tv After Words Rosa Brooks Tangled Up in Blue CSPAN July 7, 2021 3:37am-4:36am EDT
chiefs association president. >> host: thanks for joining us. i'm the police chief in texas and i'm honored and happy to visit with rosa brooks, the author of an interesting book about policing. thanks for being on and having me and as i look forward to the conversation i've got to start with just one pressing question. what in the world made you leave the confines of the classroom and home and go on and get police officers in the streets of washington, d.c.? >> if you asked my family they would say insanity. i was just curious. that was probably the driving force. the reserve officer program where you are not just directing traffic but where you can become
a sworn armed police officer i thought no way. that's crazy. you're going to give a gun to a law professor. good idea. and the other thing as you know very, very well, policing has been in the spotlight for some years now. and if you want to change something, i think you need to understand it and it does seem like a very rare opportunity to get more insight into the world of policing. >> my lawyer that handles the employee matters i interviewed her and said i want my moment and that was many years ago and she's still here as the director of legal counsel but you recount your stances from the inside is a frontline police officer going out to the tough neighborhoods
but you said you recount your experiences and propose the nation and many fronts we want a 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. let me back up i guess by saying when i was working on the book everybody would say what is your argument, that's interesting. what is the argument and i would say it's complicated and they
were right. it is complicated and in some ways, the goal of the book is to make things more complicated for people thinking about policing from the outside, not to make it simpler. you have seen this over and over there is a kind of whiplash where i've researched self-sacrificing and it would be hard to object that conversation more nuanced. there is good and bad. they are mixed up together and we want to transform policing. we need to be grappling with that. in terms of what would make it better i think part of it is the police can't change the law by
themselves. it is the way to look at the mirror and say cops are arresting people for trivial sentences and we think that harms the community. when you look at the long prison sentences, mass incarceration, a lot of that is prosecutors, judges, lawmakers. so that's number one. there's something cops can't change but we as a society urgently need to change the massive over criminalization we've seen in the last couple decades, the sentences and the cut and other social services that might make what police do things they don't have to do any more. there's a lot of police
departments that need to be doing this and again one of the difficulties we don't have the national police force. we have almost 18,000 different law enforcement agencies. they don't always talk to each other. i think they ought to talk to each other so it's very hard even if there's approach that is innovative and promising. it's tough to get everybody to pay attention. so, the cities that have been ahead of the game really focus on changing training and who they'd recruit and the kind of incentive structures but happy to talk more about that. i've had the pleasure through a program one of the things you
mentioned is police as our greatest fans would say it isn't broken like some would think and what is interesting is both factions of the mindsets are very deeply held beliefs. was there malice involved on either and how do you attribute, how can we be diametrically so different in our perception may be critic versus supporter because i think honestly people don't fail to see things through the prism of others. you have a very unique perspective because you are a law professor. i would call what we were supposed to be doing and what of the intent of the founders were
versus the theory and the case law and the realities that we experience on the street. from your perspective, what could you say if we were talking to not defund the police what would you say from that perspective cops are not going around whacking people. we find ourselves they tried to hold the department to a standard mindset and a level of professionalism expected by the public. how would you address those from your evidence perspective having walked in our shoes? >> one thing i learned not so much from this experience but by getting older nobody's mind was
ever changed by being told that they are stupid or evil. it's just not a very effective way to do something different and i think that we live in a political culture that lends itself to sound bites and slogans and stereotypes that doesn't lend itself to more nuanced discussions. and that isn't about policing. it's about almost every issue in this divided moment. and it's hard to get people to listen. i think that what i do tell about the proponents and many of my students start with that position is it's not something the far right made up in order to have an excuse to lock up poor people of color. there is racism in the system, absolutely. and we need to address that.
but you know, be careful what you wish for when you talk to people who live in poor communities of color most often and those communities are not homogeneous. it's not that we don't want cops in our neighborhoods. we just want cops to protect us, cops we can trust. we want different policing, better policing, more respectful policing and better laws. i think that argument often does resonate with people and when i hear defund the police, i think cops get super defensive when they hear that and the seventh district in washington, d.c. where i was assigned as the poorest most decrepit of crumbling police station in the city and if you say to a cop we should defund the police, they
look at you and have you seen our station and the vehicle i drive, have you seen my equipment? we don't have enough resources to do what we are doing now if you take the money away, then what. and that is the polite version of the response, the defensive angry version as well. if you say something very different, if you say okay what are the things that frustrate you that you wish you didn't have to do that you think you should be doing, what are the things when you take a mentally ill person to the emergency psychiatric clinic and you are frustrated because you know that person will be back out on the streets without medications and a home to go to the next day
then i think it gets you to a much different and much healthier conversation where you are saying let's work together, critics of policing to talk about what this community's priorities are and how we would get to them in an ideal world, how far are we away from them now and how do we gradually recalibrate investment so that we end up in the place where we all want to be and that is the common ground between police officers themselves and critics of policing. >> i think that you are spot on in terms of there is a way to talk about the issues some of the police officers are clapping and stuff and that didn't happen
but words matter in terms of elected officials and to talk about these issues, to talk about for example, abolish ice because it's focused on bad actors so how to approach the conversation. we need to look at instances of unjustified uses of force especially deadly uses of force. i would argue we've got to be very careful what we ask for because what we need is people
to have the mind to approach problem-solving but there are times and i'm sure you've witnessed it that you have the heart of a warrior because i would argue that some of these is because we have people that are cops carrying afraid of their own shadows. here is the thing that i would caution. if we cannot test how you are going to react to the physical adversity or psychological adversity in terms of people trying to get under your skin, i would hate to not be able to weave somebody out like the 17-year-old african-american man
in austin, totally naked in broad daylight and my office or officer atthe time and counterse comes out with this gun in his hand. wouldn't we want to assess that kind of mindset and fear that you have an experience in that and how we balance it and how should we balance it i don't think that it's either or. the program, the person wrote an influential article called guardian versus warriors talking about these two different groups and one of the things that i thought was very powerful and important in their law enforcement academy they beefed
up training on the escalation, verbal skills. how you just talk to people so you are not shouting at them and giving orders to people. people are less likely to do what you say. you sound like a jerk as opposed to being polite and courteous. the tactics to slow things down give yourself time, space at the same time though, it beefed up the defensive tactics it's a lot of the tragic police shootings where it turns out the person didn't pose a threat or maybe they were armed there is no
threat. people pull out their weapons sometimes when they panic and if they don't have confidence that they can handle a situation without a gun, they are more likely to pull out their gun, so the area of emphasis to say you know what, you've got to be better at those physical skills so that you will have the confidence to get into a situation and not immediately reach for the gun and know you can handle this stuff. but at the same time, you also need to get a better at all those so-called soft skills. having gone through this experience and this adventure, what was your perception of policing from the outside
looking in and after your several years of experience in the challenging environment, how did that perception change and how much did it not end up being a reality? >> i don't know that my perception changed. i think it got much more granular. i grew up with left-wing activists and my mother said that the police are the enemy but at the same time i grew up at a kind of blue collar town where a lot of my friends had cops and their families and i didn't know cops as just people, somebody's dad, somebody's brother. and all the work i've done all over the world, including in places you get to civil conflicts and all atrocities, terrible things they have been that are not that many. even the worst things are usually done by ordinary people
who have come to believe they have to do what they are doing. but most people are not and so i think going in i thought i am immediately suspicious when i hear people say anything that seems dehumanizing when the police refer to the residents of the communities they work in and i've heard that in dc from some officers. it's also dehumanizing when protesters call police pigs. >> and a pay cap. >> everywhere i've gone and my whole life you find you've got human beings, you've got some better ones, i don't think that
it changed my perception, but what it did do is give me much more sense of here's what i think is the real tragedy is that what i said earlier, a lot of what is wrong with policing cannot be changed by police because it's the criminal justice system and the socioeconomic divisions that are the legacy and cops can't change that and what that means is even if you are a good, decent police officer you may still find yourself making arrests that are lawful and when you look at the big picture and do the cost-benefit analysis is this making the community better off, maybe not. maybe it's making things worse. even good decent cops can end up
making some of those structural, economic and racial disparities even worse. and that is a tragedy, but it's also not something the cops can fix by themselves. the rest of to fix that. >> as a system and the most visible part of the system is the front line police officers we are either on cell phones, body worn cameras or our actions and activities are going to be captured in today's world if you look at the sentencing over the years in terms of a crack versus powder cocaine and what struggle of choice was for which community people send towards
police officers may be a manifestation more so of other aspects. i would even say let's look at the defensive bar. who gets a better defense. do you think may be a lot of the anger and distrust is placed at the most visible part of the system where it really lies somewhere else, should be said to somewhere else? >> i think the police departments, many of them have a lot of work to do it internally, and i think that the dc police department, which is a good police department but still not perfect, still has a lot of work to do. i don't want to let police department off the hook. but with that being said, you are absolutely right and this is
something my colleague who worked at the justice department for many years investigating some of the most abusive police department's in the country, like in ferguson missouri, one of the points that she always makes when we teach together because of course we teach innovative policing and one of the points she makes to the law students is you're going to be the legislators, you're going to be the prosecutors, you're going to be the defense attorneys and even if you're not you will be the citizens who vote for all those people who make the laws. don't go saying the problem is the cops. you are going to enforce the laws that you make and going to prosecute the people that you bring to them and sentenced them to people so there's no question about it.
i think it's always easier to have the target and police are an obvious visible face of the state's coercive powers. it's simpler. it's easier to direct the anger at them. people don't see the behind the scenes. i don't want to lead cops off the hook. there's quite a lot of they can do differently but no question the rest of us need to take a hard look in the mirror. >> i would agree with that. we've been arguing in my roll we testified about both houses of the congress and the senate and the house with the honor of testifying and one of the things i talked about is we need transparency. talk about the federal government and talk about everybody else pointing the finger saying you need to be transparent and where body worn cameras and put out of the racial profiling data.
but then you look at the federal government and where are there cops wearing cameras and reports and the last time a federal agency has to be charged with a crime of the use of force or found the use of deadly force. you know, i always said about the points of reference you can't truly assess what's in front of you if you've got nothing to compare we spent almost a decade there as the chief so i've got community points of reference and department points of reference and you can't really truly assess something unless you have somebody to come. two so the question i would add to you is where is the transparency in terms of the rest of the criminal justice system? what does it need to be and should we be demanding more transparency in terms of what is happening with our courts or
defense attorneys seeing that is part of your area of life work is the law. >> i don't know if i would say that it's a lack of transparency and the political will. in dc when you go through the criminal code it is kind of a weird city and forced nobody says let's take a look at this and see if this bill makes sense. that kind of cost-benefit analysis i was talking about where you say we could arrest 500 people for the disorderly
conduct those are the kind of conversations that we need to have and similarly stop and frisk. in new york city the court declares the program unconstitutional because what they were doing ended up it turns out the area where transparency enabled the accountability. it turned out when you actually looked at the numbers carefully that the police in new york city were stopping a disproportionate number of african-americans relative to their sides of the population. but the african-americans were less likely to have weapons than the white people they stopped. which ends up being unconstitutional but also, frankly, means cops overestimate
the threat from african-americans and underestimate threats from whites. and both of those are problems. and both of those have to do with implicit biases. and i cannot help but mention in this regard to the events of january 6th at the u.s. capitol. i think really it was the best and the worst of policing and the same time you know, that partly the juxtapositions of the heavy militarized police response to the sars racial justice protest in comparison with the seemingly very light response to the largely white mob of trump supporters. you obviously saw a lot of officers behaving really heroically on the positive side. but that kind of implicit bias is dangerous because it means both you've underestimated some threats, so you treat the justice protesters like they are about to storm the capital, and they are not and you end up tear
gassing them and so on and have angry upset, hurt people say you underestimate that. then you underestimate the real threat. so it turns out the threat was from people wearing a thin blue line and we underestimate that and we are biased in favor of thinking [inaudible] slogans on their shirts they can't be out to do any harm but that was the real threat. >> i thought that was, i was so proud of the police officers that put everything on the line to protect and defend the government, the people's house. i believe that was a failure to leadership and as we continue to, and we've actually called for a robust inquiry into the inquisition into what occurred i think as we are going to find out that law enforcement leadership failed and we may find out some political leadership failed we need to
hold them accountable when we get it right. there were a lot of mistakes made beyond just the executives but it was absolutely the failure that the footprint we saw around the capital was the open source of data that we had and the threats and intelligence, just a very open call for action. i look forward to opening up those results the more people want to get to the truth i think the difference between those that are successful and just for
those that catch themselves and realize i'm acting this way because, you know, i've got a fear or as you went out to the call, did you ever find yourself on a call you find yourself saying and recognizing i'm letting my own implicit bias have an impact on my mindset or my level of fear and it means you are human. did you ever have that moment that may be informed you, something you didn't even expect? >> it is a good question. it is a really hard question and i think you're right. if i talk to cops that get really defensive when you talk about the implicit bias and i
think saying to them look, this isn't about you and your decisions, the implicit bias that we all have we get them so early in our lives. they come from the media, from the people around us. you cannot just wish them away but make sure you do not give into them. it is your responsibility to try to counterbalance the biases that we all have. i can't think of specific instances but i do think that there were moments at first where i go into like a terrible neighborhood in terms of primaries and so on and somebody that was really thoughtful, smart, educated and i would find myself feeling a little surprised and like that is an
implicit bias assuming something intellectually i know is wrong and it may be because this is a poor neighborhood and everybody that i meet will be poorly educated and then being embarrassed when i realized how erroneous those assumptions were. >> i think the fact that you are in tune with yourself and your own internal subconscious biases and fears is important. there's something that you talked about you said it's how they may have gone too far and
defined the family to broadly. and then i want to get your thoughts on what got you there. we have to deal with more facts. >> it sounds like a good idea. i don't like that because i think that transparency we argue the work i won't get into it right now but i log on and i don't have anybody with me to handle calls. i hand them over -- >> do you wear the four stars when you do that? >> i do.
early on in my career working in domestic violence saying i didn't want to intervene so to make a long story short i thought there should be an arrest made. my office would go and say they declined charges. so what i did, again, nobody was killed, we could follow up later to get the charges. i just wanted to see how the system worked so i came to the opinion based on the size of the city and the calls that we were going to i had a sneaking suspicion two things were happening. one, some officers were under reporting the facts because they didn't want to believe the victim or they were lazy or whatever. or number two, we had some that wanted to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt instead of looking up the probable cause. so i started making surgeons see
where they were not taking charges. what do you think happened and call to assess the scene and so i think a little bit of both was going on because in my opinion if we are going to air the air on the person, nobody's going to get killed. and it is a leverage to get a family on the right path. that is my mindset. having heard all that, i want your reaction and to expand on what you thought the terms were on the violence calls. >> it is a hard problem. as you said we had a mandatory arrest rule. if there is probable cause to believe that an assault was committed you have to make an arrest and identify the primary object or, aggressor and if you cannot do that you could arrest
both parties if you think they are both aggressors. the reasoning behind that mandatory arrest rule was the battle you get a male cop, husband or boyfriend who was beating and abusing his wife or girlfriend and you get a cop who sort of says work it out and walked away, wouldn't take it seriously and that was a problem, a huge problem. so they tended to say you can't do that. you can't just walk away and say work it out. the problem over the years, they expanded what was defined as the domestic relationship so that at this point the siblings that are in the same household or even a former housemates or former roommates from years ago are defined as having a domestic relationship. you do not have that same hour of balance that you have been sort of classic so there was one i talked about recently in the
book, two adult sisters got into a scuffle because everybody was stressed and they were arguing about who left the damp clothing in the washing machine and neither of them had a criminal record. the woman that we ended up having to arrest was a nurse and then she missed her hospital shift and had to get somebody to take care of her son. so that is the law on the books that needs to be seriously re-examined but i think the broad point highlights something we talked about earlier. getting somebody out of a volatile situation, just removing them even if they are not prosecuted may benefit everybody. they cool off, everybody cooled off. they got time to think maybe that was not such a hot idea and then there are people who are
violent criminals i'm fine with having them arrested and go to jail. there are people that are predators and cause tremendous suffering in their communities. but a lot of the calls that we get in dc are people with problems that cannot be solved by cops. they are teenagers that are not listening to them and they do not feel like they have anywhere else to turn. part of the reason cops get blamed is because there is a visible. people think who can help me, the government.
do we train officers well enough in what it means to establish probable cause and write a good report and so on. there is also an issue there in which i wish we had more data. about 30% of arrests made by the dc metropolitan police end up being what we call here no paper which means the prosecutor doesn't go on anywhere, they let the person go end of story. we don't know whether that consists of cases where the problem was that the officer didn't establish the probable cause and what they wrote up, or whether that is mostly cases the prosecutor thought that is the dumbest most trivial arrest i have ever seen and i don't want to waste any opinion, prosecuting this person for
something so trivial. you want to train police officers better but for the second maybe we need to have a conversation between the prosecutors and the community about what the priority should be so that when the officers in those cases do have discretion, should i make an arrest, should i not, should i try to direct them to services and have that conversation if they are thinking why are you bringing us these cases that are so trivial it isn't worth the time and money to go forward, costs should know that because that might affect what they do when they encounter that situation the next time. >> it's interesting that you say that about the charges like i said earlier. we get approval and get them to take charges but what's happened
they don't want anybody to be prosecuted by halfway judges, so they are going through the roof. if there is a reject we come to the agreement they will tell us why once they get the report and if there's a probable cause ruling we are actually pulling the reports and having supervisors and surgeons and lieutenants looking at them and making sure it isn't a problem of the fact of the case or of the report writing and i think that is a good point to bring up. has this changed at all in terms of what you use to say and talk about and what you say and talk about as a result of your experience with frontline police officers? >> i can't answer that because i did teach until i started doing
this. my area of expertise is international law and security so that is what i taught until i started doing this. at a certain point i thought i'm doing this reserve officer stuff. i ought to learn more about the criminal procedure for instance and the best way is to teach something that forces you to learn it so i started teaching while having this experience. i think the point i made earlier the one christy lopez drives home is the one i emphasize when it looks like an awful thing happened as a result of policing, ask two questions. one, is this something cops could change by themselves or the rest of us have to change and the other question is when you think about what decision a judge should have made, ask
yourself what about the incentive that officers face and whether this will make a difference. to give an example, if police officers don't know or care whether somebody subsequently gets convicted, then a exclusionary rule the court will throw out evidence that was obtained illegally and the violation of the amendment doesn't have an impact on their behavior because if you are a cop and you are thinking it isn't my job to put people away forever it is just my job to arrest them, then you don't care if it doesn't go anywhere. on the other hand if you say no my job performance is evaluated based on whether the arrests i make a go anywhere, then you are going to think about it differently and to push them to recognize that you have to have a more granular understanding of how the policing works, which
unfortunately is very localized in order to figure out what the relationship is going to be between health officers on the ground actually behave. >> i agree. you touched on this earlier. i'd like to say we have the most inefficient policing model and the free world in the civilized industrialized world. we have 18,000 the police department's with 8,000 officers and 18,000 sets of policies and procedures and training and regimens and accountability that has gone. i think that we would be much better, accountability would be better but everybody wants local control so we have departments
that go from one officer, i'm not making this up, to the departments like the houston police department where we have about 5300 police officers, 6300 combined. what impact do you think the consolidation of the policing services, what impact could it have and is it something we should be talking about in this country, what happened in ferguson, there's a department that was for the local municipality that used traffic enforcement as a fundraising mechanism and by the way it's not just that department. i've driven to that area of the country and it seems every mile there's a municipality that goes on for about a mile and a half. the speed signs and speed limits have changed.
we have seen this across the country. what should we do and i think that would make an impact. >> it's a good question. i haven't thought about it in terms of consolidation before, but that is a really interesting way to approach the problem. i do think that it's a huge problem and i've often thought that for the things we read about in the papers and see on tv usually involve big city police departments typically. journalists live in big cities and people in big cities know how to get information to journalists so the big city departments are under a constant spotlight. that is not a bad thing because i think knowing that we are going to face public scrutiny is appropriate. it gives the cops weapons and badges and take away people's liberty and life. it's totally appropriate to expect you will face a lot of scrutiny. but i think what that has meant is that there's been a lot more
pressure on the city departments to be accountable and clean up their act when they are screwing up and because they know that they are under that scrutiny. nobody thinks about we have no idea what is going on because they are too small. they are below the radar screen for most of the national media. and i have a feeling that is where you actually find a lot of really bad stuff and i don't mean to paint everybody with the same brush. i'm sure they are fabulous smalltown police departments and sheriff departments all over the country but that the lack of transparency i think is kind of scary. i guess the other way you could try to get at that problem and this is something congress if it was inclined could do. congress can't control directly state municipal law enforcement.
what it can do if it wants to is use the power of the purse and create strong incentives like the rest of us go where the money is and if you have the congress saying there are massive grants if you do this and that and conform to the standards and agree to these processes and have a training curriculum that gets a lot of money a lot of departments will say i will do that it's not a bad deal. that is a tool we have not used enough under president trump. it isn't like executive orders were they like the president and executive orders and if they
don't, congress needs to do their job. so we've got to be careful with that. let me ask you this. you've got a very unique perspective coming from a family that progressives -- may be being a progressive legal scholar teaching aspiring attorneys. i get hate mail for a critical incident that policing incident that happened four years ago somewhere else and four years later i'm getting hate mail like it just happened today with both of those. and here is the challenge as i see it. here in houston we have about 50,000 a year or more and last
year we had one that went sideways. it ended up killing somebody that was a mental crisis and my assessment i ended up firing a sergeant and three officers and you mentioned time and distance in term of training on day number one i would ask your viewers to find the presentations to the academy. when they use deadly force they will be held accountable for utilizing those tactical considerations. that one incident made people forget the fact that we are a learning site for the rest of the country, that we had tens of
thousands ago right. what percentage do you think, we could control our own hearts what percentage do you think is bad policing and cops doing the right thing? the so-called bad apples. >> i saw a very few bad apples and moments when i thought somebody was doing anything worse than being a little bit more of a jerk then they had to be. i saw some comments that disturbed me that cops made in private away from members of the public. that is something that i do
emphasize from the beginning. you go from shooting scene to a high-speed chase. the reality is it's much more mundane and a lot more positive. the reality is you are getting called because somebody's neighbors party is too loud and somebody's bike got stolen or you are getting that kind of stuff over and over, called because a burglar alarm went off, somebody shoplifted. and you do get the shootings and the homicides and violent crime, but the bulk of any shift for any given officer is dealing with these little things and people that are upset.
it does make a difference you can be the one to go next door and say can you turn the music down and usually people will say sorry about that. i also very rarely did i encounter hostility on the contrary where you might expect more hostility, people were cooperative, polite and would say things like thanks officer, partly because they know that if you are usually there because somebody called you, somebody wanted you to come. that i think people do this and that does not excuse any of the abuses or bad behavior with the rudeness. >> the fact you have a lot of decent people doesn't excuse the bad things but it is important
for people to understand. this is a parallel, my field before this was thinking about the roll of the u.s. military and the national security and the marine corps has a concept called the strategic corporal and the idea behind that was remember that guy that peed on the charon and protested around the islamic world because an american soldier was called on video peeing on the charon, he was a low ranking soldier and it was his own stupid obnoxious act and it lead to chaos for the u.s. forces globally. and the concept of the strategic corporal was there is no such thing as a purely tactical citizen anymore. even the lowest ranking person the whole world is going to know about it ten minutes later because somebody will have it on their cell phone and we have to train to that.
here is the kind of challenges that you will face. we need them to be critical thinkers and people of good judgment. we need them to have a nuanced understanding of exactly what we are trying to do because we have to expect and that is totally fair people are going to put us under a microscope. you give people that much power they have to expect that level of scrutiny. but i think that it is hard and it does create distress for the officers that feeling of even if i just make an honest mistake like failing to turn on my camera, and people do it all the time, they forget they are not trying to hide something, they just forget and cops say if i make a mistake like that people are going to think i'm a monster that turned off my camera to hide my abusive behavior and i cannot handle the pressure. and it is hard but i also think
that cops just have to kind of deal with it because that is the world we live in. >> and the book is tangled up, the american city. thanks for writing the book. i hope that people will read it and thank you for taking the challenge of learning about policing from the inside out and the outside in sometimes is