tv Inside Story Al Jazeera November 25, 2014 5:00pm-5:31pm EST
about the decision of a grand jury in st. louis county that there was no probable cause to indict officer darren wilson. the channels i watched put up a split screen. on one side, the country's first black president. careful, subdued. he talked about needing enforcement needed. on the other side of the screen, armored vehicles and lines of cops moved forward to clear the streets of ferguson. things started to get much worse. >> we need to recognize that this is not just an issue for ferguson. this is an issue for america. >> as police cars burned and the
mayhem began president obama took to the was pressroom and made a plea to ferguson, missouri, and the nation. >> they need to recognize that the situation speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation. the fact is that in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and the community of color. some of this is the result of a legacy of racial discrimination in this country, and this is tragic because nobody needs more good policing than poor communities with higher crime rates. >> the president went on to say throwing bottles and lighting fires were not the ways to solve the underlying problems around policing, profiling and race. all along michael brown's family has called for calm and has sought justice not just for him but for the greater community in ferguson.
they want to reform the relationship between african-americans and the poli police. >> we beg you all again that we know it's frustrating. we know that it's painful. we should be able to expect the police to treat our children just like they treat any other children in any other communities. >> the family proposed the michael brown law where all state, county and state police officers would have to wear cameras on their uniforms while on duty. >> we ask that everybody, not just the entire st. louis community, but all of america join us in demanding change. >> the community reaction has focused national attention on the different experiences of blacks and whites when it comes to crime and punishment. according to the american civil
liberties union say one in every 15 american men are imprisoned and receive longer sentences than white offenders of the same crime. >> in minority neighborhoods police fear the police and distrust the police and rely on them for react. they wonder out loud if a young white boy carrying a pistol would be killed for carrying it, or if a white man would be gunned down for shopping in the store and talking on his cell phone. the justice system operated as the law prescribes and
communities were left wondering at the gap between justice and what they saw as fairness. joining us for that conversation, alexis mcgill johnson, executive director of the perception institute, an organization working to reduce racial bias by shaping the public conversation. lieutenant charles wilson, and stan puniger. attorney general of the civil rights division of the department of justice. lieutenant wilson, let me start with you. you heard what the president said about the perception of communities. later in that same talk it's almost as if he pivoted to white americans and reassured them that the communities are not making this up. help us understand what is going on down at street levels when young guys hanging out at a corner and not doing much more than minding their own business have an encounter with the police? >> first off, i would have to
say i agree fully with the president. there is, in fact, a disconnect between the law enforcement community and communities of color. that disconnect exists because of racial, economic, educational and political disparities that have been allowed to exist in this country. law enforcement has to recognize that you're dealing with a community, and community is, in fact, the first portion of community policing. we as a community must also recognize that these are supposed to be our protectors. they do have a very hard job to do. they cannot do their job effectively without the assistance and support of the
community. >> stan, last night when the president was talking i couldn't help but get the feeling, i know where this conversation goes. i've covered these kinds of things over the years, and white americans dig in their heels, and black americans dig in their heels, and seem to shout at each other over a widening chasm when something like this happens, and i have no doubt that if we did over-night polling we would see different opinions, for instance, about what happened in ferguson last night. we're seeing the badges of slavery. and it's important for us to recognize that and then move from that point forward. integrating ourselves in the
community policing community itself into th every level not just getting into squad cars, and policing over violent crime, but being part of the community in good things. all of the things have to be done and a lot more to try to break down the moments of distrust that we're seeing. >> alexis mcgill johnson, are there it places that have done that? are there places that are better where they've broken the code, cut that knot. >> i think there are places that have done that when you look at changes in policing in seattle
and portland, i think those are two examples in denver where major cities, where the leadership and the police department have come together along with researchers to try to figure out how they can best build community policing and identity challenges with bias, not just the explicit bias that is talked about, and there are ways to build that work and identify better protocol to help our communities come together. but it does require the leadership from the top down from the police chief and the superintendents down to help manage that situation. >> alexis, i've spent a lot of time on the streets with gang members, and there is one conversation you have with the hard boys, and you know who they
are. and then you have a sad conversation with the kids who aren't, who are often treated the same way by police, and it seems like there is a tremendous, almost tragic lost opportunity at that moment. >> i think that's right, and i just want to tie in the other two conversations, i think that this is a legacy of racial discrimination. i think this is something that goes back to slavery, and even pre-dates it in some ways. in the way that we're having conversations about race and perception are not historical. they're physiological. we know when we hook people up to mris and flash images of young boys of color you can chart the anxiety growing in our bodies. it's so fundamental that the perception of young people that they are themselves internalizing because they know they're triggering fear in others. there is a lost opportunity in this moment around ferguson if
we don't understand how we can shift those structures and barriers as well. >> i'm sorry, lieutenant, i cut you off. you were about to say? >> no, and i would have to agree with both of them. a large part of the problem with community are police departments are very insular, if you will. we do not explain to the community what our processes research consequently they don't understand it. what they don't understand they will fear. the context that is we've been talking about are not only meted out top to bottom, they have to be implemented from bottom to top. everybody within that agency has to embrace the concept of
engaging the community. you can't just drive by in a patrol car and wave and say hi. you have to get out and talk to people. you have to find out what kind of problems they're experiencing. how they're feeling about the situations they're in. learn what it takes to resolve their problems. and then when you say i'm going to help you, do so. show these people respect, allow them to maintain their dignity, and become apart of that community. >> let me bring stan in here. you've been hearing about processes, about people's reactions and perceptions. the law sort of works on in a sort of abstract majesty, words written in books, and we apply the words to the messy gray areas of human experience. can we ever get the law to match
human experience or at least not be quite so far apart? >> they shouldn't be so far apart. but the law is never really very quick to catch up with cultural change. it just isn't. as the english says the law grinds slowly but exceedingly fine. and that's, unfortunately, the case. so that culture moves ahead of the law, and the law slowly catches up. now, having said that, we've seen a lot of big changes in the law, obviously, since the 1965 civil rights act, '64 acts and the '65 voting rights act. we've seen changes in the country culturally as well as legally. there is always a struggle in doing that. my feel something that since the culture moves ahead of the law, the questions i would like to figure out referring back to what ms. johnson said is why is
it that white people looking at black teenagers have a quickening of their heart rate or any other measure of fear or bias? why is that? because they've made it up, and they're looking at television shows or listening to things? what is it--what signals are white people getting that they need to understand and cope with and have corrected so that those quickening implicit biases can be erased? >> hold that thought, and we'll get an answer from alexis mcgill johnson. >> we'll look at the relationship between police and minority communities, and it's not just ferguson. the day-to-day relationship is not always violence and death. as the president noted in his talk about the grand jury decision there are problems. stay with us.
>> we're back with inside story on al jazeera america. i'm ray suarez. ferguson, cleveland, new york, and the beating of a homeless woman on the shoulder of a california freeway, and the shooting of a startled man tracked by police to a gas station for a seat belt violation, the cumulative power of these stories can leave young men convinced their lives are valued less than others by the society they live in, and alexis
mcgill johnson, just before the break. stan was wanting to get to the crux of the matter. why would it be that white people have physical changes when they are shown images of black men? >> well, why are we primed to have this response? i want to go back to a little bit of how our brain functions. we take in every second about 40 million bits of information. we're only conscious of 11. not 11 million, but 11. our brains have had to create these schemas to understand and process information over time. we see a chair, we know to sit in it. we see a door, we know to walk through. we see an african-american male coming towards us, the association we largely create is one of fear, and we have to make sure that our brain kind of processes--when you are afraid, your brain goes into fight or
flight mode and your brain shuts down so you can manage whatever is perceived as a threat. that information has been developed over time through the stories we've told, through the dehumanization that has happened through slavery. currently it looks more like the 5:00 news. every time you see--not your 5:00 news, right, but the 5:00 news on most stations is pairing the crime scene with a black male. and many tend to believe that african-americans are more violent, aggressive and more dangerous. >> it's interesting that you mentioned the news. that kind of news coverage has continued and increased as the amount of violent crime in this society has dropped like a rock over the last 25 years. crime coverage has increased on the afternoon local news. let me bring light wilson back. you mentioned communities
earlier. you have your fool in two different ones. law enforcement, and as a black man he you get to see this question, this social problem from both sides of the wire, you might say. is that a breakable model? the one that alexis just described of that image that has been formed over time. how do we smash it? >> well, part of the problem is people in this country don't want to talk about racial issues. everybody wants to think that we're again a racially conscious atmosphere now, and it's not happening. another part of the problem with the way people look at young black males has to be laid in the lapse of the media. we see young black males portrayed as criminals and
aggressors on tv, in the movies, and in the news media. this is now the perception that people have of these young men. so whenever they see one of them walking down the street, they instantly become afraid. they think that something is going to happen to them. this is not the case. it's not always the case. everybody in the black community does not have a criminal background or even criminal intent. people must recognize that. law enforcement has to recognize that. we again have to go back to the concept that in order for law enforcement to properly and completely do their job, they have to fully engage with the community. they have to fully embrace the community as their partners and
their co-conspiraciers, if you will. >> if you look back at the film of the urban riots of the mid 60's. those police forces heading on streets, doing baton charges, pushing people back off of sidewalks. those forces in those big cities were almost entirely white. we aren't there any more. and yet we haven't been able to transform the model that both lieutenant wilson and alexis mcguil mcgill johnson are talking about. >> i think you're right. we've made significant progress in many of the urban centers in terms of hiring black and minority police officers. that has probably made a very big and much more significant positive change than we realize, or that we celebrate. but it certainly is not enough. i think it's a really interesting point. we don't want to broadly condemn
media. they bring us entertainment, enjoyment and news. yet they bring us images that both the lieutenant and ms. johnson were speaking of. i know i live in new york. i encounter black folks intimately in terms of friendship and provision as well as on the street, as you're walking around. i went to public integrated schools, and i just never saw in my experience the kind of attitudes and behavior that i see typically depicted about blacks on television and in rioting, and in all media. it was as if-- >> i have to cut you off there to go to another break. we'll continue with that thread. we'll be back with inside story. who gets to be a boy and who doesn't. whether it's zero tolerance at school, punishment for minor crimes, keeping order on the
>> you're watching inside story on al jazeera america 37 i'm ray suarez. whether it's stop and risk. applying a thumping to a young guy instead of booking himmer or a cop pleading that he felt threatened when a young man is injured or dead. violence and coercion at the hands of the police are a part of their lives. still with us on al jazeera. this time at "inside story." stan pottenger, lieutenant wilson and alexis mcgill johnson. we heard it in the description of the police officer who was just cleared by the grand jury.
he described mike brown as super humanly strong. when shooting him, he was husking up to resist the bullets, which is impossible. when you hear of those things, super human strength, tremendous brute force, added danger. do police arrive at a scene with a heightened sense of danger if they're facing a group of black youths versus other youths? >> that's the perception that has been given for all young black men. they're portrayed as being all criminals. they're portrayed as being violent. they're portrayed as being aggressive, and this is the image that is put out on them. mr. pottenger mentioned the ideas of recruiting more black and latino police officers. well, we, unfortunately, know
that we're recruited at, not for. when you don't make contact with those core constituents in the community that can direct you to qualified candidates, you get no qualified candidates. you i believe in 2007 the department of justice estimated that within all law enforcement in the country only 11% were african-american heritage. >> stan, let me have you jump in there because lieutenant wilson is talking about recruitment and the problems there, but also training is a problem. are these things that if an order came down from washington, if it were to come from city hall that we could train our way out, are there institutional answers to these things? >> well, there are some, yes, and there is money available. it's undoubtedly not enough.
there is not enough money for anything. but there is money available from the federal government to help with that. i think its critical that it get done. you ask a question if the police respond to a group--a call for some kind of a disturbance or violence, how do they react? the question is how do black police officers react and how do white police officers react. there are biases against young black men. bottom line, we're not here to indict our cops as being racists. they're choosing a job where
they are a servant to communities, and we have to be careful about how we think about that. but at the same time, we need to make sure that we're insuring they're getting the proper training that will help to reduce the biases, and help them to acknowledge the fact that will correct for it. there are interventions. there are ways to train and screen around our biases that i think is really great. >> an important reminder. it's a tough job, a dangerous job and often a thankless job. to our guests, thank you all. that bring us to the end of this edition of "inside story." join us next time in washington. i'm ray suarez.
>> hello again, this is al jazeera america. live from new york city. i'm tony harris. we're standing by, waiting on two scheduled events. first a news conference from the ferguson police department on prescriptions for possible unrest. that briefing is expected to start at any time now. we will of course bring that to you live when it happens. and then we'll show you live pictures here from chicago. we're also standing by waiting for president obama to make comments in chicago. now this trip is