and building relationships, as Chief Stephens has discussed -- all of these things are part of a larger picture.
HARRISAnd nobody has said here yet, let's jump to conclusions and to judge guilt. We all know we're not there yet. But everybody can also acknowledge that this is a tragedy and would be much better if there was some other way of dealing with some of these situations.
REHMAll right. To Alexis, in Wilmington, North Carolina, you're on the air.
ALEXISThank you for taking my call, Diane. I love the show. Very quickly, I'm 68. I was an EMT in Boston, Massachusetts, back in the '80s and the only reason I say that is because we work side by side with police. And a lot of times they backed us up and sometimes we had to patch them up. However, if there was something that went down, mum was the word. It is a systemic problem just like an infection that goes unchecked, you get sepsis. That is a systemic breakdown and it's come to a head now.
ALEXISThank God for technology. I know they thought it was for education and white businessmen, but it is the black man's savior.
REHMWhat do you think, Nancy?
VIGNEI think it comes right back to police culture and until you're able to change that culture -- and part of it is in many agencies, mum's the word. It's the brotherhood, that code. And until you change that, you're not going to change behaviors. And it's a tremendous challenge.
STEPHENSLet's not forget that policing has made and continues to strive to make changes in what they do so that we don't have these kinds of tragedies taking place. Police have embraced technology over the years. Part of the reason why funding has been made available is because of these tragedies, to provide body cameras. Before that, it was very difficult for police chiefs that wanted to put this technology in play to find the resources to do it. So they -- I think police chiefs understand, they hear what the community's saying.
STEPHENSThey're responding to what the community's saying and making a very, very strong effort to provide the kind of training, they use the kind of technology that helps minimize the opportunity for this to take place.
REHMAll right. But Darrel Stephens, the question comes back to the issue of whether police officers who are white have a racial bias.
STEPHENSEverybody that's white and black have racial biases. I mean, that's not unique to police officers. There's some...
REHMBut are they acting out of that racial bias? That's the question.
STEPHENSSome may very well be. Most -- the overwhelming majority of them are not. I've been around policing for almost 50 years and I've seen the kind of change. That's why they're implementing the type of implicit bias training and policing so that people understand the biases that they may not even be aware of. No question we have racists and people that shouldn't be police officers and people work -- police chiefs work to take them out. But that's a very, very small minority in relationship to the overall number of officers that are on the street.
REHMAll right. Let's take a caller in Suffolk, Virginia. Monica, you're on the air.
MONICAGood morning, Ms. Rehm and panel. Thank you for taking my call.
MONICAMy question, again, I think Mr. Muhammad -- Khalil Muhammad described it very accurately. My question was relating -- and your previous guest was talking about those inherent biases. They're being trained. But, you know, we continue to hear over and over again, black lives matter, white lives matter. Of course they do. All lives matter. But, again, we're seeing black lives are being taken over and over again. The questions around the statistics, are they available? We see the videos of black lives being taken. We don't have all of the facts.
MONICABut are there similar videos to talk to -- are the same things happening to non black lives, right? And then, again, it gets back to we can say a bias is a bias, but in the event that bias is escalated by fear, which does not give the African-American the same time to reach for his license, even after notifying that there is -- he has a gun or so forth. So in the other communities, they have the time because that fear, that bias -- it's more -- bias is a word, but fear is an action.
REHMAll right. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Khalil, do we have any similar statistics? We reported this morning The Washington Post talked about 128 black lives just this year.
MUHAMMADYes, so what we know, according to The Washington Post -- first of all, we don't have the best data we should have with regard to police shootings. And the federal government and other government agencies are having a conversation about how to make that happen. In the meantime, The Washington Post and The Guardian are leading the effort to keep track. So according to The Washington Post, they're reporting 506 individuals have been shot and killed by the police and of that number, 123 are black Americans.
MUHAMMADSo there are non black Americans being shot by the police. The problem here is, one, a problem of disproportionality, and secondarily, there are a number of shootings where there is no story beyond the fact that a person was in the commission of a crime and was armed and there's a quick investigation, there are police reports filed and everyone goes home and that's the end of it. So what we're really talking about here are the instances of the disproportionate shootings where excessive force prompts either protests, family lawsuits or a formal investigation.
MUHAMMADNot for nothing, in cities across the country, from Baltimore to New York to Chicago, millions and millions and millions of dollars are being paid out, largely to African-American families in instances either of wrongful death or in the case of police brutality where no one ends up dead, but it's clear that the police took it too far. That is the statistical landscape that we know is incomplete, but what we do know is that the black community is bearing a disproportionate burden of this problem.
REHMAll right. And finally, to you David Harris, in the few seconds we have left, what should happen next in both of these cases?
HARRISIn both cases, it's terribly important to have an independent and transparent investigation that moves rapidly, though deliberately. Get that information out to the public. Get videos out to the public as soon as is possible in a responsible way to let people know what happened and to move forward expeditiously. After that, we can look at what the basic kinds of changes might be in training and practices and in the law.
REHMNancy La Vigne, what do you want to see happen?
VIGNEThe same kind of transparency that David Harris just described. That's critical. Transparency and independence in the investigation.
REHMAll right. And we'll have to leave it at that. Nancy La Vigne at the Urban Institute, Khalil Muhammad, he's at the New York Public Library, Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and David Harris, professor of law at the University of Pittsburg School of Law. He hosts a podcast titled "Criminal Justice."
REHMAnd I want to thank you all for being with us.
REHMThanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
And why this period of American history offers important lessons for today.
Alabama now has the most restrictive abortion law in the country. What the new law – and others like it around the country – mean for the future of abortion rights.
As the stalemate continues between House Democrats and the White House, are we heading for a "constitutional crisis"?