tv After Words Rosa Brooks Tangled Up in Blue CSPAN July 6, 2021 9:54pm-10:53pm EDT
>> she is interviewed by houston police chief about her book "tangled up in blue policing the american city." >> host: thanks for joining us in houston texas. today i am honored and happy to visit with rosa brooks, the author of an interesting book about policing and her experience of policing, "tangled up in blue policing the american city." thank you for being on and for having me. i look forward to the conversation. i've got toe start off with one pressingre question. what in the world made you leave
the confines of the classroom, your home and get trained as a police officer to hit the streets in washington, d.c.? >> if you asked my family that, they would say insanity, some kind of a midlife crisis. but i was curious. that was probably the driving force. when i found out a dc had a reserve officer program where you are not just directing traffic but you can become a swarm armed police officer i thought that's crazy. you're going to give a gun to a law professor. it's partly that. plain curiosity. oand through the other thing tt you know very well it's been in the spotlight for years now. you want to change something, i think you need to understand it and seeing this was a rare opportunity to get insight into the world of policing. >> you remind me when you say
that kind of of my lawyer that handles the employee matters. i said why do you want to come here and she said i want my five oh moment. that was years ago and she's still here is the director. you r recount your expansion frm the inside as a frontline police officer going out to some of the tough neighborhoods and seeing firsthand i think the reality outside of the 24 hour news cycle which is a 32nd to a three-minute bite or hollywood as we know is not the most accurate. but you said you recount your experiences and then you said in many fronts, we need a truly transformative response to policing. how do you define the change that is needed, and what does
that look like to you based on your several years of experience? >> that is a big question. and let me back up i guess by saying when i was working on the book and i would tell people i was working on a book about these experiences and everyone would say what's your argument that is so interesting, but is a one sentence argument and i would say it's complicated. people would say that's the worst pitch i've ever heard. and they were right, that is the worst pitch, but i think it is complicated in some ways the goal of the book is to make things more complicated for people thinking about policing from p the outside. you have seen this over and over there is a kind of whiplash where the underappreciated heroes and it can be really hard to inject into that conversation
more nuanced it says there's good and bad and mixed up together. if we actually want to transform the policing, we need to be grappling with that. so in terms of what would make it better i think part of it as you know the police cannot change the laws by themselves. they cannot change the social context. i think the police get the blame for the problem they didn't create in the context and in a way i think that's when we blame the police for that it is a way for the rest of us not to look in the mirror and say cops are arresting people for trivial sentences and we think that harms the community. we voted for the lawmakers. so it's tough to do that. when you look at the long prison sentences, a lot of that is prosecutors, judges and
lawmakers. t so that's number one. there are some of things cops can't change but as a society that we need to change the massive over criminalization we have seen in the last couple of decades. and the cut and other social services that we might think some of what police they do our things they don't have to do anymore. there are a lot of things the police department need to be doing and one of the difficulties. it's very hard even if there are some that are innovative and promising it is tough to get everybody to pay attention. but to focus on training, who they recruit and happy to talk
about more of that and i'd like to hear more about what's going on. i've had the pleasure through programs with the dc metropolitan police on the police academy to meet some of your staff working on the curriculum in your academy, but that is the discussion that has been a lot of fun. .. >> how can we be diametrically so differentn an hour
perception of critic versus supporter? people failed to see things to the prism of others. we have a very unique perspective because you are a professor and expert on the constitution and what we are supposed to be doing and the intent of our founders the theory and the realities so what word you say? and from that perspective and on the policing side that what are they whining about?
and then they hold to a level of professionalism unexpected how do you address those two from that perspective. >> one thing i have learned is that nobody's mind will ever change is not a very effective way and we live in a political culture of soundbites and slogans into a more nuanced discussion and with policing is almost every issue and then to get people to listen and
from many of the students is not something the far right made up to have that excuse. and then we need to address that. so you can get people with widely varying perspectives? but many people say it's not that we don't want cops in our neighborhoods we went different policing and better policing but it does resonate
with people so cops get defensive when they hear that in the seventh district in washington dc right wa assigned hasas the poorest so if you say to a cop we should defined the police they look at you and say have you seen our station or the vehicle i drive? have you seen my equipment? we don't have enough resources to do what we're doing now if you take that money away, then what? and that is the polite version of the response that defensive angry version. >> . >> we let the viewers imagine the other version. but if you say to cops instead something very different.
that you don't thank you should be doing and then the person will be back out on the street without medication because there are a million things because of how those programs because it goes to a much different healthier conversation what that committee's priorities are and how far are we from them now? and how do we calibrate reinvestment and that is where you have the common ground between police officers themselves and critics of
policing. >> i thank you are spot on. there is a way to talk about issues and what people forget is words matter. when president trump talked about to rough them up to be so kind and gentle or some police officers were clapping but unfortunately but isis focused on i bad actors and has a legitimate function as a danger to society. so one of the things that you
talk about the gardening power but i have been telling folks that unjustified use of force i would argue because what we need is people to have mind over guardian but there are times i'm sure you have witnessed it that you better have the heart of a warrior because i would argue over the years and i'm giving examples we need to make the police academy gentler if we cannot
test your metal would hate to leave somebody out and the officer at the time encounters in with a gun in his hand. and then to assess that kind of mindset and fear in a training environment? if you have an experience and how do we balance it and how should we? >> it's a hard issue. i don't think it is either or.
a retired sheriff in king county washington now run the state law enforcement academy , the program there is a person that wrote the influential article called guardianor warriors and one of the things that i fight was very powerful and important in the law enforcement academy they really beefed up training on de-escalation and global skills and how you just talk to people so you are not shouting and giving orders. because just as nobody ever change their mind when they were stupid or a jerk. people are a lot less likely to do what you say when you sound like you are age are as opposed to being polite or courteous. they beefed up the training on de-escalation skills and then
conceals so you don't create dangers yourself. but at the same time to beef up the defensive tactics and physical skills training. and her argument is a lot of the tragic police shootings it turns out the person did not pose a threat maybe they were running away, people pull out their weapons sometimes in a panic if they don't have confidence they can handle a situation without a gun, then they are more likely to pull out there gun. her area of emphasis is to say you have to be better at those skills so you will have the confidence to get into a situation and not immediately reach for the gun you can handle it is somebody pushes you are punches you but you also need to get better at the
soft skills and then reduce the likelihood that somebody gets aggressive and violent. >> having gone through this experience and this adventure than what was your perception of policing from the outside looking in and how does that perception change and how does it not be reality? >> i don't know my perception changed and my mother typically is the enemy i grew up and blue-collar town where
a lot of my friends had cops and their families i do no caps is just people. and all over the world. and with the atrocities in terrible things that aren't that terrible. even the worst thing and those who have come to believe there are psychopaths but there are others so i thought i am immediately suspicious when i hear people say anything's to be dehumanizing when police refer to the communities they work in as animals. i have heard that from some officers. also in protesters call police
pigs. i smell bacon. there are all kinds of things we cannot say on this program. and where i have gone human beings and better ones and worse ones that it gave me much more sense it is the tragedy so a lot what is wrong by police cannot be changed by police. and with the legacy of racism that cops cannot change that. that even with the good decent
police officer you may still find yourself that are lawful but awful. look at thehe big picture and then to say it does this make the community better off? maybe not and then that structural economic disparities even worse. and that is a tragedy but also not something the cops can fix by themselves. the rest of us have to fix that. >> there is a system and belly one cameras over cctv that the actions and activities are likely to be captured in today's world.
system where it should be sent somewhered else. >> police departments many have aan lot of work to do internally. which is a good police department. it's a has a lot of work to do. but want to let police departments off the hook. but that being said you are absolutely right and working with the justice department for many years in the way we teach innovative policing one of the points she makes to our last students is you guys will be the legislators and the prosecutors and the defense attorneys and for all of those people and then just to say
that you have to be a part of that change so when you are a prosecutor or a judge on the city council you can just pull out your fingers to the police because they will enforce the laws thatoi you make they will prosecute the people you bring to them so no question about it. i think it's always easier to have a target and police are the invisible face it is easier to direct the anger at them. people don't see behind the scenes i don't want to let caps off the work there is quite a lot cops could do differently but no questions we need to take a long hard look in the mirror.
>> so with police reform with the congress and senate and the house the honor of testifying in one of the things with transparency people with the federal government to talk about everybody else needs to be transparent body worn cameras racial profiling data but then you look at the federal government where are their reports? when is the last time a federal agency actually charged in officer with a crime with the use of building force? but with the points of reference you cannot truly assess what is in front of you have nothing to compare to. spending almost decade they are in houston so i have
community points of reference and you can truly assess something unless you have something to compare it to so the question i would have what is transparency in terms of the rest of the criminal justice system? should we be demanding more transparency with the defense attorneys? it seems that is part of your area of life work. >> i don't know if lack of transparency as opposed to political will. so when you go to the criminal code dc is a weird city because of federal law that is enforced in dc municipal code
but there are a lot on the books that are so ridiculous and trivial they should not be criminalized at all in my point of view but nobody goes through it to see if this make sense. and we could arrest 500 people for disorderly conduct now they have an arrest record and now they serve small amounts of prison time with a fine now let's go look at their families or complainants or victims and see if anybody is better off they are all were soft. they don't tend to have those conversations and with stop andd frisk and to make it more unconstitutional this is an area where flat on - - where
transparency it turns out if you look at the numbers carefully and to stop that a disproportionate number of african-americans but the african-americans were less likely to have weapons than the white people which is unconstitutional but also frankly means cops overestimate the threat from over one - - african-americans and underestimate the whites. both of those are problems. so i can't help but mention in this regard in defense of january 6 at the us capital to showcase the best and the worst of policing. but without juxtaposition is heavilyy militarized and then in comparison with thesp seemingly light response with
the mob of trump supporters we also saw a lot of officers behaving heroically on the positive side. and then to overestimate some threats with the useful protesters like they are out to storm the capital when they are not and then you have angry and upset and hurt people and then you underestimate the real threat so it turns out the real threat was the thin blue line shirts and if we are biased in thinking with the police slogan on their sure they cannot be out to do any harm but that was i the real threat. >> those police t officers put everything on the line and i
believe it was a failure of leadership but as we continue and calling for a robust inquiry into inquisition and with that political leadership fails so we should let the experts do the assessment and hold them accountable there will be allied of mistakes made beyond the executives but it was absolutely a failure what we saw on the seventh around the capital is with the open source data just a very open call of action so with resistance on the fifth of january not on the seventh so
looking at the results that police chiefs would be part of it when the politicians decide because our people want to get to the truth so the difference are those that catch themselves and realize i am acting this way because i have a fear did you ever find yourself where you recognize i have my own implicit bias have an impact on my mindset? it means you are human so
maybe that informed you? that something you would not even expect. >> it is a good question. that if you talk about bias they say i'm not racist and i think to say to them this isn't about you and your decision we get them so early in our lives they come from media and people around us we cannot wish them away but they can be conscious of them and make sure that you don't give into them. so it's not y your fault that it is your responsibility to fix it orer counterbalance and those
specific instances but in crime rates and then talking to somebody who was really thoughtful and smart and educated and i would find myself feeling a little surprised. and assuming something that everybody i meet will be poorly educated and that's not true. so i do think i caught myself and moments of making assumptions that came out of my own bias and to be embarrassed how erroneous those assumptions were. >> i think the fact that you
are into with yourself and your own internal subconscious and bias and fears is important to be successful. something that youme talked about so what we have gone through to define that family tree broadly want to give you an b example and i want to get your thoughts. we have to to those officers in the field to have charges before your rest people. >> it sounds like a good idea. [laughter]
and then we can have that debate. but not right now. but what i found is as a police chief and don't have anybody with me. >> so early on in my career on the domestic violence seen, i don't want to intervene i thought there should have been arrest made. and then i'm going to decline charges. and i wanted to see how my system worked.
i had a sneaking suspicion that some were under reporting the facts because they don't want to believe the victim or they are lazy or we had some views that wanted to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt on the side of the road instead of probable cause. where the da y wasn't taking charges and what you think happened to the charges? and then sometimes when there is an arrest so now we have to get on the right path. so having heard all that so
what are the domestic violence calls? >> a and then to say we had the mandatory arrest rule for domestic violence with probable cause you have to make the arrest. and to be the primary aggressive you cannot do that you can arrestt both parties. and the reasoning behind the other one - - is because you have a male cop and a husband and/or boyfriend beating or abusing his wife orgi girlfriend and then one who says work it out and walks away and doesn't take it seriously. that was a huge problem.
and the problem over the years as dc steadily expanded as a domestic relationship where those that share the same household and we don't have that same and then they all talk about who left a close in the washing machine and then she mr. hospital shift and somebody had to take care of her son and that is just stupid. so that is the law on the
books in dc that needs to be seriously we examined that may do more harm than good but the broader point really highlights we talked about earlier which is that arresting people doesn't solve every problem it does solve some but just getting somebody out of that situation even if they are not prosecuted benefits everybody everybody cools off there are people who are violent criminals i'm fine having then be arrested and go to jail or who are predators. but i do think a lot of the calls you get in dc or houston are the problems that cannot be solved by cops they are poor. they are substances they are addicted to they have a family
dispute they can't figure out how to resolve. the teenager is not listening to them. and they don't feel they have anywhere to turn part of the reasons cops are blamed because they are the invisible state on - - face of the state and anything to can help me? so the governor is the cop so they call the cop. >> so really the interesting set of questions do we train officers well enough to establish probable cause? there is also an issue there that i wish we had more data and 30 percent of arrest of metropolitan police are no papers so the prosecutors say i'm not going anywhere and the story.
it's not that they go to court to get dismissed we don't know if that 30 percent consist of casesdn and that is mostly cases of the prosecutors i had ever seen. and for something so trivial. and with that conversation though he between the community and those that do have discussions and to have that conversation of the prosecutors are thinking why are you bringing us if it's not worth the public time and
money to go forward it's tough to know that when they have that kind of situation the next time. >> it's interesting you word say that. like i said earlier here we actually get approval but what has happened we have judges now i call them activist judges they don't want anybody to be prosecuted. so no probable cause is going through the roof. so what we do they tell us why it is rejected when they get to the report if it's a no probable cause ruling then we pulled those and ask to make sure it's not s a problem with the actual case if it's a fact in the case and after really
good point you bring up. let me ask you this. how is the way you talk about policing these issues to your students has that changed at all what you use to say and talk about as a result of your experiences as a front-line police officer quick. >> i i can't answer that i didn'tti start about policing my area of expertise is national security law that's what i taught until he started doing this then at a certain point i thought i'm doing this reserve officer stuff i ought to learn more about criminal posts procedure so then it forces you to learn it so i started to teach while having this experience. but the point i made earlier that kristi lopez drives i home is what i really emphasize to
students. when you think about the situation, ask yourself two questions. if it looks like an awful thing happened as result of policing one is this is something we could change by ourselves and the other question is when you think what decision a judge should have made ask yourself about the incentive that officers face and whether this will make a difference for example if police officers don't know or care and that is in violation of the fourth amendment. it doesn't have any great impact on their behavior.
when you don't really care but on the other hand if you think my age job performance is with the arrest i make goes anywhere than you think about it differently and to push them to recognize you have to have a more granular understanding how policing works and it is very localized to figure out what the relationship will be between how judges interpret the law and how officers on the ground behave. >> i like to say we have the most inefficient and ineffective policing model in the free world with the civilized and industrialized world with 18000 police department andme police officers
18000 sets of policies and procedures and levels of accountability and a proponent for consolidation i believe the taxpayer gets more but - - bang for the buck but we went local control. going from one officer i'm not making this up to departments with 5300 police officers combined. so what impact could it have is there something we should talk about in this country? talk about ferguson for the local venus a pallet he?
and it is a municipality going on for a mile and a half and then another jurisdiction. >> every mile there is a police car. >> we have all seen this across the country. what should we do? with that have an impact quick. >> i haven't thought about in terms of consolidation before that is an interesting way to approach the problem. the things that we read about and see on tv about big city police departments and there is a reason for that that
journalist is in big cities and then to get information to journalist and it is under a constant spotlight that's not a bad thing knowing we will face public scrutiny that is appropriate. with cops and weaponsns and badges and it is that you would face a lot of scrutiny so that is on city departments to be accountable to clean up their act when they are screwingt up because they know they are under that scrutiny. i worry much more about those tiny little apartments anybody ever thinks about we have no idea what'sha going on because they are too small. they are below the radar screen i have a feeling that's we can find really bad stuff i
don't want to prod brush everybody with a a broad brush but that lack of scrutiny and transparency is scary so the other way you can get to that problem and but it what it sure can do and you have some strong incentives and to go where the money is that there are massive grants if you do this and conform to the standards if you have a trading curriculum a lot of them say it's not a big deal but that is a colorful so
hate mail for bad policing and then four years later getting hate mail like it just happened today when both of those and here is the challenge as i see it. and last year we had one that went sideways in my assessment and those three officers and on day one and i would ask you with time and distance and numbers and then to be held
and where anybody was doing anything worse than being more of a jerk and they had to be that then cops made it away from members of the public but my experience was mostly working with people to solve their problems but i do emphasize to my students as you said in the beginning that being a cop goes from shooting to high-speed chase to beating up a suspect and another high-speed chase and the reality is it is much more mundane and positive because somebody is too noisy and
usually there because somebody called your wanted you to come and that does not excuse any of the abusive behavior even that petty rudeness. >> so the fact you have a lot of decent people and is important for people to understand but this is parallel to my field before this with us. military national security. and the strategic corporal and all around the world. and with a low ranking soldier his own stupid of noxious act
and it was chaos for us forces globally and the concept of the strategic corporal said there is no such thing as a purely tactical decision the whole world will know about it because of you have another cell phone and we need to train to that just do what you are told so here are the challenges that we need them to be critical thinkers and then to have a nuanced understanding but we have to expect it is totally fair people put us under a microscope so it is hard and it does create stress even if
i just make an honest mistake and then they just plain forget and then cops say oh my god if i make a mistake like that people will thinkth i am a monster who turned off my camera and it is hard but i also think. >> that's the world that we live in and the book is tangled up in blue thank you for writing the book i hope people will read it thank you for taking the challenge of learning about policing thank you for the conversation. >> thank you so much
>> the secret service was founded in the assassination of abraham lincoln not tell the death of jfk that the presidential protection service began to get closer attention from the american people he began reporting on the secret service for the "washington post" in 2012. in the prologue of her new book she started on hooker gate where agents brought prostitutes to the hotel room while making arrangements for president obama to visit