A conversation from The Diane Rehm Show archives with world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. In 2007, he talked to Diane about his belief in the power of music to cross borders and bridge backgrounds.
Guest Host: Amy Walter
The governor has declared a state of emergency in North Carolina, after police and residents clashed and another person was shot in a second night of protests over the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte. His death came days after another black man, Terence Crutcher, was shot and killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They were the latest in a deadly string of encounters between citizens and police across the country this summer. In 2016, at least 702 people have been shot by police, according to a database by the Washington Post — 163 of them were African-American men. Two years after Ferguson, some say we need a reset on policing in America. Guest Host Amy Walter and a panel discuss what departments are doing—and whether it’s working.
- Jeffery Robinson Deputy legal director, American Civil Liberties Union; director, ACLU Center for Justice
- Frank Straub Senior law enforcement project manager, Police Foundation; former chief of the Spokane, Washington Police Department
- Nancy La Vigne Director, the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute
- Joe Domanick Investigative journalist and associate director of John Jay College's Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the City University of New York; author of "Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing," among other books.
- Katie Peralta Reporter, The Charlotte Observer
MS. AMY WALTERThanks for joining us. I'm Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report sitting in for Diane Rehm. She'll be back Monday. Another person was shot in Charlotte last night during protests over the death of Keith Lamont Smith who was killed by police Tuesday night. The shooting, along with others last week, renewed debate about law enforcement in minority communities, deadly force in policing and what change we've seen two years after Ferguson.
MS. AMY WALTERJoining in studio this morning, Nancy LaVigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, JEFFERY Robinson, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Frank Straub, senior law enforcement project manager at the Police Foundation and former chief of the Spokane, Washington Police Department and Joe Domanick, investigative journalist who has written about the LA Police Department most recently. Thank you all for joining us.
MS. NANCY LAVIGNEIt's great to be here.
MR. FRANK STRAUBThank you.
WALTERYes. So just a reminder, we'll be taking your comments and question throughout the hour. You can call us at 800-433-8850. Send us your email at email@example.com. You can join us on Facebook. You can send us a tweet. Before I turn to our panel. I want us to take to Katie Peralta. She's a reporter for the Charlotte Observer. Katie is in Charlotte, obviously was there last night. Katie, thank you for making some time for us this morning.
MS. KATIE PERALTAOf course, (unintelligible)
WALTERYeah. So tell us what happened last night. What was the scene and set the scene for us and tell us where -- what you saw.
PERALTAWell, things actually began quite peacefully around, you know, 5:30, 6:00 p.m., some families and personal friends and church leaders started gathering in Marshall Park, which is an uptown green space, you know, just a few blocks from, like, the main entertainment and (unintelligible). And honestly, at first, it was just folks carrying signs, doing peaceful chants like Black Lives Matter, stop killing up, that kind of thing.
PERALTAAnd they proceeded with a march around the courthouse and kind of other longer routes around (unintelligible) to uptown. And (unintelligible) you know, it got darker. More people joined and eventually, things just got to be much more animated than they had been earlier in the night and it seemed to happen very quickly. And I wasn't at any of the protests on Tuesday, but I am told that last night was, you know, it just dwarfed what happened on Tuesday and it's unlike anything I've ever seen in Charlotte before. It was pretty awful.
WALTERAnd what is it like there this morning?
PERALTAI think everyone is just in a state of shock right now. Having this problem in Charlotte, which is supposed to be this (unintelligible) and inclusion, and it just -- the things that you're seeing, it looks like it was from, you know, 50 years ago. This -- it's just hard to believe this is 2016. Lines of police in riot gear and blood everywhere and it's just truly unbelievable. So you know, I think that folks are hoping that things will be a little bit calmer tonight, but I don't know.
WALTERTell us, too, we know that someone was actually shot, a civilian was shot last night. There are reports that that person's in critical condition. Can you update us about that as well?
PERALTAI, unfortunately, don't have an update on that one. I reached out to CMPD. I don't think the city has made a statement on that. So as far as we know, that person is still in critical condition.
WALTEROkay. Let's go back, for a second, to Tuesday. Tell us how we got here. We have different accounts of what actually happened with Keith Lamont Smith (sic). What do we know?
PERALTASo we know that Keith Lamont Smith was a 43-year-old African American man in North Charlotte who was in his car when police approached the apartment complex that he was at. They were searching for someone else, actually. They had -- this person had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, not Mr. Scott. It's unclear still why they approached Mr. Scott to begin with. That's something that we're still awaiting answers from CMPD about.
PERALTAIn any event, they claim that he exited his vehicle with a handgun and that that handgun was found at the scene of the shooting. Whether or not he waved that gun at police, unclear. Whether or not that gun was loaded is also unclear. His family and friends have said that he often sat in his car at that time of day to pick up his, you know, waiting for his daughter, just sitting there reading a book. So there are conflicting narratives, which makes the situation even more complicated and messy.
PERALTASo that's where we are. And that was around 4:00 p.m., maybe a little bit thereafter on Tuesday. Within, you know, two or three hours, protesters had gathered about this.
WALTERI just want to walk back, actually, for one second to talk about the protests. If you can sort of describe the people that we there protesting. Was this a group -- was this younger folks? Did you have a mix of black and white? Was it, you know, the kinds of people that you've seen out in the community before? Tell us a little bit about the kinds of people that showed up to the streets of Charlotte last night.
PERALTAWell, it started out with all kinds of folks, honestly. Like, there were even families. I saw children as young as -- I mean, they looked like they were maybe in preschool. Black, white, mostly black, but all ages. They were sort of older folks towards the end, but towards, you know, as things got darker, things got a little more heated, you didn’t see as many kids. You didn't see as many older folks. In (unintelligible) the epicenter, which is like an entertainment little hub in uptown Charlotte, I did see one woman calling for the old folks to get back and to be careful because the police are approaching in riot gear.
PERALTASo I think that, you know, they were anticipating that -- they see some of those more, you know, those that have a hard time running away, but certainly towards the end of this, seemed to be mostly young people. But I don't have any numbers on that.
WALTEROkay. Katie, thank you so much for joining us and all of the reporting that you're doing in Charlotte. We hope for a peaceful night this evening.
PERALTAOf course, thank you for having me.
WALTEROf course. Well, I want to turn to our panel and before we get to some of the bigger issues, I also want to mention the fact that this is not the only event that happened this week. Of course, earlier, we had an African American man, Terrance Crutcher, who was shot in -- by the police. He was killed in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I'd like for our panel to tell us a little bit about this. Nancy LaVigne, do you want to start with that or we can -- if you can just tell us a little bit about anything that we know about this case.
LAVIGNERight. Not an expert on the case. I'm a member of the public who's been following the news along with everyone else. But as I understand it, Mr. Crutcher was in his SUV that was disabled. An officer and her partner happened upon that SUV seeing it stalled in the middle of the road. Most of what we know, it was captured on dashboard camera from a patrol car that arrived on the scene shortly thereafter when she called for backup.
LAVIGNEThere's also some footage from a helicopter that was hovering overhead. Ironically, her husband was in the helicopter. So you, you know, this is a great example of how, even when you have video footage, it doesn't tell the full story. What we see is Mr. Crutcher with his hands up, but he's heading towards his car. There's some sense that that's not what she's asked him to do and he's by his car with his hands up.
LAVIGNEFrom what I can see, it looks like he may have been reaching in the car. It's very hard to discern. Then, he's, you know, flat on the ground, being shot in the chest and there was some rumor or I don't know how true this is that he was tased at the same time.
LAVIGNEAnd so there's uncertainty of whether her partner tased at the same time she shot. I suspect that they felt -- that there was a level of threat that lead them to use that force, but it's all conjecture at this point.
WALTERThat's right. And JEFFERY Robinson, from the ACLU, I want to get your reaction to seeing the footage in Tulsa and the reaction that you had, as well, to what happened overnight in Charlotte and what we can learn from getting -- now we have access to video more so than ever, what -- how that is helping and whether or not it's making much of a difference.
MR. JEFFERY ROBINSONWell, I think the last comment about the officers -- suspecting that the officers felt a threat, I agree that's probably what they felt and certainly what they had said or will say. That's a horrifying thing to me as a black man in America because while video doesn't tell a complete story, it's not like the video tells nothing. And I think one of the most telling things that happened in Tulsa were the comments from the helicopter.
MR. JEFFERY ROBINSONThey were above the ground by some number of feet, obviously very high up. From everything I understand, they could not hear what was going on. They could look down on the ground and see a black man with his hands up in the air. And this hasn’t been a call saying, there's a black man going crazy in the street, there's a black man who's being a danger to people around him. He's got a car stalled.
ROBINSONAnd this officer says, looks like a bad dude.
WALTERJEFFERY Robinson, thank you very much. We are taking a quick break, but coming up, we're going to have more of our conversation on race, policing and the path forward.
WALTERWelcome back. I'm Amy Walter with the Cook Political Report, sitting in for Diane Rehm. I'm joined today by Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, Jeffery Robinson, who's the deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Frank Straub, who's a senior law enforcement project manager at the Police Foundation, former chief of the Spokane, Washington Police Department, and Joe Domanick, who's an investigative journalist, he's also at the John Jay School in New York. I'm gonna ask a sort of broad question, and then we can go, I think, deeper into some of the specifics. But I think for those of us in America watching either the video that came out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, watching the riots in Charlotte.
WALTERAs we said, we're two years out from what happened in Ferguson, Missouri. There's a deep sense of, I can't believe that we're watching this again. I feel very disheartened, and sad, and I think the big question that all of us are asking ourselves is, why does this keep happening, and how do we make it better? And so, just to start with that broad question, I'm gonna throw it out. Joe Domanick, if you can start and we can kind of go around the table here to get your perspective on this.
MR. JOE DOMANICKCan you rephrase the question for me, please?
WALTERSure. The question really is, why does this keep happening, and how do we make it stop?
DOMANICKWell, I think that it continues to happen because the police in America have enormous power, tremendous political power, and also, they have a feeling that they and only they know how to police. Thirdly, the police right now believe, because they have all of this power, and because reformers are seeking to mitigate that power, that they believe there's nothing in it for them to start to reform. The police departments -- Frank, who's one of our great, progressive people in law enforcement, can talk more about this, because he's run into this resistance as chief of police of Spokane and other police departments.
DOMANICKBut there's no willingness among the police to adapt to this, and one proof of that is that the -- President Obama instituted a task force on 21st century American policing, and out of -- and part of it was that this task force was established -- an organization that would help police departments around the country to institute community policing, which is the big step that has to be taken for police reform, and out of 18,000 police agencies, only about 14 accepted the offer of that assistance in implementing community policing. So there's no will among the police to reform. There's, in fact, active resistance.
DOMANICKAnd until there's kind of a unified reform movement, like such as happened with the women's movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the labor movement and the gay rights movement, to really start to put pressure on police departments to reform, we're going to continue to see these kinds of shootings happening.
WALTERFrank, you were mentioned specifically, I'd love to get your response to that, and anything else you'd like to add.
STRAUBThank you and Joe, thank you for your comments. I think that what we're seeing is obviously a very complex situation. On the police side, I think we're seeing an identity crisis, to some degree. We started it in 1960s, with the war on crime. We then had the war on drugs, and the war on drugs, I think, really, in many communities, spun policing out of control. We had just horrific levels of street violence in some of our challenge communities. We had then a very aggressive police response to that violence.
STRAUBAnd really, in fairness, well intentioned response, right? Innocent people were getting killed. Parents were uncomfortable taking their children for a walk down the block because they were afraid, and sadly this violence continues in some communities, right? That they were going to get inured, or their children were gonna get injured, and so there was a call for the police to respond to this street violence. Then there's the war on terrorism, you know, where the United States is attacked on 9/11. And I think we have generations of police officers who had been trained in a way that is inconsistent with the reality of policing, right?
STRAUBThat you know, we have to take a very aggressive approach, we have to end confrontations quickly. We have to end them in a way that protects the officer and protects the community, and if we intercede quickly, we have the ability to end these situations.
STRAUBI think the idea of overwhelming force that guided our early military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, became somewhat of a motto in policing.
STRAUBWe then -- go ahead.
WALTERYeah, no, I want to get Nancy La Vigne in here to talk about this, because we've had both Joe Domanick and Frank Straub setting up a situation where we're talking about police and identity crisis, basically a broken system that -- is it enough to sort of work around the edges here, if we talk about body cameras, if we talk about making other reforms, is that actually enough, or do we really need to start from scratch?
LAVIGNEI do think that policing needs to be reformed, both from the top down, and the bottom up. And what I mean by that is that we have many, many forward thinking, progressive police executives in this country that are trying to lead agencies in rethinking what their role is as law enforcement, more as peacekeepers, as guardians, and it's been a real challenge for them, because they've come into these positions, and there's the tenure for police chiefs is very short, so you come in, and you have this daunting task of both transforming the agency internally, while assuring the community that you're gonna do things different this time.
LAVIGNEYou're gonna listen to them, you're gonna engage with them, you're gonna work with the officers to make sure that they treat people with respect and lawfully and do not use excessive force, and I've seen examples of chiefs entering these environments, and doing that communication with the community very, very well, and not attending to the line officers, to the point where they feel alienated. And you know, I think it's worth mentioning that -- and this is not to undermine the seriousness of deadly force in these police shootings. They're horrific and very troubling, but the typical law enforcement officer encounters people every day. They don't even make arrests most of the time, much less use force, much less shoot them.
LAVIGNEAnd here they are, you know, they're putting on their uniforms and their badges every day and they're going out to, you know, do good for society, I believe most officers feel that way. And then they look on the news, and the whole profession is maligned. Morale is at an all-time low. And if -- you can't transform a system when people feel that way. You know, they feel disgruntled, disrespected, and that's not the kind of attitude that promotes someone to be reform minded.
WALTERThat, okay, sure.
WALTERCan you tell me if, yeah.
DOMANICKYou know, with the police around the nation, we're working in a number of communities throughout the country. Just this morning, at 7:00, I was at a police (word?), and I asked the young man, why did -- and he had just been a police officer for eight months, I said, why did you become a police officer, in this age of turmoil and challenge? And he said, because I'm from this community, and I want this community to get better, and I want to solve these issues from inside the system. I need to be the bond and the bridge between my police department and the community that we serve.
DOMANICKAnd that was a pretty profound statement, and I think it hits on a lot of what Nancy just said. That there are an awful lot of police officers, the vast majority of police officers, who are getting up every day to do the right thing. They're coming into this profession now, recognizing that it is incredibly challenged, but believing that they need to be part of the change to build those relationships. And so I think what we have is this emerging generation of new police officers who want to do the right thing, who want to build those bridges.
DOMANICKAnd I would say even those other officers from previous generations, they wanted to do the right thing too. But they got caught up in confusing politics and confusing priorities.
WALTERWell, that seems to be one of the questions here that I've been thinking about is, are we asking too much from the police on two levels? First of all, it seems we need greater societal reform. With systemic racism, it is not the police's job to be able to solve that, is number one, so we have a big, broad question, and within that, we have one facet of our society dealing with it. The other question, and Jeffery Robinson, I'd like to get you to weigh in on this. The idea that the police now -- we've basically farmed out dealing with many of our societal problems to the police.
WALTERThey're interacting with folks with mental illness, with homelessness, with drug addiction. These are a lot of different balls for the police to handle. So if you could address some of that, that would be great.
ROBINSONAnd I will. But I really, if you don't mind, I need to comment on some of the...
ROBINSON...other things that were said, because I -- and it's not that I have any major disagreement, but I want people to think seriously about the concept of police officers. I understand that they are under an incredible amount of pressure, but the concept that the criticism of police officers in light of the shootings in communities of color is somehow inappropriate or somehow making it more difficult for the police officers to respond in an appropriate way, I really have to push back on. One of the things that, you know, when we talk about Charlotte and oh my gosh, it was terrible last night, and believe me, I know it was.
ROBINSONIt was horrible last night. But our whole frame of this conversation is, you know, it's been two years since Ferguson. This problem hasn't occurred in the last two years. As one of the previous speakers said, this problem has been going on for decades. And so when we way, well, we want black people to protest, but not in a way that makes the police feel uncomfortable, or not in a way that causes damage, and then you see Colin Kaepernick kneel down at the National Anthem, and literally get vilified, because the core problem here is that people don't want to see what's happening.
ROBINSONI understand that police officers feel maligned, but where have you heard any outcry from the police? Any outcry at all about these shootings? The police officers that are good police officers, that want to do the right thing, where have you heard a public outcry from those officers saying this has to stop? and so the problem, in my view, when you think about how vociferous and how passionate some of the protests are becoming, it's because people are afraid, people are frustrated, and this is not a two year, 24 month buildup. This has been building for decades.
ROBINSONAnd the fact that we are all having to confront it in a way that makes us feel uncomfortable is a result of not dealing with the problems that you talked about in your question. Why is it that we're putting people who are addicted to drugs in prison? Why is it that we're asking police officers to go out and deal with people who have mental health problems, instead of having a mental health system that can respond and help, and deal with people who have those problems? We do ask the police to do all kinds of things that they are not trained to do, and that, quite frankly, many of them don't want to do.
ROBINSONAnd so deciding how we are going to spend resources, you know, in one way, this is a very simple issue. If you're gonna spend hundreds and thousands if not millions of dollars on military equipment for police departments, why don't you divert some of that money into areas like mental health, and drug treatment? Why don't you divert money into programs like LEAD, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, a program that has been developing around the country, where police officers themselves are being involved in saying, I'm not gonna take this person to jail, I'm gonna take them to the LEAD program, so that they can get on a completely different track.
ROBINSONSo asking police to do too much is part of the question, but I think it is really important to understand that this isn't just oh my gosh, it's just happened since Ferguson...
ROBINSON...and we're freaking out, because in the communities of color, anyway, this is a long standing problem.
WALTERAbsolutely. Jeffery Robinson, thank you very much. We are gonna take a short break, but coming up, your calls and -- oh, yes. I'm Amy Walter, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's walk through, Joe Domanick, I want you to walk through what Jeffery Robinson had to say here, which, again, we -- it is very hard to have a conversation simply about police reform, because we are talking about it within the broader societal issue here, and the fact, as I said, that we need to have greater reforms on so many other levels here, and the kinds of discussions that we need to have go beyond the police. But I also want...
DOMANICKI think I...
WALTERYeah, go ahead, and I want you to walk us through the time that you spent in Los Angeles looking at that police department in the wake of 1992 and Rodney King, and if there's anything that you learned from that, that we can bring to this discussion.
DOMANICKWell, let me first address the broader question that you just asked. I think that this is of course a societal problem, and it involves crime and it involved race and it involves class. And until we understand that, and right now, the good, the really good police executives that are out there right now, like Charlie Beck, like Frank, like -- the name of the police chief in Boston is escaping me, but like that gentleman, who are out there, really trying to make the police part of the community, and make the police guardians as well as protectors, that's only part of a larger issue. The police can do that, and that's a very important component, but it's got to be in conjunction with an entire, almost like a Marshall Plan, for our poor people of color, where - we are building those communities, and changing the values of the young men.
WALTERThank you, Joe. Well, we're taking a break, but coming up, your calls and questions. Please stay tuned.
WALTERWelcome back. I'm Amy Walter with The Cook Political Report sitting in for Diane Rehm. Guests with me this morning, Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, Jeffery Robinson on the phone with the American Civil Liberties Union, director of the ACLU Center for Justice. Also on the phone joining us are Frank Straub, who's the senior law enforcement project manager for the Police Foundation. He's the former chief of police in Spokane, Wash. And Joe Domanick, an investigative journalist, and he's an associate director at the John Jay College Center on Media, Crime and Justice in New York.
WALTERI want to take a call from Derek in Pasadena, Md. Derek, you're on the air. Thanks for joining us.
DEREKThank you for having me. Can you hear me clearly?
WALTERWe sure can.
DEREKYou know, I just called in to say as a local minister, I've started to come to the conclusion that I don't know that our democracy can survive the way it is policed. You think about the demographic changes that are coming, and I'm also millennial. What are police going to do when half of this country is nonwhite?
DEREKBecause what they're currently doing is policing the white community one way and the nonwhite community another way. I think what the Justice Department report of Baltimore city, I think that now makes all top ten of this country's largest police department, they've been violators of the constitutional rights of the respective districts. And as a millennial, I don't want to see policing in 2025 look the same way it did in 1989.
DEREKAnd in 2030, as an African American man, I should not have to re-explain my humanity 30 years past the turn of the millennial. And one more thing.
DEREKI think it is completely inappropriate to have panelists make excuse after excuse for police departments. Because police will not report data, although they've been begged by the director of the FBI to do so, much of this conversation is based purely in speculation. Because we don't have national data to say who's doing what when, which are best practices. And police are choosing not to report.
DEREKAnd, again, don't tell me that there's not enough money, because I have seen roads and schools crumbling, but I've seen brand new $40,000 SUVs, many of them unmarked cars. I've seen brand new police cars. So we, as a society and, I guess, as a local government, and as a nation, we're making a decision to give this equipment to these people. It's not free because it needs to be maintained.
DEREKBut we're choosing not to put that same money elsewhere.
WALTERDerek, thank you so much for your call. Nancy La Vigne, I want to address that to you, and especially the talk about, can we have a police department that seems like it's trapped in the 1980s actually effectively work in a country that doesn't look like it did in the 1980s? And what's been done on the ground there?
LAVIGNEFirst I just want to validate what the caller just said about the desperate need for data and transparency. You know, here I am the researcher talking, but it's true. I mean, we are so restricted in the analyses we can do to identify really what's happening in law enforcement across the country. And that's an important component of transparency so we know what we're dealing with.
LAVIGNEI would also say that, you know, these issues are so fraught. I mean, there's so much going on in race relations right now in this country that affects issues between the police and the community. And one of the solutions is often, well, let's make sure that the police officers look more like the communities that they're policing. And I think that that's definitely a good and noble goal, but clearly that's not the solution in and of itself, right? I mean, if I'm not mistaken, Keith Lamont Scott was shot by an African American police officer.
LAVIGNESo these are much more nuanced issues that go to the heart of policing, how police are trained and how they're recruited as well.
WALTERI also have an email question here, and I'd like Frank to take this one. I don't have a name on this, but the question asks, the email asks, "You know, I was taught that police firing a weapon even as a warning was a major event, that shooting to kill was an absolute last resort. Shooting to disable or disarm before shooting to kill seems to never happen anymore. Most victims are shot multiple times with no aid offered and immediately after. It seems the police have gotten more defensive and much more militarized, but with no updated use of force regulations, no rules of engagement that both police and communities understand." Frank, how would you like to answer that question?
STRAUBWell, I'm going to try to answer two questions simultaneously, both the caller and this email. There is a lot of very positive work that is going on now, the White House initiative on police (unintelligible). We at the Police Foundation are working closely with the White House to gather information on officer involved shootings, officer use of force, creating a national databank to collect this information.
STRAUBWe and other organizations are working with the cops office and the Department of Justice to do critical incident reviews where we look at, for example, the demonstration and occupation in the Minneapolis following a officer involved shooting and ultimate death of an individual in that community to see what the officers did right, what the officers did wrong, what the city did right, what the city did wrong in response to the demonstrations and the occupation of a police precinct so we can flesh out best practices, and we can learn from these events.
STRAUBAnd I think that's a very important thing, that we can't let any of these events exist in isolation. We have to learn from them. We have to use these incidents to inform police training in the future of policing. We have collaborative reform that the Department of Justice is hiring the Police Foundation and other organizations to work with police departments to help them through the process of getting better by bringing in outside experts who are doing deep dives into the police organizations and police cultures to help them get better. So I think there's a lot of positive things going on.
STRAUBThere had been a lot of changes in use of force policies, in individual police departments, and there has also been at the state level in many states, for example, Wisconsin, Colorado, New York, the need to have external agencies investigate officer involved shootings, to add a layer of credibility and transparency to the investigative process.
STRAUBSo there is, in my opinion, as somebody who's spent 31 years in the law enforcement profession, who is now outside working on some of these strategies to help reform police and some very positive things that are happening to move things forward. But we have to remember, we have generations of race issues, generations of not dealing with person's challenge by mental health issues appropriately, that we have to reconcile at the same time that we're working on police reform. We have to end mass incarceration, right?
STRAUBWe can't keep churning our neighborhoods and sending people in and out of jail. So it is a complex problem. But I would argue that the pressure being put on the criminal justice system as a whole by the ACLU, by BLM, by other organizations, is bringing about change. But we can't change generations in a matter of hours or minutes or days. But I think there's a lot of very positive things happening, and maybe we just haven't done a good enough job of explaining and discussing that with local communities as well as the nation more broadly.
WALTERWell, Joe Domanick, you spent some time with the LAPD. There were some controversial things that Bill Bratton, then the police chief, was doing, including things like stop and frisk. What did you learn from the success and failures of the reforms that he tried to bring into that department?
DOMANICKWell, let me just underscore something Frank said, that this has to be looked at. Police reform has to be looked at as a generational thing, as Frank pointed out. It's not going to change overnight. In Los Angeles following the '92 riots, we had a decade where very, very little reform was done in spite of there being the political will, which took a long time to gather, more reform to happen. And it didn't happen until 2002 when Bill Bratton was hired. And what he did was he freed up his officers, progressive officers, who are core commanders and precinct captains to start to implement community policing, which was very important.
DOMANICKHis successor, Charlie Beck, deepened that. And there's a real commitment, both to community policing in Los Angeles, and it's a very difficult city to do community policing because it's so spread out. A real commitment to community policing, a real commitment to dealing with the public in a different way, and to de-escalate officer involved shootings. They have a very -- they now have a very progressive shooting policy in which officers have to go through a number of steps before they use deadly force, and they have to -- they have tactics to avoid using deadly force. But Los Angeles still has a high -- relatively high officer involved shooting rate because things don't change overnight.
DOMANICKAnd that's -- but they have changed in Los Angeles because they have a police chief now who's in his eighth year who is committed to it. And he -- you know, the union is fighting him every step of the way. So it's got to be a whole different mindset. I think that Nancy said something very important that I want to underscore about the recruitment and training. If we look at the -- if we look at the shootings in Tulsa, for example, that shooting clearly never should have happened. And it happened either because the people that were hired who did that -- were involved in that shooting never should have been hired in the first place because they didn't have the temperament to be police officers.
DOMANICKAnd they actually created the situation when this man was shot. Well, they're so badly trained tactically that they believed -- that they put themselves in a position where they felt that they had to shoot. So these are the kinds of things that are being done piecemeal, as Frank says, that we don't kind of see. And I think the most important thing that listeners can do is find out who the progressive police chiefs are, who are the progressive police organizations that are working for change and support those cops. They can't -- I would maintain that as well -- as good as Black Lives Matters has done, that it can't be the really kind of fundamental reform throughout the nation that we want to see without the police buying into it.
DOMANICKAnd the question is, how do you get the majority of police agencies to start seeing reform is good for them and buy into it?
WALTERWell, Nancy, are there places where it's actually been working? Are there examples where you can say we have some hope here of...
LAVIGNESure. We're actually -- at the Urban Institute we're in the process of evaluating that. Very shortly following the incident in Ferguson, the Department of Justice launched the national initiative for building community trust and justice. It's a six site pilot in six cities throughout the country that required as a prerequisite the buy-in and support of the law enforcement executives and the city leadership to do everything they can to change the dialogue, the relationships, the policies and practices between law enforcement and the community.
LAVIGNEThis involves training; training police in what we call procedurally just policing, which is not just being lawful, but being respectful. Certainly training around issues of when and why you should use force, and the various ways that use of force should be escalate as starting with no force, of course, and kind of verbal interactions, and then slowly going up from there. And importantly, generating dialogues with members of the community that are most heavily impacted by both violent crime, by mass incarceration, by high police presence. And of course those are our communities of color.
WALTERI'm Amy Walter. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Go ahead, Nancy, and then I'll...
LAVIGNESo that is an initiative that has just been put in place about a year ago, and we're evaluating that. So the first step of the process is to go into the community. And we're actually going door to door and we're talking to people to try to get a better sense of what their -- how they perceive the police, how they've been treated by the police. And that's what we call baseline data, and then we'll go in later and we'll find out more. But what we've learned so far is that residents in these areas, not surprisingly, feel that the police are not following the letter of the law.
LAVIGNEThey feel like the police disrespect them, that the police engage in racially bias behaviors. Those are all both, you know, disappointing but expected. But we also learned that they themselves want to be partners in reducing violent crime, believe in the letter of the law, aspire to follow it themselves. And I think that is an important context that we don't talk about enough when we talk about violent crime and how it is concentrated in a lot of these communities of color. And that is that there are very, very few number of people, a very small percentage of people who are engaging in this violence. And yet everybody is essentially guilty by the fact that they live...
WALTERThe association, yeah.
LAVIGNE...in these communities.
WALTERI want to take a caller here. This is Byron from Blanco, Texas. Byron, thank you for calling in. You're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
BYRONThank you very much for having me...
BYRON...on your show. I'm so glad that you have a representative of the ACLU on your panel because I think he hit the nail on the head earlier in regards to how the drug war has affected our perception of African Americans. And specifically an ACLU report was done 20 years ago that showed that even though white Americans may use the same amount of marijuana, for example, that African Americans are disproportionally incarcerated eight times more likely for possession.
BYRONAnd so then we go from that to looking at the predatory behavior of our law enforcement in asset forfeitures, in the way that the city council in Ferguson couldn't even imagine another way to make up their money in payroll than to court, fine and fee...
BYRON...the African population. And...
WALTERHey, Byron, I just want to make sure -- we only have a couple minutes. I want to make sure that Jeffery gets to answer your question. So, Jeffery, if you can jump in here.
ROBINSONLet me just say this, that I think everything that has been said about the efforts that are going on and some positive steps, I take all of that into account, and I think it's true and it's important. But it feels like this conversation is a little bit Kumbaya-ish to me. My father was 13 years old in 1939, and his father told him how to survive when he dealt with the police. And in 1969 I was 13 years old, and my father told me how to survive when I dealt with the police.
ROBINSONAnd in 2011 my nephew, who is now my son, was 13 years old, and I'm telling him how to survive when he deals with the police. This is not -- the research that we've just heard about, about this is what people in the communities of color are thinking, this isn't new. This isn't like something we're just discovering. So the first way to address this problem is to acknowledge that whether it's a black officer who shot the person in North Carolina or not, there is a huge overlay of racial hatred and prejudice that is involved in the way the police act in America.
ROBINSONAnd we as Americans are responsible for that. We are all responsible for it. Number two, training and culture are...
WALTERJeffery, yep. Jeffery, I'm sorry that we have to cut you off there. I'm very glad you were able to finish up this very important conversation. Jeffery Robinson, ACLU Center for Justice. I want to thank all of my panelists who came in today. I'm Amy Walter with The Cook Political Report sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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