The Real News Town Hall Pt. 4: Should the Community Control the Police?
In the final part of the series, host Marc Steiner asks the all-important question: Where do we go from here? Baltimore community members give their insight.
MARC STEINER, HOST: Welcome back to The Real News Town Hall. In the first half of the program, we discussed a model review board for Baltimore. What would it look like?
Now we want to discuss how we can get there, how we achieve that. This is the part of our program where we really want to hear from our audience members, let–turn this over you to find out what you think, where we should go. So let’s do that, ’cause we really do have to organize in this city if we’re going to be serious about where we’re going in Baltimore.
MAJ. NEILL FRANKLIN, MARYLAND STATE POLICE (RET.): We’re talking about two different boards.
STEINER: How can I say no, Neil? Quick distinction. A quick distinction. Go ahead.
FRANKLIN: Quick distinction. A review board is not a governing board. I think what we should strive for first is a governing board to take the power away from City Hall and let the citizens and that governing board design the police department in the way it should be. And–.
ALOK MUKHERJEE, CHAIR, TORONTO POLICE SERVICES BOARD: So, very quickly, to follow up on that,–
STEINER: Alok, go ahead.
MUKHERJEE: –our board is a management and oversight board that is the employer, policymaker, priority setter, all of that. We have especially a special investigations unit, which is provincial, that deals with police use of force. [crosstalk]
FRANKLIN: Right. What’s key is policy and management first,–
MUKHERJEE: Policy and management. And finance. Yeah.
FRANKLIN: –and then you work it from the top down.
UNIDENTIFIED: That’s good.
STEINER: So–and how it effective is that in Toronto?
MUKHERJEE: Well, I mean, I made a point about policy versus operation. In order for policy to be effective, it has to be implemented. And what we’re having difficulty with the racial profiling policy is policy says we must define public safety purpose. Chief says that’s an operational matter; you cannot. Policy says our policing must be rights-based, that you, police officer, must tell the individual you are meeting, interacting with, that they have the right not to answer your question and have the right not to remain. Chief says that’s operational. Policies say you should not use carding as a productivity measure. You made that point, that you do not profile people and fill in cards as a measure of productivity. Is that operational or not? Those are the issues that we’re having disagreement with, and that’s where policy runs into difficulty.
PAUL JAY: Can I add one thing to this?
FRANKLIN: We can learn from you.
JAY: Can I just add one point to this? ‘Cause–
STEINER: Paul Jay.
JAY: –I’m in Baltimore now, and my kids were born here, but I’m from Toronto originally.
On paper, this may be the best legislation in North America. If there isn’t a mass movement, if the community isn’t organized, Alok and a few of the people on his board are all out there on their own against the union, against– they’re not renewing the contract with the police chief, but he’s still there. He’s fighting. And they’re–of course, there’s a whole right-wing media in Toronto. So it does not stop the war. It’s an important tool, it’s an important weapon, if you have it. But it’s only a weapon if the people wield it. Otherwise, they’re out on their own.
MUKHERJEE: So next week, Wednesday, we have a special public board meeting, where the community is coming down in large numbers to support and demand that these things remain in the policy and be implemented.
UNIDENTIFIED: That’s good.
STEINER: So let me get to some people over here who have not spoken yet [incompr.] dying to kind of hear–and the idea is here–I’m going to get to you, too, Jess–ideas here about how we organize this, how do you build this, what do we need to come next. And then we’ll start here and then go way over here to the corner.
KIM HUMPHREY, EDUCATION AND LEGISLATIVE ADVOCATE, ACLU: You do need policy and you need implementation, but you have to have the grassroots. So his point about getting organized and staying organized: you have to show up in Annapolis. When people like the ACLU who are able to get the ear don’t have the support of the community, we can’t get anything done. So I don’t know.
I call on the community groups at the grassroots level to really hold the feet to the fire, get people organized, get the students involved that are dealing with this every day, so that we can really make a change. I think that’s the best way to do it. And the issues in Ferguson and things of that nature, we shouldn’t have to wait till someone’s laying dead in the street every time to take action, because we hear this stuff every day.
And lot of people are empathetic and they see that we have these boards that don’t get anything done. So it’s really a challenge for all of us here in this room to find a way to make this real and show people that when they come out–it doesn’t even have to be at the poll. But when they show up to get a piece of legislation done, that it actually changes things.
STEINER: So there’s a challenge here to make that happen. And you have the mic next in the back. So how do you make that happen?
SONNY JONES, BALTIMORE CITY RESIDENT: I tell everybody and anybody who knows me will tell you that I start off by saying that I’m a street warrior. And I want to say that I want to say ditto to everything that Mr. Love (he kind of stole my thunder on that a little bit). So ditto to that, brother.
But here’s where I hold people accountable. As a black man in Belair-Edison, I make it my personal responsibility to get out and walk my neighborhood, all parts of it, top, bottom, left, right. And I meet these young men, whether they have a gun in their waist or drugs in their pocket, and I tell them one simple thing: I love you.
UNIDENTIFIED: Say that.
UNIDENTIFIED: Say that.
JONES: One simple thing: I love you.
So, to be real brief, everything is interdependent and interrelated. So we not only need to have the Civilian Review Board, we not only need to have the body cameras; we need a law to prohibit racial profiling, modeled after Ben Cardin’s SB 1670. Me and brother Neill Franklin went to war with the City Council on that two years ago. And I’m going to be frank about this: if we had not been swept under the rug, there are people in this room that would not have been attacked, and there are people in this room that would not have lost their loved ones.
STEINER: So let me ask this question, let me ask this question before I go back up here to the legislator here with us and some of the lawyers. Is that viable? Can that happen?
JILL CARTER, MARYLAND STATE DELEGATE: A lot–well, actually, in Maryland we have anti-racial profiling laws, and we actually have a policy in place, if it’s not–it may need to be–you know, not–you know, I think it’s sunsetted, the initial report racial profiling, or it’s about to. So we already have the law in place. I don’t think that we can make a law that would prohibit racism unless there’s accountability.
And then, finally, I just want to say while we’re on that subject that it is about legislation and organizing people. There’s a big disconnect between where laws are made where people have the problems. And that was in Baltimore. And that’s always a heavy lift. And when you talk about the [union being around yourself, (?)] when you’re a legislator sponsoring legislation to bring accountability and fairness and justice regarding policing, all of those same organizations are against you. And when the people aren’t there to support it, it doesn’t happen, which h is in part why we’re bringing Annapolis to Baltimore Saturday to start beginning this organization process so that we’re prepared this session to go to Annapolis to change the Civilian Review Board or governing board and to change the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, among other things.
STEINER: So, following up on what we just said here, this is one of the questions. I just heard what–we heard what Jill said, Delegate Carter said. And the question is, we just had this election where the voters who came out before in Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Baltimore City, came out by, again, a third less. And people came out, I think, I posit, not because they don’t care; it’s because they’re sick of what they see around them and don’t find a reason to come out. So the question I have for you in the community is: what do we do in the community to energize that force to make a change, whether it’s voting or some other way, that they do come out? That’s the question I have for you all. How does that happen to get the civilian review board or anything else we want to get done in terms of controlling what’s happening in our community?
I promise [incompr.] boom, boom. Go.
CAPRI SHORTER, BALTIMORE CITY RESIDENT: Good evening, everyone. My name is Capri Shorter. I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland.
One thing that I think that we’re all dancing around that seems to be always ignored is mental health. Racism is a mental health issue. And so we’ve briefly addressed the roots of policing and oppression and slavery, and all of those things are rooted in mental health issues as well.
So I think that one thing as far as–I’m sorry, Marc–but to go back to organizing the Civilian Review Board, it needs to be addressing mental health. And that needs to be something that’s happening more in the community as well, to go back to what the young lady from ConneXion said also: addressing mental health with the youth.
STEINER: Alok, you wanted to respond to that?
MUKHERJEE: Just very quickly. Mental health constitutes 30 percent of the workload of the Toronto Police Service. It’s the biggest caseload. And we knew we were not doing well.
What I did was to form a mental health committee, which includes people from the committee, as well as survivors and consumers, people who suffer from mental health themselves. So the Police Service, the police board, and the community working together to come up with solutions, that has been such an empowering process for us, that we have taken guidance and lead from the community to decide what we need to do. I just wanted to throw that out in the conversation about community taking control.
STEINER: So let me move on to the woman in the blue.
STEINER: And focusing where we are about organizing. How are we going to get where we want to be? Go ahead.
QIARA BUTLER, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Hi. I’m Qiara Butler. I’m a cousin of Tyrone West.
We have created a West Coalition. This coalition has forefronted a list of demands where we’ve actually asked for legislative changes and changes in the community that can be implemented in a way where we can actually see the change in the short-term kind of framework. At a meeting with NAN, a civilian review board person who actually sits on the review board stated that any time they bring something to the commissioner, he denies it. They’ve said this. I don’t know why this isn’t being addressed and I don’t know why anyone is dancing around the fact that we have legislation in place where when people aren’t doing things for the community, things can happen.
STEINER: I want to get back to the question of how we energize the community, the things we’ve just heard. How do we energize the community? I said you could go next. You can speak to that. And then I have to give it to this side of the room then get come back to that side of the room, and then we’re going to come back to some of the folks in the center, so we can wrap up how we’re going to do this and what comes next and what Real News wants to do about it as well.
TRAVIS: You make the politicians–you know, the people have to believe. If they’re going to sit there and vote for somebody, then the politician [incompr.] the people need–the politicians need to do what they say they’re going to do on paper.
STEINER: I want to get to where we go from here. Do you have a thought about that? That’s what I want to hear. Then we’ll come over here and over here.
MARCUS DENT, BALTIMORE CITY RESIDENT AND COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Lietenant Colonel Russell gave us a charge about 18 months, 24 months ago, and he charged everyone in the community to take back the community. With that charge was a three-part charge. Number one, you actually have one community leader. Number two, you have a clergy member. Number three, you have a community police officer assigned to your sector. You’re responsible for your sector, you’re responsible for going around and building a relationship between your beat cop and between those folks standing on a corner, those folks starting storefronts, those children that are in and out of the schools. So those police officers, be they new, old, from Pennsylvania, or from West Baltimore, they know you, they know your face, and they have a relationship with you. And over the last 18 to 24 months, that has been a groundswell of what we’ve been doing at East Baltimore. We’re trying to get this citywide.
STEINER: So–but let me ask this question. What I really want to–and I think that’s important. I think we all think that’s important. That how do we–sometimes what we always end up doing is we always end up looking at the authorities to help us figure out what to do. The question is: what do we do? What do we do? What does the community do is the question we want to talk about.
BROTHER ELLSWORTH JOHNSON-BEY, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, FRATERNAL ORDER OF X-OFFENDERS: How you talk about organize our problem we’re always dealing–dealing with the hierarchy, top-down. You build relationships with our at-risk children. You invest in them, ’cause each one of them know ten people. You take ten people that know ten people, you’ve got 100 people who’ve been boxed out for real. The sister talked about it. The process is about mission goals, objectives, short-term, mid-term, long-term goals, people up on things [when they’re in on (?)]. Our problem in this city: we deal with the hierarchies that don’t change nothing. All of these pathologies are industry.
The lady talked about the children that are not here. They need to be involved. They ain’t trying to hear about civil rights. We have a personal investment in it. You can’t help nobody unless you love them [incompr.] a lot of rhetoric. Get the ordinary /dʒɑdʒu/ citizens involved, invest in them, and then take leadership.
STEINER: The young woman in the back.
OLU BUTTERFLY WOODS, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER: Hi. My name is Olu Butterfly Woods. And I have been doing youth development work for over 13 years. And I want to say that I admire brothers like Dayvon Love who not just have the passion for policy but the patience. And I have dabbled–I consider myself a community leader, and I have dabbled in council meetings, and I don’t really have the stomach for it. And I know that. And I’m saying that because they are, to me, designed to be hostile to the community. That word is so misused. And I’m of that naive mind that the community includes homeless people, it includes young people that are committing crimes. They are the community as well. They are citizens.
And so, you know, just in terms of spaces that–I know this young lady, she represents a whole large group of young people that want to get involved. They care about their communities. So in terms of having people that have teeth or maybe we’re seeing– we’re going to stop inviting them because they are–. I don’t know. But they have my tax dollars, so we need to find a way to get them in the room with real representation, not–to have spaces.
So how can we get those people to be in the room and these spaces that have teeth and are not hostile to not feel–.
STEINER: So just–I have very little time left. Adam come in, and then I’m going to probably go here and here. And I need to get to Faraji to talk about a project that he needs throughout here about something that could be happening in Baltimore as well. So, Adam, very quickly, then we’ll go over here to this young man here.
ADAM JACKSON, LEADERS OF A BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE: When we talk about–just like Olu said, we talk about these things, about, like, transforming systems and how to transform the conditions of our community, but we don’t actually believe in it. In Baltimore, we’re talking about Baltimore to Ferguson. We should have all been in the streets marching for Tyrone West when he was shot by the cops. How can we–we can organize mass marches and mass demonstrations for people who are not from our community, people who are black, who we should feel love for, but we can organize mass marches and demonstrations and political agendas for people who are not from Baltimore. But we’re going to–where we can politically posture in front of each other. And in Baltimore City, we can–we’re not even being specific to the people who are actually hurting our community [incompr.] for Martin O’Malley, for example. He, between 1999 and 2006, illegally arrested over 757,000 black people in Baltimore, and our elected officials did virtually nothing about it.
And the thing is, we need to actually energize the people in our community. I work with young people every day who say, what can we do to make a transformative political change? And I don’t want to tell them, go run for office, ’cause I don’t believe in the political system. I don’t want to tell them to go to the streets and protest, because that’s a finite political process. You go out and you protest and you go home. What we need to be doing is to actually teach young people to transform political systems in this country, especially in Baltimore, and to look at the people specifically and the specific policies and practices that are causing these problems.
I get tired of political rhetoric. I’m 26 years old. I did debate. I heard enough political rhetoric my entire life. I’m not really interested in it. What I’m interested in is training young people to grow up, become the political leaders, people like Dayvon, who ran in 2011, when he was running for City Council; people like Delegate Jill Carter, who worked with us to help stop a youth jail, who worked with us to pass a law in 2013 to stop–that directly addressed police brutality with Christopher’s law. These are things that we’re doing in our community right now with young people.
But people aren’t paying attention and people are not actually interested in authentic community engagement. If people are interested, they need to stop talking, get interested, and get involved, and show up instead of talking around the issue.
STEINER: Right here. Young man in the black.
DAYVON EVERETT DUNN, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER: My name’s Dayvon Everett-Dunn. I’m the outreach coordinator for [Out For (?)] Justice, which is an ex-offenders-led organization. And our organization, we basically do the empowerment, in reference to what the young–what the gentleman was stating right there. We’re of course bringing liaison work with the politicians, Mr. Dent, many other things we’ve done, with Ban the Box and things like that. A lot of the kids are trying to get involved. But, again, we’re locked out. That’s why we–we have organizations out here. I worked with the West family. I’ve worked with–myself, all the–Dayvon, all the grassroot–we’re working. It’s y’all not with us. I mean, I’m not faking at y’all. I ain’t going to fake with you. Like, I’m not going to fake. I know Dayvon. He knows me. Ms. Tawanda knows me. We don’t know y’all.
So I really think that–I mean, not to be funny, take the suits off, we feed the homeless Sunday at Fayette and Front Street. We [can cook some (?)] barbecue throughout the whole city, from the top of North Avenue all the way down. So, I mean, just come on and get on the ride, take your clothes off, and now come on down with us.
STEINER: Alright. Let me go back to Faraji Muhammad.
ABDUL SALAAM, BALTIMORE RESIDENT AND COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: I just wanted to jump in briefly, if I can, and say that we as the West Coalition, we are trying to energize. And one of the ways we–we’re holding people in our direct communities accountable. You have to pay attention to the people’s conversation. When you start to bring these type of topics up, they say, I’m good; I’m just worried about me and mines. You know what? I’m challenging my young folks that I work with and my adults and say, you know what? That’s not what a man does. You haven’t completed your mission of being a man until you’re invested in your community.
FARAJII MUHAMMAD, HOST OF LISTEN UP!, WEAA 88.9 FM: Yeah, real quick I just want to put it out there that again–
STEINER: And introduce yourself, Farajii.
MUHAMMAD: –as we’ve been hearing, if we don’t put the focus on the next generation–you know, we’ve having an opportunity with the American Friends Service Committee to go into schools. We’re at ConneXions. We’re building relationships in the Gilmor Homes community. We’re going in and we’re talking to those who are highly affected about all of these issues.
But, again, it’s about building relationships with folks. And we have to be the ones, those who are in positions of influence or those who have access to resources, we have to be doing that.
So what we’re doing for the American Friends Service Committee–one of the things–is that we’re organizing a day of action on Dr. King’s birthday next year, January 15, which is a Thursday. We’ll be coming out together, and as a day of action, we’re asking for the end to police brutality and militarization. But along with that, we’re going to have a demonstration, a rally, and a protest in an earlier part of the day. But at the second half of the day, we’re going to have a tribunal. And that’s going to give us an opportunity to hear from sisters like Tawanda and others who have been victims. We were in ConneXions today, and, I mean, the stories from the students about their experiences being in the police is horrendous. And, I mean, those are the stories that we should be hearing, and we should be supporting those families.
The big thing that I saw from my experience with ConneXions today is that as much as we’re having this conversation, they wouldn’t even know we’re having this conversation. They couldn’t even tell you about it. They’re just learning about Mike Brown. They’re just learning about the struggle for social justice and why they need to be involved. That’s a different part of the conversation. We can’t make an assumption that the next generation already know, because there was a breakdown between the generation of 50 years ago and the generation of today. And while we were trying to get that money, integrating all of those things, something that lost in the transition, and essentially our community that we see today is the end result of that breakdown.
So if you want to get more information, if you want to help us organize for this national day of action that’s happening in eight to ten cities across the country, please see me later on. Thank you.
STEINER: I want to turn to Paul Jay, whose organization is hosting this thing this evening, Real News Network, and say that we in the media do have a role here, just to answer what you were saying. Tawanda and at least 30, 40 people in this room have been on our programs to tell this message to the larger community, which is, whatever role the media has to play, it doesn’t play it, but our alternative media, whether it’s The Marc Steiner Show or The Real News Network or Faraji Muhammad’s show on WEAA, where I am also, that’s our role is to get people out and get the story out so people can hear it and get galvanized, which is why this is going to be heard by this city and in the nation on The Real News Network, but it’ll be broadcast on our program on WEAA this Friday for two hours so people can hear the voices that they do not hear ’cause the media does not want the community to hear the voices that are in this room. But [incompr.] take it from here. I–and turn it over to Paul Jay for a moment. Paul.
JAY: Well, I’ll just pick up on what you said. Local television news is the most watched news across the country and, as far as we know, in Baltimore. But local television news is based on an advertising model. And so if you’re selling ads, who are you selling ads to? The 63 percent of Baltimore City whose median income is $40,000? Or this 820,000 people that live in the county whose median income is $66,000? So you’re selling your ads to white people who are making 60 and more. So if you look at all the local news networks, the on-air personalities are 75 percent white in a city that’s 63 percent black. So they don’t want to take up these issues from the kinds of points of view we’ve heard tonight. They turn tragedy into infotainment. They’re not trying to dig into what are effective solutions.
So our mission at The Real News is we want to beat Fox, NBC, CBS, we want to become the mass media for Baltimore so when this happens, it’s thousands of people that see it. We’re going to be on Comcast.
We’re going to have an hour show five nights a week on Channel 190, starting in January. And our most–one of the most important things we’re going to do is redefine what’s news and who’s a newsmaker. So what you’re doing on the 15th is news. You getting organized in the community is news. We’re going to–’cause that’s–what’s news? Real news is is what it changes. What they’re calling news is the same thing every damn night with a new wrinkle and another face. So news is what will change the community. And I think if we can break through in Baltimore, we can break through in other cities like Baltimore. So, I mean, Marc’s been a big help. If you work with us to make The Real News the mass media of Baltimore, thousands and tens of thousand people get in on this conversation. And then, when you organize, the reverberation of that organizing will be citywide and even statewide.
STEINER: Grab this.
So I want to thank all of you for being here tonight. This has been a very powerful conversation we’ve had in this community with people from all through this community. So [incompr.] tonight. I’m Marc Steiner. I’d like to thank all of our guests in the audience, members for being part of this incredible discussion. It cannot stop here. It has to continue between one another at The Real News, on the Steiner Show, in the community, out on the streets, to make people hear what they say. We have got people in here, we’ve got the suits in here, we’ve got the nonsuits in here, we’ve got the police in here and the community here to talk about it’s time to build a movement for change. And I want to thank you all for coming to this Real News town meeting. Thank you all so much.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.