Baltimore residents, lawyers, police and activists gather to discuss and debate what to do about police brutality in their city
MARC STEINER, HOST: Welcome to The Real News Town Hall. I’m Marc Steiner, your host for this evening, and also host of The Marc Steiner Show on WEAA FM.
Today we’re going to discuss police brutality and asking this important question: should the Baltimore community control the police? And what does that mean?
With me to discuss this are our esteemed panel all around us and experts in our audience. We have folks from all over the city, from all walks of life–community activists, police officers, elected officials–here to join us to wrestle with this deeply, deeply important question that faces our communities. And I want to welcome you all.
STEINER: Now, before we get to these issues, let’s first take a look at the question of the Police Department’s record of abuse in our city. And reporting for Real News is Jessica Desvarieux, who walks us through some of these offenses. Take a look.
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: The city of Baltimore is no stranger to police brutality. Here in this video captured back in June, you can see a Baltimore police officer punching resident Kollin Truss in the face after an exchange of words between the two men. This is just one incident out of a series of cases of police brutality.
POLICE OFFICER: Where are you from?
DESVARIEUX: In this video, a minor skateboarder at the inner harbor was wrestled to the ground by a police officer.
POLICE OFFICER: Sit down!
UNIDENTIFIED: Dude, I’m–.
POLICE OFFICER: Sit down! I’m not a dude!
UNIDENTIFIED: I’m calling my mom.
DESVARIEUX: Over the past three years, the city of Baltimore doled out more than $5.7 million in compensation to victims of police brutality and abuse. Out of the more than 100 cases settled, a recent Baltimore Sun investigation found that many of those having run-ins with police were not your stereotypical troublemakers.
MARK PUENTE, JOURNALIST, THE BALTIMORE SUN: They weren’t men or women on the corner selling drugs. They weren’t people breaking into houses or having a gunfight. Eighty-seven-year-old lady calls the police because her grandson was shot. A pregnant accountant calls because she witnessed a beating. So you’ve really got to wonder: are those cases not being reported if something happens to those folks?
DESVARIEUX: Public reports of such events are practically nonexistent. A clause in the city settlement agreements bars injured individuals from making public statements about their cases. Some currently fighting the city have dared to speak out, like the family of Tyrone West, and unarmed 44-year-old Baltimore resident who died while in police custody last year. Police say he died of health issues exacerbated by dehydration and very high heat, while West family maintains that he was beaten to death by officers. The city prosecutor says that no police officer will be charged in relation to the incident.
TAWANDA JONES, SISTER OF TYRONE WEST: On that day, he was going to give a friend a ride, and it should not result to him being brutally kicked, stomped, tased, maced by ten police officers. And as far as his past, he did his time. Let’s stay focused on July 18, when he was driving and for no reason he was brutally murdered with witnesses, eyewitness accounts, who saw and could contest to him being brutally murdered.
DESVARIEUX: Even officers themselves have admitted to there being a culture of police brutality within the force.
EFREN EDWARDS, BALTIMORE POLICE DETECTIVE: I recognize and I would be a liar if I were to sit here tonight and tell you that there are those on the Police Department who should not wear a service weapon, a badge, and the patch that I wear. I stand here tonight and I tell you that I wear my uniform with pride. I’m from Baltimore. I have–my family is still here in Baltimore. I have a host of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins who live in Baltimore. And I educate them about certain officers in their area, because I trained them.
DESVARIEUX: Murder, verbal assault, and physical abuse, all by the heads of those committed to serve and protect, which at the end of the day begs the question, what is at the root of police brutality?
MAJ. NEILL FRANKLIN, MARYLAND STATE POLICE (RET.): Even when you look at some of our police departments, we have many police departments in this country that have a high number of black police officers in it. Baltimore is one of them. Okay? We even have black leadership. But we still have those problems. We still have those problems.
So it also deals with the policies that we put in place under which these police officers operate. And when I say policies, I’m not just talking about the internal policies and workings of the Police Department and the culture; I’m talking about the laws that we have them in force, such as our drug laws. It continues the problem.
FIRE ANGELOU, SPOKEN-WORD ARTIST AND ACTIVIST: people will say, I don’t see color. Well, look in a prison if you are feeling colorblind, that out of the millions of people in prison, more than half are people of color, ’cause as a nation led by Ronald Reagan, we chose incarceration instead of rehabilitation. Health issues are never addressed in the institution, because the institution itself is a health issue. A retired police chief told The New York Times he was offered tanks, bazookas, and anything else he wanted. The Pentagon developed monetary incentives to ensure military practices on common people, so that your mother, your brother, your sister, your aunts, your uncle are all public enemy number one.
But when was the last time a SWAT team was in the suburb, threw a grenade in a mansion without probable cause? The only difference is race, because statistically, blacks and whites use and sell drugs at similar rates, but blacks just lack the private space. So the outdoor market is more accessible to arrest. Police target us because it is easy, because we are already on the corner and criminalized. And what we call the hood is the aftermath of a battlefield. But I dare you to put a blue light in a white man’s house, Bloomberg, his neighborhood, stop and frisk his sons and daughters, make them spread-eagle [until he wants to (?)] get your eagle every year? Billions of dollars sustains the prison-industrial complex. They will spend more money imprisoning us than feeding us. It is not about the prison time, it’s about the prison label, because felon is an alternative word for slave. And what has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society and more to do with the language we use to justify it.
So I refuse consent. You can bring your dog, and even your firing squad. I am tired of an American dream being shattered with shackles. I will not identify how many of our leaders must die before we decide that not next year, five years, ten years, or a century from now, but now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now is the only time structure we will ever believe in. So we are all just prisoners incarcerated in the belief that we have time to make change happen. But I will never sit and hope for change. I will spend every day fighting for it, because as long as the system of white supremacy thrives, slavery will never die.
STEINER: So let’s begin by kind of looking at what might be at the root of this abuse and where it comes from on a bunch of different levels and whether it’s inherent in just policing or something deeper, what’s in our society.
I want to turn to Neill Franklin first. Neill Franklin is sitting here in the front row. Let me introduce him for a moment. Neill Franklin was a police officer for over 30 years, in the Maryland State Police, where he was an officer, then came to Baltimore, where he ran a training center in Baltimore City for the police for four years. And now he’s executive director of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. And Neill has seen it from many ends and led one of the most famous drug raids ever to take place on the block in the history of Baltimore when he was a commander in the Maryland State Police.
So with that introduction, just to get a sense of who you are and why you’re saying what you’re saying, let’s talk about the roots of that. When you talk about training, when you talk about what’s inside the Police Department, what you’ve seen, how do you perceive where this abuse comes from inside the police, and why?
FRANKLIN: Well, I would really like to talk about the history of police in general in this country, but–.
STEINER: Start wherever you like, Neil.
FRANKLIN: I don’t know if we have that much time, because the police in this country have been used to deal with certain populations of people, period. Go all the way back to slavery. The police have been an instrument to suppress the black community, to oppress the black community. And I don’t think policing has ever escaped from that. And I know–hopefully, there will be some others here to talk some more about that history.
But as we come forward, system after system after system is put in place. And the most recent system that has been put in place is the drug war, is the prohibition of drugs. It’s a health issue, it’s an educational issue that we’re trying to solve through criminal justice. It’s not about health. When Richard Nixon started the war on drugs, it wasn’t really about health. It was about the black community and having a system, a process, something in place to deal with the blacks while not appearing to be really what it is.
Now, the police have been hoodwinked, too. Don’t get me wrong. There are police officers that should not wear the badge, just like the officer said on the video. Absolutely. But we have been handcuffed because we have to enforce these policies. We don’t dare enforce these policies in Roland Park, okay, because of the political capital, because of the finance, resources that they have, because of the attorneys, and so on and so forth. The black community, you can do anything you want.
And, unfortunately, policing today is about numbers.
UNIDENTIFIED: That’s for sure.
FRANKLIN: It’s about numbers. And where can you get those numbers with the least resistance, the least amount of pushback? Within the black community.
One of the things I want to make sure that we do here tonight is not talk about just individual pieces that we want to attack. But this has to be resolved holistically. So the systems that are put in place, as I just mentioned, yes, the police officers that should not be wearing a badge, yes, civilian review boards that have power and subpoena power, and we should be, the community should be policing the police ourselves [crosstalk]
STEINER: But let me jump in for a moment. Kenneth Butler, I’m glad you are here as well. President of Vanguard Justice Society, right?
LT. KENNETH BUTLER, PRESIDENT, VANGUARD JUSTICE SOCIETY: Yes.
STEINER: And active in the FOP as well,–
STEINER: The Fraternal Order of Police. I guess one of the questions that people have–and I just want to start it here, and I’d like to see what people say in response to all this–is that people in Baltimore City and many cities around the country feel abused. They feel disrespected when pulled over by the police and stopped. I’m going to call on somebody to give a story here in a moment that just happened to him a few weeks ago that I know about when he was driving his car. And why is that? What does that come from? Is it the training? Is it a question of the power that police have in our community and how they have to use it, that distrust of anybody, even if you are black, who is black, that’s being stopped?
BUTLER: I think it’s a lack of training. I would also like to–in reference to what the chief said, was when I was a kid, policing was about–it wasn’t about numbers. It was about you knew Officer Friendly and it was about the cops could knock on your door because–.
UNIDENTIFIED: And be invited.
BUTLER: And be invited.
BUTLER: Absolutely. And today, with it being a numbers game, you have a lot of officers, they just have to get numbers.
STEINER: What you mean they have to get numbers? What does that mean?
BUTLER: They have to get a certain amount of arrests. They have to get a certain amount of car stops. They have to get a certain amount of tickets.
But when I was a kid, it was not like that.
STEINER: But–so I’m going to go to Kim Trueheart and then I’m going to go to Eddie Conway.
And, Kim, and I’m going to you now because–before I go to Eddie–both of you are lifelong Baltimore residents. You grew up in this town, both of you. And I hear what you’re saying, and I think there is that sense that time existed. But when you were young and I was young, there was a story of the Veney brothers in Baltimore City in 1964, and in 1942 there was the Broadus case, and many cases in between. There was no drug war taking place. This was in the black community. When the Veney brothers committed the crime they committed, police went in every door in the black community in Baltimore on the West side, kicked down doors, through people down, beat people up, arrested people. It became the hallmark of that moment. So I’m just–what I’m saying is, from what the two of you just said, that’s why I’m trying to probe here, is it something deeper than the drug war? Is it something deeper than something that’s just happening in this era?
KIM TRUEHEART: Probably something deeper. And the political climate is such that we have to be oppressed in order for somebody to be wealthier in this nation than we are. And so the oppressor has instituted policies, laws, regulations that will ensure that we remain oppressed. And the police are the arm, the tool that they use for that oppression. And so as long as the police are authorized by the political system to oppress us, then we do feel like we’re victimized. And our children get victimized, our young people get victimized, just trying to engage in everyday life around the city. And, unfortunately, it’s a numbers game. It’s about money. That’s absolutely what it’s about, money.
STEINER: In ten words or less, what you mean, “money”?
TRUEHEART: Well, the rich need to get richer. You know? But we want to a hearing Monday where BGE is asking for another rate increase. You know? And how do you do that?
STEINER: So, Eddie, I’ll let you jump in on this as well. Eddie [incompr.] [is already mic’d (?)]. Eddie.
EDDIE CONWAY: Yeah. Well, I would say it’s been my experience when I was growing up in East Baltimore in the black community, almost every weekend–Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday nights–there would be incidents between the residents and the police. So I think it’s more than just the lack of training; it’s a them-against-us kind of situation, that once you have an incident unity, then it has to be suppressed. And they come in and they suppress it with force. And I’m talking 45 years ago. By not having real representation in the City Council and in other places, there was no flak, there was nobody to answer to, unlike Roland Park or Pimlico or other areas in which there would be an outcry and a response. Our outcries were never met with any satisfaction in terms of relief. So it’s more than training; it’s a mental attitude that it’s like war. It’s a mental attitude that causes a reaction against any incident in the community.
STEINER: So the question about whether police feel like they’re in a war constantly. Is that the footing police are on? Is that what’s in police mindset? Is that how the community sees the police? Is that part of what happens when you were young patrolmen getting out of your car?
LT. COL. MELVIN RUSSELL, CHIEF OF COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP DIV., BPD: No, I don’t think that’s what’s happening. I agree with the chief. I agree with Kenny. It is a training issue, I think it’s a supervision issue also, but most importantly I think it’s a cultural understanding issue.
UNIDENTIFIED: Or lack thereof.
RUSSELL: Or lack thereof. Baltimorian, like my brothers and everyone who spoke before me, Baltimore, and has–grew up in Baltimore. When I became a police officer, no one had to teach me to be abusive or not to be abusive. I knew not to be abusive. I understood my people. I understood the culture. And so you could go back–and I know a lot of great cops. There are some bad cops, but I know a lot of great cops. And you can go back to their files and the archives of their workforce and you will find that no one had to teach them how to be community police officers. When we came up, just like Kenny was saying, we spoke to everybody. We knew everybody. We didn’t abuse anybody. Yeah, there was times you had a scuffle and you had to get into it, right, but when it was over, it was over. Cuffs went on,and when they went on, fighting stopped.
STEINER: But let me just push a little bit on this.
STEINER: And I hear what you’re saying. And I just–just to be clear, my nephew is a cop.
RUSSELL: God bless him. I’m praying for him.
STEINER: I have police who were my students I’m still very close to who have grown up. And so I know police. They were all around my house as a kid because they would use my house as a watering hole. So I’ve known them for a long time. You know, they came here to go take a piss and they came to have a cup of coffee and go back on patrol. So, I mean, I’ve known them–.
RUSSELL: Say that again. Say that again. Were you in the business? Or you had just–just a resident, right?
STEINER: Just residents. But that was–but then, I was in a–.
RUSSELL: That’s key. That’s key.
STEINER: But this was a white house.
RUSSELL: Well, there were black neighborhoods that did that too.
STEINER: But–so the question is–I hear what you’re saying, but I want to get to what’s under this. Why is it that when police stop people in this city, there are too many cases of people being pulled out of their cars, disrespected–.
UNIDENTIFIED: I thought I addressed that, Marc.
FRANKLIN: It’s a combination of everything. It’s the cultural underflow that has never been dealt with because we keep dumping system on a proper system. It’s a training issue, okay? It’s a supervision issue. It’s all of those things that we’ve never been able to properly deal with because of what’s being asked of these police officers and what these systems do to our young people on the street.
STEINER: So let me do this. I’ll get a microphone over here to D. Watkins for one minute, who’s there in the corner. When [incompr.] go to the man next door. And you were about to say something when J. Wyndal–.
J. WYNDAL GORDON, ATTORNEY: Yeah. I–you know, another big part of the puzzle is the lack of accountability, not only from those in departments. It’s [in fact about that, (?)] but there’s also a lack of accountability in the actual judicial system. I’ve had cases–I remember Dwight Pettit had represented a gentlemen where a judge actually apologized for having to sentence this man. It was a white gentlemen. And it was dealing with the voter suppression, black voter suppression. I can’t remember the gentleman’s name who you represented, but I was there for sentencing, because I was interested–.
DWIGHT PETTIT, ATTORNEY: Schurick?
GORDON: Schurick. I was interested to see what type of sentence he was going to get. The judge said, I’m sorry I have to do this to you.
And so you have situations like that. You have police officers who will tell a lie on the stand and the judge knows, finds your client not guilty for it. And I had that case happen to one of my clients. The judge said, I’m sorry, officer, but there’s plenty of evidence. I’m going to have to find this client not guilty. So you have situations like this that’s not only pervasive in the police department, but you also have these attitudes that pervade the judicial system. And just doing it with the police department is not enough, that there needs to be reform in the entire criminal justice system.
STEINER: I think that’s true. And I just want to give this quick story to talk, and then we’ll [incompr.] jump in here. I’m going to call on D. Watkins.
D. Watkins is a young man who grew up on the East Side who’s now becoming one of our region’s and nation’s leading young authors and has written some incredible work. But when we were together the other night, D., you told me a story about you getting stopped.
D. WATKINS: Yeah. And I just want to say that it’s not a training issue and it’s not a supervision issue. It’s a humanity issue. When I’m in East Baltimore, when I’m down the hill, when I’m over at Latrobe housing projects, anywhere in East Baltimore in general, there’s no love. I’ve never heard a police officer say the word love. So many cops who I encountered, they don’t police the neighborhoods with love. They don’t believe in the citizens, they have no connection to the citizens, and they don’t care about them. So it’s easy for this guy to pound on this guy’s face, it’s easy for all that stuff that goes down with cops like Mike /fra?/ and Daniel /’h?r?u/ and all the ones who [incompr.] in the Baltimore Sun, it’s easy for them to operate, because they don’t love the people at police. They don’t care at all. So that’s the first thing.
But–or even just to continue with that, I was telling Marc about one incident when I was pulled over, but that’s just one incident. I’ve been pulled over so many times for so many stupid reasons. And I’m not a reckless driver at all. Like, I never go over the speed limit. I always wear a seatbelt. I’m scared to speed because I’m just not that guy. I’m not a guy who drives fast. I’m a guy who drives slow. So it’s easy for you to stop a person if you don’t care about them. It’s easy for you to to throw their day off. You know, I’ve told cops plenty of times, look, I’m a college professor, I’m a teacher, I’m not a person that’s making all types of wild, crazy money. With the small amount of money I make, I’d pay your salary. So this is a service. You know what I mean? Like, and it’s kind of hard for me to talk to some of the cops who I talk to about–.
STEINER: I just want to get some other folks in here, but finish your thought.
WATKINS: Okay. It’s hard for me to talk to a police officer who’s telling me that they honor their badge and they love their badge and they’re proud of wearing their badge when they know of all the things that go on and they don’t do anything about it.
STEINER: So let me go over here first, because I want to get some more women’s voices of this conversation. So–and get back to the police as well.
Let me go to Jill. Let me hear Jill and Tawanda very quickly say something before we come back [to some guests up here (?)] and come back to the police officers. Jill, Jill Carter, Delegate Jill Carter.
JILL CARTER, MD STATE DELEGATE: Well, I agree with just about everything that’s been said. I too was born in Baltimore and grew up in Baltimore, and I’ve seen a cultural change in policing from the time I was young until now. And it is that I believe that we’ve allowed–it is a humanity issue, but we’ve allowed the public perception to be changed, the perception of our society to be changed, such that black people, poor people, are not deemed human, have no human value in the eyes of the law. And that is the problem. That’s the fundamental problem. It’s an education in training, but–and a little bit’s been said. I could talk all day about this, but in terms of policy, that’s where leadership comes, and that’s where it’s incumbent upon those in political office, the leader of the city, the leader of the state to make it clear that the policy is there will be no brutality. The policy is, from the commissioner down to the lowest-level officer up, that in every individual district, Sergeant, if there’s brutality, you’re responsible for that; Major, you’re responsible for that; so that we don’t have incidents where there’s not only officers that execute brutality, but those that remain in silence and do nothing about it. It should be clear that there are repercussions for all of that. And that’s the way we change it. And then, finally,–.
JEROME BIVENS, ATTORNEY: I have to jump in, ’cause I agree wholeheartedly, but it’s got to be instant accountability. It’s got to be right there, immediate, on the spot. We’ve seen several incidents within the last six, seven, eight months where police have committed heinous acts and nothing happens to them until we all see the elevator video.
UNIDENTIFIED: No, something happens to them: they get promoted.
UNIDENTIFIED: That’s true.
BIVENS: That’s exactly right.
UNIDENTIFIED: That’s right.
BIVENS: They get promoted. They get promoted.
UNIDENTIFIED: Well, you know, that’s where the law is–.
BIVENS: And I think Delegate Carter is right. It’s got to be instant. And the police, as well as the citizens, need to know–when I was little and I got in trouble, I was punished instantly. My mother and father didn’t wait for the video. Oh, well, let’s wait to see what the video said. They took immediate action. You know, the Police Department–and I didn’t mean to cut you off, but the Police Department, they–I don’t know what these officers think, but I feel that they think that they can do what they want to do. And the citizens have lost confidence.
STEINER: I want to get back to the officers [crosstalk]
RUSSELL: Let me just–Marc, let me just speak to that. The reason it’s not instant–and for anybody who’s been watching news the last couple of weeks, couple of months, you know that we have a police commissioner that’s frustrated with that component where he can’t have immediate action. And the thing that’s in place that–listen, nothing none of us are at fault here for putting this in place–I think goes back–and you attorneys that are here, you know way better than I do. Nineteen seventy-one or something, the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights,–
UNIDENTIFIED: [crosstalk] seventy-four.
RUSSELL: –that handcuffs you, so you can’t have that instant.
UNIDENTIFIED: I would disagree.
RUSSELL: It’s not that we don’t want it–.
UNIDENTIFIED: I would disagree.
STEINER: Well, let me raise this question before [crosstalk]
CARTER: Well, let me just say this.
UNIDENTIFIED: Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
CARTER: You know, when we talk about accountability, it is the laws.
STEINER: Well, we have to do this one at a time [crosstalk]
CARTER: It’s the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, but it’s also, when you talk about immediate action, it’s knowing that whoever’s on patrol there, whoever’s in supervision, as someone said, that person will take immediate action, that it won’t be tolerated. So it’s both. It’s laws, but also what happens and it is the policies in the department and the supervision. And so I think you have to have both. And and that’s where we come in.
STEINER: Just let me just ask just a quick question here about the question of nothing can be done and in terms of what we looked at just immediately. There’s nothing in the law that I see that says that the state’s attorney can’t take immediate action if he or she sees it taking place. She doesn’t have to wait for a grand jury, he doesn’t have to wait for a grand jury, they don’t have to wait for all–they can do the same thing they do to any other citizen who breaks the law. And the police commissioner can do things internally–by suspending somebody with pay, taking their gun away, putting them on leave–until that–and so something happens. And that doesn’t seem to happen ever in our world. I mean, you can do something. The Police Bill of Rights is there for–we’ll get to that in a moment, but, I mean,–.
BUTLER: Well, I would disagree, because me being a lieutenant, and I’ll say the situation where–you just showed, with the guy–.
STEINER: The officer who was punching the man?
BUTLER: Yes. Yes. Now, if I’m the lieutenant on that scene and I see this, first of all, we’re not trained like that. Okay? Now, with that, me being a lieutenant, I have the authority to suspend that officer right there.
Now, some of that authority has been taken away from us. For what reason we do not know.
STEINER: Taken away from the lieutenant level, you’re saying.
BUTLER: Taken away from the sergeants and the lieutenants. And I have argued this with the commissioner. He has his reasons. And I say, well, sir, I think you’re handcuffing the supervisors to a certain extent, because there were some supervisors who went overboard with suspensions. And so the commissioner had to say, hey, look, some of the suspensions need to slow down. But a situation like that–I mean, and I’m just speaking for me–then I would have suspended that officer on the spot, because we’re not trained like that.
And let me say–let–.
ABDUL SALAAM, BALTIMORE RESIDENT, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: But what about the other ten that witnessed it?
STEINER: Speak into the mic.
SALAAM: Sorry. How about spending the other ten officers that let it happen and did not report it?
BUTLER: Why not?
SALAAM: One second. One second. And I’m speaking to accountability. It’s not a race issue. It’s not a problem of poor. And it’s an accountability issue–
SALAAM: –and transparency issue all around the board. I’m not a Baltimorian. I’m from Newark, New Jersey. But I lived in Baltimore for the last 20 years. And I was assaulted in Baltimore by Baltimore City police. And I say that because I’ve been stopped and frisked since I’ve been ten years old, going through the same type of situations and beating, the same type of situations.
But what I’m speaking to at this point is the accountability piece. If we are not holding ourselves accountable–the civilians too, the civilians too, because this happens to the youth that I work with all the time. They can’t afford an attorney. They can’t afford a Dwight Pettit or a J. Wyndal Gordon to represent them.
STEINER: So I want to go to two men over here, but this young man’s been waiting for a minute. Let me go to him. And then I want to come and address this specific issue with both Ray and Eddie. But go ahead, and then go to Seema.
ELLSWORTH JOHNSON-BEY, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, FRATERNAL ORDER OF X-OFFENDERS: My name’s Brother Bey, and I’m the founder of the Fraternal Order of X-Offenders. I appreciate the dialog, but–.
STEINER: Could you speak up so the whole audience can hear you?
BEY: But after the dialog, there must be reflection, then action. Let me deal with–it is racist issue. You understand what I’m saying? Police departments have a residential criminologist. When they come into the black community, their behavior is [game (?)] for the organization, which is paramilitary, and the officer. When you do the same thing in white folks’ community, it causes the police department and the officer strain. There is no parity in disparities. All you’ve got to do is look at the faces of that 111 people who was compensated. And it’s not beyond police brutality. It’s police corruption. It’s police crime. We keep minimizing.
Let me say what they ain’t telling you about the Fraternal Order of X-Offenders and the Bill of Rights of Police. It was a memorandum of understanding that was signed by the Baltimore City government and the police. They need to take culpability for the things that they are doing. All you got to do–and I appreciate–and I’m going to say this–it is racist, it’s a paramilitary mentality, and it ain’t got nothing to do with whether this is a white officer or black officer.
I grew up under Officer Murdock. He was he was a mentor in Cherry, our community. He invest in us, not with rhetoric, the badge, the gun–you understand me?–in a uniform. He built relationships. It wasn’t no hostageship. We’re held as hostages.
STEINER: So let me–one question here. Let me ask this other question you guys have–it was raised a few times. I think it’s an important issue. I’m going to go to Eddie and let Ray jump in on this as well and look behind me and see who’s trying to talk [incompr.] hands. I got you. Okay.
The issue of poverty. We’ve heard a couple of people say it’s not poverty. But there’s the issue in this country of class and race and where poverty fits into it. If police respond to a call of a disturbance on Roland Avenue or they have to go down to Guilford Avenue further south by Greenmount, we’re going to respond differently. And it has to do with class, and poverty and race as well. Eddie.
CONWAY: Yes, because, I mean, basically, when you look at a Police Department, their primary mission is to protect wealth and property and to protect those people that are wealthy and that own that property. And the reaction in the community is to keep the community completely under control, those people that doesn’t have any wealth and doesn’t have any power. They have to maintain a certain level of control. And now what we’re seeing is there’s no jobs in the community for a large segment of people, so that means that there’s going to be always some sort of sub-economy going on. There’s going to be illegal activity. And that activity has to be controlled, suppressed, and whatnot, so that it doesn’t go to the inner harbor or it doesn’t go to people of power. And so pretty much the mandate is to control. And this, it goes back to what he was saying in terms of slavery. It used to be they were controlling the slave population. And then they became police forces. And in other areas in the North, in the New England states, it was to control the property for the wealth and keep those unemployed or keep anybody else that’s trying to get some of that. You know. So it’s really an issue of protecting the wealth.
STEINER: [I’m going to (?)] Ray Winbush, before we have to kind of take a very quick break and come back and continue.
RAY WINBUSH: You know, we would be really delusional if we were to think that the problem of police brutality is limited to Baltimore. I hope that doesn’t come out and surprise anybody. It’s all of the country. In fact, it’s all of the world. And it’s always people who don’t have color hurting people who do have color. That’s a consistent pattern throughout the nation.
With regard to the training, I mean, I hear what you’re saying, brother, but that’s not it. The officers that choked Eric Garner to death in Long Island this past summer had over 30 years of training. It’s not training. It’s racial. And it’s something that–the denial of racism is one of the biggest problems in policing in this country.
And, see, white people don’t make good minorities. And the reason why–and because they don’t make good minorities, they feel that they have to do something, as Eddie said and as so many other people said, about how do you to control the bodies of African people. That is something since enslavement, and it still persists in our society today.
PAUL JAY, CEO, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: I just want to make one comment. You need to dehumanize the people you want to exploit.
UNIDENTIFIED: Oh, absolutely.
PAUL JAY: So it’s–as you say, it’s a heck of a lot easier to dehumanize people of color. America had a great competitive advantage at its founding: slavery. It was a competitive advantage on the global economy. Now there’s a great competitive advantage, which is black and people of color cheap labor. And how do you have that labor stay cheap? Have high unemployment. I mean, this racism is totally intertwined to the need for–go back to what Kim said: you make a lot of money out of this. And I have a certain kind of a sympathy for individual policeman, because they are working in an institution whose role primarily is to protect people who own stuff from people who don’t.
So just–’cause I’m going to [incompr.] that given that we’re not going to solve that whole thing right away, but given that, when people are suffering immediately from the consequences of this living in brutal conditions and then having a police force that has to be brutal to control that–so there’s also, what can we do to mitigate it now as we keep working on the bigger picture as well.
STEINER: So we have to take a very quick break here. And this is the first part of our program. We want to thank everybody for being part of this program.
When we come back here, we’re going to continue. The question is: what we do about it? Where do we go from here? What changes things? What begins to make any relationship between the community and the police? And how do we get there?
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.