Articles, Blog

“Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, and the Victims We Don’t Know” with Avidan Y. Cover


Welcome everyone to the final
event of the Fall semester for the USF Swig Program in Jewish Studies and
Social Justice. Where tonight we have the opportunity
to learn with Avidan Cover and USF Law School Faculty member Rhonda Magee during our third annual
Human Rights Lecture. Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, and
the Victims We Don’t Know, Legal Murder of People of Color,
and Immunity for Police. Tonight’s events in keeping with a small
ritual started a couple weeks ago, tonight’s event is being held
on the historical lands, let’s see if I can do two things at once,
there we go, of the Ohlone people. In lighting these herbs, thanks Monica, in
lighting these herbs, given to me earlier this semester at USF by local Native
American leader Corrina Gould, I wish to acknowledge the Ohlone as traditional
custodians and stewards of this land. I’d also like to pay my respects to
the elders, past and present, and the elders from other communities
who may be here today. Founded 2008,
the USF Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice is the first and
only program in the history of the United States formally linking
Jewish studies with social justice. In addition to offering numerous courses
related to this interdisciplinary field, our program offers a minor in JSSJ,
as well as a number of annual events. Including a speaker series,
an annual Human Rights Lecture, annual Social Justice Lecture, and
an annual Social Justice Passover Seder. This event is our fourth event of
the fall, our fifth event which opened back in September and will continue
through December, is an art installation located in the atrium of Kalmanovitz Hall
called Jews of Color in Color. Shattering the stereotype
of the white Ashkenazi Jew, this powerful photo exhibit composed
by Scattered Among the Nations presents Jewish communities from around the world. Countries such as Ghana,
India, Mexico, and Zimbabwe. If you’re interested in being put on our
JSSJ listserv, there’s a form over on the table in the front of the room,
or I guess the back of the room. Thank you for tonight’s performance also
goes to the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. Now, to begin tonight’s
program officially. You guys can come on in,
there’s tons of seats. Everyone doesn’t have to look. Don’t look when the,
you guys come in, okay. The most valued text in the Jewish
tradition is the Torah. The five books of Moses. Among the many biblical
directives of you shall do this, you shall not do that,
we find the verse you shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for
you were strangers in the land of Egypt. According to the rabbis of the Talmud, a
set of sacred books almost as important in Jewish tradition as the Torah itself,
this verse appears 36 times in the Torah. By many accounts,
this means that this commandment, appearing more than any other,
is more important than any other. You shall not wrong or
oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. But who is the stranger? Being a stranger,
feeling out of place, is for, perhaps most of us,
a normal part of the human experience. But what about for those whom being a stranger is much
more then a transient feeling? Those who live day in and
day out in the midst of oppression? What about those who live in the margins? Whether based on race, ethnicity,
gender, sex, sexual orientation, or another social identity category. What about those who cannot drive without
fear of being pulled over by the police or even killed by the police? What about those who are unable to walk
down the street without potentially being assaulted in a governmentally
sanctioned action? Tonight’s speaker lives and identifies
with particular social identities, as well as being a member of
the larger human collective. An individual who fights for
the so called stranger. It’s my pleasure to introduce
to you Avidan Cover, a professor of law at Case Western
Reserve University Of Law, and director of the Institute for
Global Security Law and Policy. Avi Teaches in the Civil Rights and
Human Rights Clinic in the Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic Center. Where he supervises students
representing clients in civil lawsuits, primarily in the areas of civil rights. Including freedom of speech,
unlawful force, housing discrimination, as well as
documenting human rights abuses. He also teaches race and
American law, constitutional law, and international humanitarian law. His scholarship focuses on human rights,
civil rights, and national security law. He’s appeared in numerous news media,
including the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, CNN, and on and on. Prior to his appointment at
Case Western Reserve he taught at Seton Hall University School of Law,
where he supervised the Urban Revitalization Project
in Newark, New Jersey. In addition, he was a Gibbons Public
Interest & Constitutional Law Fellow, during which time he litigated prisoner’s
rights, same sex marriage, and national security and education
cases in federal and state court. He’s also served as Senior Counsel in Human Rights First’s Law Security Program
where he researched and analyzed US military and
intelligence agencies interrogation and detention policies and practices,
in particular in Guantanamo Bay. Holds a BA degree from
Princeton University, a JD cum laude from Cornell School of Law. Before I say,
please join me in welcoming Avi, one note. Immediately following Avi’s remarks, we’re
gonna have a conversation between Avi and USF Law School Professor Rhonda Magee,
who I’ll introduce at that point. Please join me in welcoming Avi.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>Thank you Aaron, thank you everyone for coming. I wanna thank in particular
the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice, as well as the Department
of Theology and Religious Studies, and to Rhonda for what I know will
be a good and engaging conversation. We all known the names that ring out
like a painful chorus of deaths at the hands of police officers. Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson,
Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, many more names
could be added to that list. Black men are 21 times more likely to
be killed by police than white men. African-Americans killed by police are
twice as likely to be unarmed as whites. And the police are almost never
criminally indicted, let alone convicted, or found guilty of murder. We shouldn’t know these names,
these data, their facts and identities scarred into
many of our brains. I wish I could tell you that they should
be discarded or could be discarded like old baseball players’ names who
I might remember, or music lyrics. But we can’t forget these names,
and we shouldn’t. However, I believe that the focus on these
tragic stories, these senseless deaths and deadly force statistics, obscures some
of the roots of the real problem. Or at the very least, the final bullet
shot, or chokehold that took away a man or boy, or girl, or
woman’s life should not be the only focus. Because the problems and
dangers are not about a single, brief, violent interactions between police
officers and suspects turned victims. We could pick apart with forensic detail the fatal skirmish between Michael Brown
and Officer Darren Wilson. But the problems began far earlier. They’re far more widespread,
they’re systemic. We need to zoom out and
see the larger picture. And from my perspective,
particularly as a lawyer and a law professor, I believe they’re
embedded in the law, in our legal system. The problems begin, With the police’s unbridled
discretion to stop Michael Brown, to target Sam Debose,
to monitor Black Lives Matter activists. To stop Fernando Castillo, to ticket
Erik Garner, to drive up onto Tamir Rice, to chase Melissa Williams,
to shoot Alton Sterling, and so many more. And this is the law, and
this is what the law sanctions. It forgets the Constitution’s promises, forged only after slavery and
the Civil War, for due process for rights to life and
liberty, and to equal protection. So here’s how I think it works. It works in four pieces. First, charge the police with
an aggressive mission of rooting out all crime, or
drugs, or stopping violence. In which you view civilians as monsters or
criminals, or what we have more recently called in the
last few decades, broken windows policing. Start with the petty or minor offenses and
all will be well, no tolerance. Second, create a legal regime
which allows almost unfettered discretion to carry out this mission,
and this has two pieces. You allow the police to stop and seize individuals with virtually
no basis of suspicion. And they can use force under a very
deferential and discretionary standard. Third, create a legal regime which
pardons all mistakes of police officers, and balancing the interest
always favors the police. Police are not held to the same standard
for violence as are you and me and everyday civilians. They’re not held to a higher standard,
they’re held to a lower standard. And finally, no accountability. In addition to likely finding all
police actions of force reasonable, even if they’re not reasonable,
we don’t hold police responsible unless the actions are, and this is the court’s
words, often of the plainly incompetent. We bend over backwards to forgive and
exonerate the police, leaving victims unprotected and
uncompensated. To hold governments responsible, to hold
police departments and cities, they must have an actual policy that essentially
requires an unlawful use of force. A far higher standard than we apply to
private companies and corporations. And these problems are self-perpetuating,
reinforcing, and circular. Broken windows policing leads
to more interactions and more abuses and more immunity. It takes on, in our history,
other sorts of words, too. You might think of the black codes, or
the war on crime, or the war on drugs. It involves increasing criminalization,
increasing incarceration. And a continuum of government
sponsored violence and excessive force occurs on a daily basis,
most of which isn’t recorded. It’s not captured on cell phone videos and
it doesn’t make the headlines. It’s not murder. It’s these smaller violations of people’s
personal space, of their liberty, of their dignity. About 30 million people a year
experience what is termed unwarranted or unwanted police encounters, 30 million. And what do you add to this
broken windows aspect? Well, in some cases it’s a financial boom. The United States Department of
Justice found that in Ferguson this was a source of revenue,
stopping people with aggressive policing. And, of course, it has a racial element. Between the years 2012 to 14 in Ferguson, 97% of all arrests were
of African Americans. Or in Cleveland, my hometown,
where the federal government also found there was a widespread practice and
policy of unlawful excessive force. And amidst all of the horrible
data that this report documented, there was this one particular vignette or
description that really haunted me. There was a sign that the report describes
hanging in one of the police stations and it read, characterized the police
station as a forward-operating base. This is a term for a military outpost
in Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or the various other places where
the United States military rages. But it’s an outpost that should support
tactical operations in a foreign war zone. And it sends the message to the people
of Cleveland that the police are military occupiers instead of public
servants and the community’s protectors. Or broken windows can take
the form of a cavalier and even encouraging view toward
violence of a certain presence. It was said in the summer,
speaking to police in New York, “when you guys put somebody in the car, and you’re protecting their head, you
know, the way you put your hand over it, like don’t hit their head and they just
killed somebody, don’t hit their head? I said, to the President,
I said you can take the hand away, okay?” That’s the broken
windows component. You add to this an unbridled discretion. This comes in, was something over
the election a year ago that got a lot of attention, was often known as stop and
frisk. The fourth amendment of
the United States Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and
seizures. But in reality, the way the court has interpreted it,
particularly over the last 50 years. It places very few limitations on
an officer’s discretion to stop and arrest a person. In most cities, blacks are far more likely
to be stopped by police than whites. In Boston, they are three times as likely,
in Chicago, eight times as likely. New York City had infamously
operated a stop and frisk program that had
received a lot of attention. There, in 2012,
of the 700,000 people stopped, 85% were young black or latino men. And what about the results? Was it effective? Which is often the dispute. Well, in almost 90% of those stops, people are released with no
evidence of wrongdoing found. The number of stops of
black men in New York City who were stopped exceeded
the number of black men in the New York City, astounding. So how does this happen? How does the court,
the United State Supreme Court, fashion this sort of law and structure? Back in 1968 there was more and more of
a perception of increasing violence and need for law and
order as the rhetoric of the day held. The court held in Terry versus
Ohio that police could stop even people who didn’t have what’s known
as probable cause of criminal activity. All they needed was what’s
known as reasonable suspicion. Something that you could point to,
just a little bit of a fact. And you could stop someone,
and pat them down. And from there,
the court was off to the races. Police have discretion
to arrest people for misdemeanor seat belt violations,
punishable only by a fine. Discretion that the police, most often, police don’t operate on,
execute that discretion, but they can. They have the discretion to
search a car’s compartment. They have discretion to
impound a car after a stop. Someone runs away from
the police on sight. That’s a basis for
stopping, frisking them. A mistake of law, police officer, supreme court case held
a few years ago in North Carolina. Police officer thought that
the law was a violation of traffic violations if they had one light out. So officers stopped this car,
turned out he was wrong on the law. Actually, you couldn’t stop
someone unless you had two. But he found drugs in the car. It didn’t happen. This mistake of law. We’re gonna bend over backward. The police are going to
be allowed to operate. A more disturbing case, in my view,
just a year ago the court held, when the police illegally stop a person, they
have no basis for stopping the person. But then it turns out that there’s
a warrant, an outstanding warrant, just for a traffic violation,
poof it turns that stop into a legal one. And so, think about what that means,
an indeed, a lone dissenting voice of Justice Sonia
Sotomayor pointed this out very much. It was in the midst of all
the details of Ferguson coming out, that the police could in fact, just simply
choose to stop whomever they saw fit. On the hope and chance that they would
have an outstanding traffic violation. And then they could do anything they
wanted to within that car, anything. Suddenly, rendered it all legal. And perhaps, most disturbing what
the court found in another opinion, was that the motivations of race, or really any motivations of the police
officers are of no consequence. And what that allows for
is for a big textual arrests. Police can operate on a racist hunch and they can stop a car in the hopes, right,
that they’ve done something wrong. Or maybe they can even
find something wrong. How many of you right now, let’s be very
creative here, you’re legislators, right? What are some good traffic violations that
you can perhaps think about right now? What could police stop you for
if you’re driving a car? Yes?>>Speeding.>>Speeding, absolutely. Anyone else?>>Running a light.>>Sure, running a light.>>Tail light out?>>Tail light out, right. You’re not in North Carolina. Yes?>>Talking on a cell phone.>>Talking on a cell phone.>>Changing the lanes
without a turn signal.>>Changing lanes without
a traffic signal, right? Professor Devon Carbado, has an exhaustive list of every
traffic violation you can think of. And they’re ones I hadn’t even
known were violations, right? The point is there are so many, and we probably all violate the law 10 times,
20 times a day. So if the police want to stop you,
they can find a basis this one, right? Whether it’s, again, some ticket you didn’t pay,
a failure to yield in a traffic circle. Law Professor Paul Butler describes a
former prosecutor, in fact again, he’d go around with a police officer, he was a
police officer’s friend, they would play. Stop that car, right? Pick a car, we’re gonna follow this car,
we’ll find a way to stop. Again, allowing this sort of
unbridled discretion to play out. And the effects, Of this sorta practice
can of course escalate, right? All police departments generally operate
with the use of force continually. And some of that sounds logical enough,
but you start with sort of more minor abuses of force rhetoric,
words, and it escalates. But this sort of process,
this unbridled discretion, allows for this continuum to play out. And of course, it allows for
selective enforcement. And while we talk, and rightly we do,
about the violent deaths of individuals. I wanna focus on these more minor acts,
and how they escalate. People are humiliated
by these experiences. They lose faith and trust in the police. And the majority of the Supreme Court
doesn’t seem to understand the consequences of their actions. And maybe it has to do a little bit
with the composition of the Court. In oral arguments a couple of years ago,
and it was concerning how long a stop could be extended before
a dog would come to search the car. Chief Justice John Roberts said,
usually people have told me that when you’re stopped
the officer says license and registration. So think about it. The chief justice, the person who has the
biggest role, arguably, in this country to craft law, would appear from this
statement, to have never been stopped. He has not, as Justice Sotomayor who
retorted to the chief, and is known for her empathy, and deprived by some for her
empathy said, chief, I’ve been stopped. And keeping the path giving me
the ticket is annoying as heck, whether it’s 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or 45. But these stops aren’t,
of course, just annoying. This sort of unbounded discretion can
lead to increase the uses of violence, and it focuses in a discriminatory and
physical fashion. And police departments prioritize
where they’re gonna focus their broken windows policing. Where they’re gonna focus their
unbridled discretion, and it invariably falls in areas of concentrated
population in poorer urban areas. And these police citizen encounters
increase the probability of excessive force,
also with disproportionate racial impact. Blacks are more likely than whites
to be kicked, pepper sprayed, or shot with a stun gun. More likely to be grabbed by police. More likely to be handcuffed,
to have a gun pointed at them. And of course, before you can be shot,
you must be stopped. Consider the case of Philando Castile,
and the dangerous set of cards that he was handed,
as a man of color, and a target of police. Philando Castile was killed,
you may recall, a couple of years ago outside of
Minneapolis by a police officer. He was permitted and
authorized use of a gun in his car, he informed the officer that he had a gun. And it was in a short and
tragic 40 seconds Mr. Castile was killed by the police officer. But, The odds worked always against Mr. Castile, because as it came out
later after his tragic death. It turns out that police in
the Twin Cities area had pulled Castile over at least 52 times in
the 13 years prior to his death. This is one time every 3 months,
for 13 years. And he’d been given citations for
minor offenses, right? The ones we’ve talked about, that you
can so easily stop and target speeding, driving without a muffler,
not wearing a seat belt. He was charged over that time
almost $7,000 in fines and fees. And yet, the court dismissed
the majority of his 86 violations. To be stopped by the police with
that frequency is the danger. That’s the threat. And it has to do in part because just as we have a very deferential
standard in respect to stopping, and seizing individuals so
too do we with the use of force test. The use of force test which is from a case
called Graham versus Connor involves a few things. And it involves what sounds really great. We’re gonna determine was the police
officer’s actions reasonable. All right,
we can all agree with that standard. That sounds, on its face,
definitely reasonable. But, you look at the totality of the
circumstances, again a very legal term. You’re supposed to look at the severity of
the crime at issue, whether the suspect posed an immediate threat to
the safety of the officer or others. And whether he’s actively resisting
arrest, or attempting to evade by an arrest, all sounds maybe reasonable
enough in terms of the three factors. But then the court, and it’s this language
that is repeated in opinion after opinion, explains, you have to look at it from
the perspective of a reasonable police officer on the scene, rather than
with 20/20 vision or hindsight. You have to understand that police
officers are often forced to make split second judgements in circumstances
that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving. And finally, as part of its objective
test, the court should not consider the officers intent or motivation
in assessing that reasonableness. You can’t look at what the officer did
prior to that very moment of use of force. So if the officer has unwisely or
out of racist motivation chose to go up on a young 12 year old and
drive right up to them, and then feel when they take out their
toy guns that they’re threatened, it’s evidently reasonable to
shoot that 12 year old boy. And these tests, imagine a lot of
you have talked about implicit bias, taken maybe an implicit
bias association test, these tests feed into fire
scenes that we know about. Because they promote a view that
things are always fast, and they accept and indulge some of our most
basic and racist or prejudicial impulses. So tests have been taken,
of all sorts of members of the population, police and community otherwise. And when individuals are shown images,
usually in video games, either a white person with a gun or
a black individual with a gun, people are more likely to target
blacks than white targets. They’re slower to press don’t shoot
when an unarmed suspect is black, and people are quicker to press shoot
when an armed suspect is black. But the Graham and Connor test,
this test on use of force, encourages and allows for these prejudicial impulses, because it’s reasonable to make
that assumption in that moment. That’s what that law reifies legitimate. And so finally, I think we put up
this slide a little bit earlier, but I wanna get to the aspect
of accountability, the lack of accountability,
both criminal and civil. There are very few criminal prosecutions
of police officers for excessive force. And when there are, when there is
a prosecution, officers usually go free. And it’s very much related to
that Graham v Connor test. Now there are other explanations, perhaps state criminal prosecutions of
police officers for excessive force may be limited due to relationships
between prosecutors and police. More often than not,
there’s no independent investigation for the very office that prosecutes crimes and
needs to work with police officers as a natural incentive or
disincentive to prosecute police. You want good relations. Federal prosecutions have
a much higher standard, in most cases,
to result in prosecutions of officers. Well, let me explain
how difficult it is and why maybe a prosecutor, in good faith,
might elect not to try and prosecute an officer, or
why a jury might acquit an officer. And it’s related again to this
Graham v Connor standard. Again, sadly, I imagine anyone from their
hometown or a decent sized city can point to these, I wanna talk about a case
that involved two individuals, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams
out of Cleveland This horrible case occurred about three years ago. Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams drove by two police
one night at very high speed. And a loud bang, the officers alleged
that they heard a loud bang, and they believed they’d been shot at. Over the next 20 minutes,
62 police cars with over 100 officers joined in the chase
of Timothy and Malissa. During the chase, which reached incredibly
high speeds of over 120 miles per hour, officers repeatedly called over
their radios that the driver and passenger had a gun. That they were loading their guns,
that they were aiming their guns at them. As the car was essentially cornered
in a middle school parking lot, the car was stopped. 12 officers fired at them. Officer Michael Brelo, pictured here,
first fired 37 shots from near his car. And then,
jumped on the roof of their car and fired 15 more shots
through the windshield. In total, 137 shots were fired. Russell and Williams were dead. They didn’t have a gun. Prosecutors determined that 12 of
the officers who had fired their weapons reasonably feared for their lives. They were all hearing gunshots. It was reasonable to believe
that other officers or that Williams and
Russell were firing their weapons. Michael Brelo was the only one
charged with manslaughter, and he was not found guilty of the death. And the reason they couldn’t,
was because they couldn’t determine which bullets were
responsible for killing them. So by virtue of other
police’s needless shooting, he couldn’t be found
guilty of manslaughter. And for the 15 shots from the roof
of the car into the window, he was also charged with assault. But the court found, and
it was just the court, by the way, the police officer did not wanna have
a jury of his peers in this matter, so he had the option of only
having a judge rule on this case. That the gunshots made him reasonably
believe too that the suspects had guns and were shooting. And thus it’s that the errors of police,
their own violence and aggression, that actually exonerates him. Now the area that I’m more familiar with,
is actually the Civil Rights lawsuit area, where you try to hold police
officers responsible civilly. And this is the primary means of holding
police officers responsible under the law. This is how we develop, such has it is,
a body of law that holds police accountable and
says what’s permitted and what isn’t. But we don’t see so many successful
lawsuits, relatively speaking. Only 1% of people who believe
the police use improper force against them ever file a lawsuit. There’s a lot of reasons that
can be attributed to that. Many times, people’s interactions
with the police were as suspects or defendants, so they’re not so
inclined to go after the police. In some cases, they’re unaware of
their rights, maybe due to poverty, fear of police reprisals, or
the burdens of incarceration. It’s harder to sue when you’re in prison. There are limits on what
is known as standing. If you want to try and stop certain police
practices, it is very difficult to do so. And it’s hard to get a lawyer to
bring your case unless the facts are really valid. The police officer’s gonna say,
how bad are your injuries? Dignity? It’s not gonna be worth so much, and so
that lawyer might not wanna take the case. Generally, only the most
egregious cases are litigated. So it is these countless thousands and thousands of interactions
that aren’t litigated. But the biggest way that police
officers are insulated from liability, that police departments and
cities are insulated from liability, are through what’s known
as qualified immunity. And also, through very high
municipal liability standards. Back for a moment, the 14th Amendment. This was passed in the midst of
Reconstruction right after the Civil War. It was a recognition
that all was not equal and during Reconstruction,
you saw the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. You saw the rise of mob violence and
you saw southern police leaders and officers often doing nothing. So as adjunct to the 14th Amendment,
the Congress passed what was known as the Ku Klux
Klan Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1871. That is, what sometimes now
you’ll hear about Section 1983. Any civil rights lawsuit
filed in federal court is pursuant to this Ku Klux Klan Act. Think of this connection,
it’s our history, you can see marches in Charlottesville and
Ellsworth. This is a connection. Civil rights lawsuits were
aimed to deter racist violence, that was the origin, and sadly,
there’s still a need to ensure them. And for a little while, during
Reconstruction, these laws were enforced, or criminal prosecutions, there was
civil lawsuits brought under this act. But then you saw a retrenchment for
many years, and then it was brought back in the 1960s,
so there was a means to sue. But then the court wasn’t so
happy about this churn, worried about how this would affect
police, how it would affect morale. Whether it would deter zealous policing, whether it would bankrupt police officers,
and so there needed to be a new standard. In order to hold a police officer
responsible, you needed to show, and recall how difficult those
legal standards were, you didn’t show that the action
was unconstitutional. But you ought to have to show that it
was clearly established that it was unconstitutional. This meant it had to be so obvious that it
was wrong that only a plainly incompetent, and these are the words of the court. Only a plainly incompetent officer
would have committed that act of excessive force. Needless to say, this insulates
police in a lot of situations. And let me illustrate, we’ll just get
one more case from the Supreme Court, just a couple of years ago. This case is known as
Mullenix versus Luna, and it involves an individual
named Israel Leija, Jr. Texas police officers had received reports
that an officer was in pursuit of Mr. Leija who was threatening to shoot
officers and was possibly intoxicated. Again, another high speed chase. Anticipating the route of the chase, officers had set up spikes
along his way so that when Mr. Leija came along,
that should puncture his tires. Perhaps cause him to flip over but
deter him from going any further and not escaping. But Texas trooper Chadrin Mullenix
had a different idea. He got up on this bridge and
he decided he would use his rifle to shoot the car’s engine block
once Leija came into his sights. And despite being told by
the supervisor not to shoot, Mullenix fired all six shots hitting
Leija four times and killing him. The Supreme Court didn’t really
address the constitutional question, it simply said there’s no law that
squarely governs this situation. And it noted again, that gram test,
look, Leija was an immediate threat. He was only moments away and speeding toward the confrontation with
officers he had threatened to kill. How could the officer
have known any better? Let’s think about the facts. The officers had, of course, intentionally stationed themselves
in the way of Leija to stop him. So the threat is a questionable or
a selective one. Moreover, in terms of there being any
quick speed or necessity, Mullenix had enough time to plan to shoot and
discuss his idea with a fellow officers. And ultimately,
disregard his superior’s order and of course,
we don’t even look at motivation. And what’s astounding there is,
it turned out that Officer Mullenix had been known not to showing enough
initiative as a police officer. After shooting Mr. Leija those six times, he said to his supervisor,
was that proactive enough for you? So the motivations there were not
necessarily about purely good policing, but showing his metal,
his toughness as an officer. The officer was held immune. I find that looking at these cases,
these stories, with these tragic details that
the words of Ta-Nejisi Coates are quite prescient and apt here in terms of
describing, that police departments do indeed have an incredible amount
of power over people’s bodies. And they will not be held responsible
even it’s an overreaction, even if it comes from misunderstanding, and even in
many cases, if it emanates from a policy. So what to do? Part of what I take some comfort in is
the fact that we are talking about these issues. That can sometimes seem a little trite. But the reality is,
these events aren’t new, but it is because of activism, it is because
of cell phone cameras, that we know. And there are efforts underfoot
to change policies and practices. There are, to a certain extent,
police practices are so localized, they are very similar but there’s 18,000
police departments in the United States. So there are incredible
ways to change them. There are also some good
practices going on, and these departments need
to learn from one another. They need to learn to deescalate, to not
use all of that unfettered discretion. They need to adopt many of these reforms. Look, you can join
the San Francisco Police Department, and there are efforts and
attempts to reform. San Francisco Police Department
has changed their policy. They used to have a policy where
you could shoot a fleeing car. The law allows for that, but
San Francisco Police Department, to their credit, has elected not to do so. Now, I will say, the leading San Francisco Police
Department union opposes that decision. But I believe lives are saved
as a result of that. In addition to deescalation,
we need more prosecutors of color. It’s astounding, 95% of elected prosecutors
throughout the country are white. Just 1% of elected prosecutors in this
entire country are minority women. And to think who is holding The power. The composition of
the Supreme Court matters. Justice Sotomayor has been championed for
her empathy. She’s the only member of the court who’s ever really had any
trial court experience. She was a prosecutor in New York City,
she was a trial judge. These others who sit there
were generally appellate judges who don’t know the day to day,
who haven’t been stopped by the police. There need to be countless
other changes in the law, that I’m happy to discuss both with
professor Magee and with all of you. But I just wanna close on the note, That
police brutality we have to see undermines the legitimacy of law enforcement and
the criminal justice system. And so we owe it, we owe it to police,
we owe it to our community, we owe it to our country,
to try and fix and reclaim that promise that was just
hinted at after reconstruction. Thank you, thank you very much.>>[APPLAUSE]>>Before we move to the final component of the program, the Q and A with all
of you, we’re gonna have a brief conversation between Avi and Rhonda Magee
a member of the USF Law School faculty. Professor Magee is a teacher
of mindfulness based stress reduction interventions for
lawyers and law students, and works on minimizing social
identity based bias. A full time faculty
member at USF since 1998, a full professor since 2004, she’s been
named Dean’s Circle research scholar. Served as co-director of the University
Center for Teaching Excellence. The co-facilitator of the Ignation Faculty
Forum Faculty Development Program. She teaches torts,
race law and policy, and courses in contemplative and
mindful law and law practice. She’s trained and
a highly practiced facilitator, with an emphasis on mindful communication. Trained through programs at
the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine’s Oasis Teacher
Training Institute and the Stanford Graduate School of
Business facilitator training program. In April 2015 she was named a fellow
of the Mind and Life Institute. Please join me for Avi returning and
Professor Magee coming up on stage.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>So we’ll have about a 15 to 20 minutes
of discussion between them, and then we’ll have time for
Q and A with all of you.>>[SOUND] [COUGH] So
thank you so much, Aaron. Thank you Avi, for that presentation. And thanks to all of you for being here. I do want to take the prerogative
of being a law professor who also engages in mindfulness and
teaches mindfulness and compassion practices to just invite
a kind of pause with what we just heard. Because I would say for myself, Avi, just listening to that
presentation was in and of itself, Just shy of traumatizing,
very, very, very hard to hear. How many of you in this room found it difficult to hear what was just presented? Yeah, so if we can take a moment
to just really check in and notice what is alive in you right now, because we really do want this to be
a conversation that includes your voices. But we really want it to
be a deep conversation, one that’s coming from the truth that
you know in your body, in your bones, about what Avi was talking about. How all of our communities
are impacted by it. How this isn’t other people’s issues,
really. These issues are really
affecting all of us. All of us. Not in the same ways. So if we can just pause. Since into. Again, What do you know already about the underlying
dynamics that drive us? What’s driving us? Because if we’re ever going to transform,
and I’m gonna use that word as opposed to reform, I’m gonna be highly
aspirational, we gotta change this. If we’re ever gonna do it,
we’re going to need real talk, Courage, courage, courage from the heart. A kind of public facing love I’ll call it. We gotta give a damn about each other,
in a way that we sort of haven’t. Cuz we couldn’t have this if we
really cared about each other. So again, just pause, allow the truth of
what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what you know, to arise. And be a kind of deep ground for whatever
you share, your comments, your questions. A deep ground, a deep ground,
a deep ground. I teach courses dealing with race and
law, and have for almost 20 years, right across the street. And, Looking closely at how it is that the law has he
played a role in constructing a society where inequality is very real. And at the same time been turned
toward again, and again, and again by those of us who would seek to
break the chains of oppression, right. So this kind of dual role of law,
perpetrator of oppression, and also where we turn to for some hope, is what I sit with. And I sit with law students
in small seminars where we look at how it is that the legal system
has, [COUGH] since the founding. Then I would say guilty
of making race relevant, constructing the ideas we have that we’re racially different and separate. Seeing it in the lives of
Native American people, right. Johnson versus McIntosh,
the famous case that rationalized the taking of the property from
Native Americans like the Ohlone, whose consecrated and
lived in this space before we were here. Right, so we look in the classes that
I teach across differently racialized groups, not only African Americans. But how did Native American dispossession
get rationalized under the law? How did Asian American othering become
just a consistent theme of American history from the early days
of Asian American migration, immigration to this country? Asian exclusion laws, immigration laws. Center. Of course, with slavery, of course with the taking of this land
from the Mexican-American people, right? The conquest. So there are, and
then up right, through 17th and 18th, and 19th centuries,
up through the 20th, to today. This has long and deep history of
racialized oppression in the society, and so we look at what’s
happening in the particular spaces where we see criminal injustice
over policing, police violence and the law that kind of
maintains all of that. It is built upon a long and deep
history that we don’t sit with enough, we don’t talk about it enough,
we don’t teach it very openly. So when I hear you, my heart is heavy. I should say I was born and
raised in North Carolina, and Virginia, so in the south. I went to school at the University of
Virginia, forever I say undergraduate, Master’s degree,
law degree in Charlottesville. Is there anybody in the room who doesn’t
know what is happening in Charlottesville? Is happening I say, because although
in August we saw that demonstration, KKK and other white nationalists, other white supremacists
descending upon Charlottesville. They stayed. It wasn’t just that incident. They were back again
a couple of weeks ago, beat up a Black man in Charlottesville,
who then later got charged. He was a victim of the assault under
some quirky, crazy Virginia law, he ended up being charged, the Black man. People are still scratching their heads, trying to figure out how that happened,
but it happened. So When we think particularly about, the issues of race, and
how it is that our legal system immunizes police,
justifies police violence. Makes it really,
really hard to bring a lawsuit, demoralize people from even trying. I can’t not hear this from there,
like I can’t. Am I the only one that understands that
what we’re talking about and here and now is grounded in a very, very deep
under acknowledged, unredeemed history. It’s so caught up in saying
well we didn’t do that. That was the past, right? Whatever my ancestors and
forefathers did that wasn’t me. I’m not responsible. It’s an unredeemed history. So I really look at what is happening
here and ask these kinds of hard questions about how do we not just
reform and transform the system? And I know I’m not alone in this, I’m
sure in your both aspirational moments, you might think about these things. But I say Michelle Alexander, the author of the book that many
of you probably are familiar with. The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration
in the Age of Color Blindness. If you haven’t read that book, and
you’re interested in these issues, you probably will want to. But, Her book was profound,
and beautiful, and impactful. And there have been many profound,
and beautiful, and impactful books, and writing, such as yours,
that people are reading, and learning. Learning things that you never
believe would be happening in America. And they keep happening. And another books gets written. This book, recently out called,
Chokehold, by Law Professor Paul Butler. There is a new book by Matt Taibbi
really described what happened to Eric Garner who died of
a choke hold in New York city. Right?
Paul Butler’s book Chokehold, is really, and I have to say I haven’t finished
reading it but from what I’ve read so far, he’s really trying to get us to see
that these are not isolated incidents, that there is a pattern. And that the system isn’t really broken. It’s working just as it
was kind of intended to, to keep certain populations
really rendered nonentities, not effective in this society. And so when you have one or
two break out, let’s say a Barack and a Michelle Obama all hell
breaks out in response. Because the system is not
meant to allow for that, literally you all know
what I’m talking about. In response to the ascension and
the successful Presidency of Barack Obama being successful for
First Lady reign of Michelle Obama. Everything that has happened in response
is not unrelated to this particular topic that we’re gonna see. And this is all very
painful to sort of look at. Michelle Alexander,
in her book, again, used and detailed how in the days following
the ending of post civil rights movement, they call it the second
reconstruction in the 60s. When there were opportunities now for
some kind of transformation, and new opportunities such that
people like me could be here. As opposed to being more or less in a shared proper house community
rules in North Carolina which was the role that my grandmother had played in North
Carolina up through the years of my birth. She was basically doing the work that
would’ve been relegated to her in a slave society, up through the early 60s and
mid 70s. My own parents were barely
able to complete high school. Systematically rendered
unable to really compete, comes the civil rights movement,
opportunities are opened up for people like me, to actually go to college,
to actually prove my capacity for being. Identify me as gifted, and worthy in
the ways that our society will do for a small select group of people. And yet fast forward to today, kind of
a backlash against all of the policies, all of the struggle that maybe your
parents and some of you in this room helped to create all the of the change
that helped to make it possible for the two of us to be here. Such a backlash. And I think Paul Butler, Michelle
Alexander, other authors who look at the criminal justice system see the role
of the criminal justice system as pretty crucial and central to the efforts
to in a color blind way, at least on its face maintains a system
of subordination of people of color. And so I think it’s very interesting to me that
Michelle Alexander has actually left law. She might be back but she left law
with a very [inaudible] effect that she was leaving being a law
professor a few years ago. Where did she go? Anybody know?>>LA.>>What’s that?>>LA.>>Well, she went to seminary.>>She went to seminary, she left law so she could get engaged with
these deeper questions. So I’m staying in law, but insisting that we need to have a deeper
kind of spiritual conversation. A conversation that might touch hearts and
minds, in a different way. Paul Butler in his book Chokehold
also says, we need more than reform. We need transformation. So these. These times call for a discourse that
does ground itself in the beautiful, detailed research and analysis that
we were just privileged to hear. But it doesn’t stop there,
because we can analyze the depth. We can get the statistics,
Jennifer Eberhardt, a kind of genius, award-winning, African American
social psychologist based in Stanford whose done a lot of
research to show how the mind works, and how unconscious bias works on us. So for example, we start showing that
when people hear statistics about disproportionality or
crime against African Americans, some part of a good percentage of whites get more
conservative when they hear those things. Even people who don’t believe themself
to be biased suddenly are less open, and what is that? What is that? What is that? That is what I think
we need to figure out. Because there’s some kind of way in which
this problem is bigger than our rationale. It has to get us thinking about who
we are in a fundamental way and who we are together. In a way that our forefathers didn’t
conceive of when they fought against the siege, right? So this is what I mean, this is what I hope our conversation
will at least in some ways comprehend. [INAUDIBLE] questions.>>No, absolutely. Your words were beautiful and illuminating
as well, and they got me to think, we’re giving quite
a promotion to Paul Butler. So in Chokehold he talks
a lot also about just of course how pervasive it is in our culture. So in some sense, what we see in policing, what we see it in the law
is a reflection of culture. And he talks quite movingly
of the dehumanization, particularly folks and men of color. Of course, from slavery and then he notes very famously the film
King Kong has been deprived, really a violent image of the black man,
of the threat. And he quite potently brings
you through history and shows, I don’t know what magazine it is, but
an image of LeBron James holding. I apologize,
I forget the name of the actor. But a young white actor, sort of an essence he carried it as
a recreation of the King Kong image. And then some of these things
seem on their face fairly benign. It’s in a magazine. It’s promoting this incredibly
successful basketball player. And yet in a subtle manner it continues
this pervasive idea and thinking. And so I think the wrongness
is a reflection of that. I know we were speaking a little
bit before and discussing also how, I think,
some of these legal practices they do now, even if they originate in
sometimes some very, I think, what is clearly racist places,
they end up affecting all of us. In the sense, of course, in which we are
all, and need to be, at least in a very transformative and integrated sense,
all one community, one people. But also the practices that are applied,
perhaps, in one poor, high-rise, low-income area, will ultimately play
out in other areas, and they do spread. So what might first seem to be something,
it’s just happening to those people. The police are just doing that. Will be employed,
will be played out, throughout. And we will all be feeling those
horrible effects of a police state.>>Can you say a little bit more
about how whites, Are implicated? In other words, I don’t mean to
suggest only about bias, but the different ways that living with this
structures white experience as well. Is this a question that makes some sense? Because when we talk about this
often we’re saying black people, people of color, here’s the distance. How are these realities constructing
white experience opportunity? The line is what’s going on with
whites when all of this is happening? And this is a part of
the question that comes. This is a question that
comes out from you. I’m curious to get your thoughts and
others.>>Yeah, yeah, well,
I think certainly an additional one and I’m thinking about the Jennifer-
>>Eberhardt.>>Eberhardt studies is,
of course, it solidifies, I think, people’s view that there are certain
people who are criminals. There are certain people
who are law-abiding. And of course, there are statistics
out there that reflect that actually society is pretty equally law-abiding,
and and law-breaking across all of
these different ethnicities. But it reinforces an idea,
it reinforces an image. If you drive through a low-income poor
neighborhood, you are going to see a larger police presence,
which may even be there, ostensibly, or at least in some departments,
some of those truly wanna stop crime. But again, there is a selective
enforcement, and I quote Butler. If I was to go look, if you were, this
is less of an issue in California, but if in certain police departments,
certain jurisdictions, if you wanted to criminalize marijuana. Well, if you wanted to get
a lot of people arrested for marijuana you’d go to a college campus,
right? That’s the best place to arrest
a lot of people for pot. But that’s not what police do, right? They go, as he noted historically, they would go to these low income poorer
areas and arrest people for that. And so it reinforces that image,
that idea which I think is pernicious, and wrong, and one that people live by. It can be self-congratulatory and
deliver themselves.>>So it has that social psychological
impact that helps maintain bias. But it also has, I think,
material implications right here, right? So certain combinations overburden
actually and psychologically, but in spirit the consequences of
constantly being targeted, and constantly being made to
feel less valued by society. You’re literally more vulnerable in a way
that we can just, here’s the system and just keep going. Then it can as we are struggling
with just trying to maintain and feel whole and healthy, often taking
out our frustrations on each other. It can mean greater opportunities for
whites generally. I’m reminded of a gender theorist who
was recently talking about the fate of sex harassment lawsuits that we’re
all kinda paying attention to. So to intersect a little bit with
the gender issues that we’re also in terms of ongoing cultural pressure. An observation was made that we often
talk about the number of women who are assaulted, right, the number of women
who suffer from some sort of harassment. We don’t talk about white male,
or white, or male experience like let’s say,
as being constructed by them as well. So men are, on one hand perpetrating,
and we’re not naming that. We’re saying women are being assaulted,
as if it’s just happening. But on the other hand,
their lives are materially benefited by the fact that women are somehow
crowded out of different industries. This deciding to not pursue opportunities because they don’t want to
be victimized in those ways. So I think that reverse, that recognizing
that whenever we are talking about one dimension of experience,
we’re always implicitly also inviting ourselves to think about,
what’s happening on the reverse? And how is that again all part
of what we’re swimming in? Our inability to name that there is not
only oppression that pushes people down, that oppression has a kind
of balancing effect for people who are not being targeted. I’ll say I was, actually it happened
to me presenting along with, at a conference with Dan Jones. And one of the things he mentioned was
When he was a law student at Yale, there was a lot of cocaine and
drug use at Yale. And yet, instead of going to Yale to kind
of look for perpetrators that were going around the corners of the black
community and constantly policing there. We all have stories, someone that we know,
that drug use, for example, is pervasive. And yet again the way we police targets
and makes some people more vulnerable. So that does in fact have the consequence
of both pressing one side, but really making some others freer. And that I think is what
we need to reckon with. We have to somehow get whites and
others who are not as persecuted under the current system,
really to get in a conversation about how we all become more courageous
about disrupting the system. And so
I know we wanna open it up to Q&A as well. I don’t know how long we were talking for.>>We have about 20 minutes. If someone has a question,
I’m gonna bring the mic back. Anyone have a question
that they’d like to ask? Yeah.>>Hi, thank you both,
my name is Ketah McBride, and I am a political theorist here. And this conversation made me,
I was reading Tuckville this afternoon, then there was this beautiful quote
from him where he talked about the particular power that
operates in modern democracies. And when he says it’s really soft,
and not coercive, and so it kinda lures us into normalizing,
and then not seeing it. And what he said though was but when it
does have to operate really brutally, it always operates on very
select group of people right? It of course Tuckville is very aware of
the racial dynamics of American politics. But so I had to think about that. In terms of the really differentiated
relationships with power and how particular forms of power
are invisible to different people. But I actually have a much
more concrete question for you which is, more and more people. I live in Oakland. I hear a lot about police abolition. And it seems to me you could take your
talk and your response and say, see? This shows we just have
to eliminate the police. So have you guys gotten to that point
where you endorse police abolition?>>Before you asked your question I was
thinking of throwing one more thing in. I guess in some ways I was making somewhat
of a response and I don’t think I have, and in part I think one of
the tragic aspects of where we are, and how racialized it is. Is that I think for
many people of color, and particularly poor people of color,
but I think people of color, the idea that they cannot like the police,
that they cannot want to call the police. That they cannot feel positively about
the police is the real, is a real tragedy. I represented a boy once in Newark who, he wanted to be a police officer growing
up until the reason I represented him. It was an absolute,
outright racial profiling incident, where they threw him on the ground,
swore at him, and treated him violently. And told him he had no fucking grievance,
and he was lucky, because he had done nothing. Needless to say, he never wanted
to be a police officer after that, he’d been deprived of that. I don’t know, I think there’s
enough in our society, sadly, that we do need protection. There is criminality and so I don’t know
that I’ve given up on police as a whole. I do think there needs to be,
not just radical reform, but as Rhonda says, transformation. But I will grant you that, as I work within the system very much, I recognize that we
need to work without so I haven’t gotten there yet, but I can have great symphathy for that.>>I would say that, again it’s very
hard for me at this point to isolated out policing from the rest of our whole
society, that’s a little bit crazy, right. So when we talk about do we
gotta do away with police, it’s, hold everything else constant. It feels like one of
the things we’re dealing with. And Ta-Nehisi Coates, and
others have pointed this out. Is that we now turn to the police for absolutely every darn thing right? We are not investing in
our education system, and therefore when people are truants, or
not feeling inspired to go to school, that’s okay we’ll send the cops out. Mental health problems. We’re not investing in making ensuring
that there’s adequate mental health services for all, that’s okay,
that’s what the cop said. It is absolutely incredible
how much we are putting in the purview of sort of policing
because of the ways that our communities are just not richly
supporting people in distress. And so the police are finding
themselves called in schools. Public schools,
are being over-policed, right. We were talking about a story
that I learned just a few weeks ago about a young African American
gifted child in Richmond, Virginia who found himself
about to be handcuffed and prosecuted for assault after a friend
of his, a white male friend. This is an African American child, the
white male friend just kinda grabbed him and they’re playing a game
of who laughs first. The person laughs first
is the one who loses. And the kid, his friend grabs him by
the shoulders and is throwing him around. My African American young friend is 13
now, he was 11 when this happened, Elijah. He happens to just throw his elbow
inadvertently into his friend’s belly. He immediately realizes
he might have hurt him. So he turns around and tries to help him. The kid is okay in the school. What happens the very next day? Cops show up at the school. Apparently the young man,
his friend, has gone home and told his parents what
happened to him that day. And the police have showed up to his
fifth grade class to arrest him. Again, he is one of two gifted kids,
African American kids in the School for the Gifted. That’s a whole another resegregation
problem we could talk about, shouldn’t be that way. But so here he was,
in this situation of some kind of skewed demographic scenario,
not good for anybody’s education. But he’s doing the best he can, and some
of the police are about to put him on that school to prison pipeline that
we’ve been talking about. The good news of this is he is this
beautiful gifted child who ends up going to the city council, and
getting policy changed so that cops are not going into school and arresting fifth-graders in Richmond and
Henrico County, Virginia, anymore. But it’s happening all over the country,
it happens in Florida. There’s a kindergartener, you can look
it up on YouTube, who was arrested, handcuffs. African-American girl, because she was
having a bad day in kindergarten, and what does that mean to you? The role that police are playing in
our societies and our communities, especially with communities that
are not privileged, all right. I live in a fairly privileged
San Francisco community, so I’m not as victimized as I know my brothers and
sisters who are poor are more vulnerable. Police are coming in and really I’m
not playing a very good role, but it’s partly again because the rest of our
society has given up on so many of us. So it’s hard for me to answer the
question, should we abolish the police? And I think we need to reinvigorate
common humanity, common good, in a sense that we are really all in this together,
democracy doesn’t work otherwise. And we have to take care
of the release the beast, I use just some a little language here. I mean, we don’t do that. I mean, just targeting police, I think, we’re gonna find ourselves
suffering the same kinds of ills.>>Any other questions?>>Yeah.>>So I was wondering,
when these racial police brutality situations tend to escalate. Is it so often at like traffic stops,
like routine traffic stops. Why that instance,
specifically, does it become so much more dangerous for people of color?>>May I? I think, it begins with the stop, so
I mean, I focus on the car because I mean, so often, that’s where more
obvious infractions occur. But it happens in pedestrian stops,
as well. But it’s in that confrontation
that I think everything is so fraught and
where you have a situation that escalates. I mean, to the extent that
police are stopping someone, did they have some sort
of objection in mind? An objective in mind. So they believe, or
at the very least under some pretext they believe that people had
done something wrong. And so they are ready to take away
someone’s liberty, and I think, we have seen at least is that, for
awhile now, it’s well documented. Police have been taught and trained
with sort of what is known as a warrior mindset really speaks to mindfulness. I mean, if you want to take
sort of a fascinating detour to promote YouTube again,
look at police recruitment videos. Go home and do something, I think there’s
still one in Englewood California, it looks horrible, violent video game. And so, what are you telling the officers
that you’re going to come to them, right? And there are thankfully other departments
that are promoting, recruiting and trying to employ de-escalation techniques,
and one has been sometimes debated
a better form of community. But that warrior mindset teaches
your first job as a police officer is to come home alive. You’re going into a war zone. It’s like that sign at that police
precinct that I mentioned in Cleveland. And I think that they
begin with that mindset. That they’re about to stop someone and
they are on edge. They believe that that
person is a threat to them. They begin with that presumption. It’s not a surprise. That leads to this violence. And then you look at
these studies of bias and prejudices that people
bring to those encounters. And then is there often in some cases
people who question the suspect and then the victim’s reaction to individuals
overreact to a police officer? Yes, to be sure they do,
but understandably. I, lucky in my life for a variety of
factors, not the least of which is my race, and my wealth, have not been
stopped by the police that much. But I’m tense when I’m
stopped by the police. I’m resentful, I’m angry, particularly if
I believe I haven’t done anything wrong, I’m scared. I experience all of those things. I can’t imagine if I’d been stopped
52 times and treated disrespectfully. And I can see the veins
pulsing on the officers. So it begins with that encounter. I think it’s all the things
that Rhonda related to. So it’s that encounter,
that encounter that’s just so dangerous, that idea that there
are kids who are taught. There’s been a lot of talk now. People call it the Ferguson effect. So some people have suggested, certain,
I think the police have suggested that all of this attention from cell phone videos,
and all of this stuff is really bad. And it is deterring police
from doing their job, right? They’re scared about bad publicity,
so it’s leading to, the statistics are debatable, it’s led to
an increase in violence, and in crime. So, even if we accept that argument. But there is, I think, a very fascinating, alternative explanation
that the scholar has known. Which is actually
the people of these poor, urban communities who have been
oppressed by the police, and admittedly, defaced by the [INAUDIBLE],
are scared to call the police. The idea that that was
the consequence of this. And so to the question about
whether we should abolish police. I mean, that’s also a tragedy, right? That to the extent you feel threatened
by someone who is a criminal that you won’t call the police, because of what the
police will do to them, will do to you. Is an abomination in our society.>>And just to add a little,
there’s a gender thing going on as well. Devon Carbado was also mentioned before,
a law professor from UCLA has written, and others have, about some of the particular
gender dynamics that show. Especially if it’s African American male,
and male any other race or even another African American male. All kinds of notions are brought
into that encounter that have to do with a broader crisis in masculinity, which is probably why the police
are acting the way they’re acting anyway. And we all know in the sex harassment and
sex assault. Rising consciousness,
it’s something some people realize. There’s a broader crisis in
terms of how men are living and constructing their own identities. That’s also part of this. Again, and that doesn’t happen in
isolation of race and culture and privilege, right? So everybody’s particular way
of being constructed as a man in the society is in there, and when
those two constructions come together, it’s a highly volatile,
potentially volatile situation. And so that’s for when it’s male on male,
but male on female! So there’s a lot going on in
each of these encounters, that is part of why the compound and
[inaudible] compounds. But the training part and the fact
that police are tending to be trained through the broken windows theory to just,
as a quota matter, just arrest a numbers of people and then target
certain communities to get those numbers. And then you know, feel supported that they can keep
going after the same kinds of people. Because they need the numbers. This means that no matter
what your racial background, you’re brought into that system. You’re gonna be now part of that system. So just diversifying cops isn’t
going to make a difference. Although it matters to some degree to have
women and people of color on all sides of the badges, as well as in the system
of prosecution and adjudication. We do need people from all
different backgrounds, but a lot of evidence shows that the mere
factor of diversification doesn’t mean you have different viewpoints, you really
have to really work at the viewpoint and the embedded cultural
dynamics wanna change things.>>Maybe one final question. Just put it between the [INAUDIBLE].>>Two questions, any two.>>Two questions.>>[LAUGH]
>>So I just kinda wanna play
devil’s advocate here. And often when we talk about
issues of police brutality, people bring up civilian homicide rates. So, I mean what’s the best way to talk about
the distinction between state sanctioned violence and civilian-
>>You mean black on black crimes in particular?>>Right, black on black crime, white on
white crime, whatever you wanna call it. White people kill about the same number
black people do in their own communities. Statistically it’s about
the same across the board but I keep wondering where this
6,000 number comes from. Any time I’m in a conversation
with somebody who is a descender to this issue,
it’s 6,000 black on black. The homicide rate for
black people is 6,000 black people. I’m like,
where is that number coming from? I don’t get it.>>And the other one.>>My question is,
given that we need to go deeper, as mother has said several times, and that you’re trained in mindfulness,
compassion, resources. Are you aware of any trainings or resources that are going
to police departments, and doing this work, and
how could some of us get involved in that?>>I’ll start with the first one. I’m not aware of specifically
the 6,000 number you’re referring to. I do think in some ways I
think in your question, it sounds like you actually
have a very good answer too, which is I do think always the distinction
of state sanctioned violence versus civilian on civilian violence
is of paramount importance. That our country,
that our government of laws not of men as the rhetoric goes is demand equal
protection to people that resist on due process before liberty and
life can be taken away from someone. It is they are not comparable. When we talk about excessive force
that’s the death penalty, right. Where I come from in terms of my adamant
opposition to the death penalty is that I don’t believe that we are perfect. And maybe other reasons for
my opposition, but that is certainly one one of them, right? That we are not perfect,
we are not infallible, we can kill an innocent person. And so it is that same notion that state
sanctioned violence can be employed, and do it in such an inaccurately and
unjustifiable fashion, is not defensible under any circumstances. And so regardless of the statistics that
can be shown of violent propensities, or higher crime rates,
it doesn’t justify them. I read that the conversation will
arise is, where are your priorities? Sometimes will be the, well, more deaths, I guess I’ve heard this argument,
it’s coming from within this community. So you should look inward, right. Don’t blame the police,
don’t discourage the police. And absolutely, we do, we all do. We need to stop violence, so the senseless
that you described everywhere, we do need to. My abolition might begin with the Second
Amendment, but that’s my own sentiment. But again, I think when you’re talking
about state-sanctioned violence, it is of a different piece and
it cannot be tolerated. And that is brought as a criminal act
first and foremost against those people. We talked about an act of criminality. It is the state that should be
prosecuting it because it is viewed as a crime against all of us. The death between one civilian and
another is a tragedy. But I don’t believe it calls on the same
collective will and denunciation.>>I totally agree with that. I think it’s rule of law question versus
sort of community tragedy question. How invested are we in this idea that
we are a nation of laws not of man, and what does that mean for
those who are sanctioned to use violence with immunity with full force and
support of the government. So we really have to realize those
are false equivalences that people are bringing. Yes, we’ve got two dead bodies, but
to have a person to be murdered, or killed, or justifiably by the state is
a particular kind of a moral wrong. It is a moral wrong that makes us all more
vulnerable, and renders our protestations of having a higher system than others,
other governments, null and void. It really just opens us up to the kind of
degradation of the entire system that, Is supposed to be there,
to kind of enfold everything else. And respond, yes,
to the community violence. If we’re having the state officials
actually exercise unjustifiable violence, then where do you turn when you
need help with community violence? So you have to have a sense of that being
a kind of singular kind of wrong that we all need to make sure doesn’t happen. Even as we try to work on the other kinds
of violence that we’re all suffering from and vulnerable to. And just on this question,
I’ll just gonna say that yes, I’m actually part of
an organization of transforming justice where we have trained judges,
prosecutors, defense counsel of police
in practices of mindfulness that are about creating
the capacity to see a bit more. And to create a cause between reaction and
response so that some other alternative, de-escalation, or asking for the kinds
of support you need to do your job well. And that means as an officer,
time off when you’re actually overwhelmed, and mental health service as an officer. So there are many of us in law,
who actually are working to deliver services and to create a conversation
between police and community that is infused with a kind of sense that
we really are suffering together. So you can look up this organization
transformingjustice.org. If you don’t mind contributing things,
we need some funds, but the bottom line is we’re really trying. And we brought together members. For example,
we all met at a gathering where you had wardens in the prison system. You had people who were convicts,
and you had prosecutors. You had people representing every
aspect of the criminal justice system, sitting together and talking about what
is wrong without pointing fingers in a situation where we
felt safe to just say, we’re trying to figure what’s wrong
with this system out, figure that out. And so our organization tries to create
spaces where people come together without agendas really, but first to sort of
look clearly at the problems we have as opposed to looking at
it from opposite sides. And from there to try to
figure out how to respond. So people in the prison system actually
stealthily bringing compassion practices inside the prisons. Training their own wardens in human
dignity and respect for prisoners. So it’s slower. I say to do this kind of work is to
have a vision of a responsibility tied to the past, and a commitment to carrying
the fruits of which we won’t see. This is long-term work,
we have to change and transform. It means we are not gonna live
necessarily to see, hopefully you will, your children will. But the commitment has to be
about changing who we are and how we respond to those who do harm,
how we care, right, in a way that goes beyond our
traditional circles of concern. And keeps expanding and keeps expanding. That I think is our only hope, and I think problems are dire enough
not just from the justice. We’ve got existential threats,
nuclear war, climate change. If we can’t figure out how to reknit the
bonds of human connection and kindness. Actually, I’m sorry to say, I don’t think we’re gonna be on this
planet working on this very long. So I think it’s urgent enough that we have
to be thinking about this in new ways. And I appreciate the question.>>Thank you.>>Thank you both.>>[APPLAUSE]
>>Thank you.

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