tv U.S. Senate Sen. Smith on Police Reform CSPAN June 11, 2020 5:49pm-6:06pm EDT
nation, the most noble nation in the history of mankind that has struggled throughout our history and perfectly but ceaselessly to live up to our founding creed that all men are created equal. the single greatest defense against tyranny racism and oppression t. that is at stake in this debate. mr. president i yield thel floo. >> mr. president last week i attended a memorial service for my constituents mr. george floyd who was murdered i minneapolis police. like so many minnesotans my heart is broken for mr. floyd and m his family and for a black community that has been here too many times. i o will once again add my voice
to the chorus demanding the police officers responsible for his death face justice. i keep finding myself taking that mr. floyd's death wasn't just a tragedy and it wasn't just a crime, it was a failure. it was our failure. systemic racism is built into every level of our society and for 400 years black brown and indigenous people of paid the price. racism isn't just evil though it is, it's dangerous and racism isn't just a moral issue, though it is, it's a public health issue and the deathlo of mr. fld like the death of so many black and brown people before him is an indictment of our failure of policymakers to fulfill our first and most important duty which is to protect the lives of the people that we serve.
black lives matter. we need to say it loud and often with strength and with purpose. if we truly mean it that we need to be very clear about why it is that so many whack an bromides are being c stolen and that meas we can't just point to systemic racism writ large. we have to talk about the police. this is about the impunity for which police officers are allowed to kill black and brown americans. this is about a society which police departments have become fundamentally unaccountable institutions. this is about the fact that law enforcement in america does not deliver equal justice for all. the institutional racism that plagues america's law enforcement is real. this is not just a few bad cops. this is the entire culture of policing, culture thattu far too
often encourages violence, condones its use and resist the reform and accountability at every turn and the culture kills and will continue to do so unless we stop it. if we can't see that, if we can't say it, if we are ready to use our power and our privilege to retract this unforgivable failure we might as well say nothing at all. why is it so hard for us to talk about these issues? why is it so hard to even admit there's something dangerously wrong about the role that police play in our society? i think in part it's because of the respect we have for police officers themselves m. we asked these men and women to put their lives on the line every single day and hundreds of thousands of police officers in my community and all of yours
fulfill their duty with skill and courage every day. i think there is something else lurking behind our inaction. the vast majority policymakers especially here in washington are wide and the vast majority of the interactions of why people have this police up sirs are positive. when we are scared or hurt the police officer comes to help and when we h hear the siren or we e a blue uniform we breathe a sigh of relief. it is uncomfortable for white people to acknowledge that this feelingli of relief is really about privilege and it's uncomfortable to imagine giving up some piece ofeg that privile. after all we want clean safe streets. we all want quiet orderly neighborhoods. we want to be able to call 911 if we are in danger of note that the police officers will rush to our aid and we may even catch ourselveswo worrying that a pole
force helds accountable for its abuses, its abuse of power against black and brown bodies will be a police force a little less empowered to protect us. often when white people talk about racism we defined it as hatred in people's hard and research within ourselves and we feel satisfied at we are free of prejudice. but racism colleagues manifest as behavior, behavior that hurts, that kills. who even knows how to change hearts and minds? we do know i think, let's say let's start the change of behavior. this is something that i think about a lot as a minnesotan. my home state prides pride ourselves on our legacy of progressive activism. we believe deeply and civic versus the patient and we are proud to have the highest voter turnout in the whole country.
we are home to a diverse array of committees, african-americans, somali and long and more in all people who belong here just as much as anyone else. and we are home to some of the nations worst racial disparities it's not just black men are more likely to be stopped and more likely to be searched or assaulted and killed by police officers, a black runner native growing up in the neighborhood where george floyd was murdered ken expect worse education outcomes, worse health, fewer pretend he's been a white child the lives a few miles down the road. the truth is for all the progress we have made in america over the course of my lifetime and for all the hearts and minds that it has changed racism was built into the system from the very beginning. and while it is still present in
everything from health care to education and housing and environmental policies it jumps off the page when you look at ourf nation's criminal justice system. consider this, african-americans make up less than 14% of the population but they account for 23% of fatal police shootings and one third of our prison population. studies repeatedly show that black people and white people use drugs at roughly the same rate that black people are more than twice as likely to be arrested for drug offenses in nearly four times as likely when it comes to marijuana. no matter where you look our criminal justice system unfairly targets blacks and browns of native people threatening their freedom and often their lives. you can't just blame that on -- that's us doing that and even if we harbor no hatred in our hearts we are responsible for
the impact of the system that was built historically to americans. we are the beneficiaries of the system that killed george floyd, breonna taylor ahmed arbery sandra bland ayanna stanley jones achaea boyd jessica hernandez eric staal gatto orlando costellond jamaat clark and so many others. that's a hard thing to admit but right now hundreds of houses of our fellow citizens are demanding that we face the ugly truth. the people marching on our streetse have watched as for gio ourselves time and time again for failing black and brown americans like george boyd and they are angry and they are grieving and they are exhausted.
this time they won't be denied. it may make us uncomfortable to hear the this anger and see the images on television to experience this turmoil when our country is going through so much already but that is the whole point of protest. this crisis has long deserved their attention and because we withheld that attention the protesters are demanding it now. we cannot claim to support the goal of justice if we don't confront the reality of injustice. wek cannot walk away from this moral crisis. we done that too many times after too many deaths and every time we do we fail the next black or brown american who dies in police custody. i just can't live with that. we have to make a change and this time white people have got to get past third discomforts. black and brown people have been trying for too long to tell us
that systemic racism isn't just limiting their opportunities. it is killing their children. to the communities of color in minnesota who i am proud to represent i want you to know that i hear you and i will do everything i can to make sure everyone here in washington hears you to. most of all we have to devote their time and energy and their resources andms their platforms, our power and privilege to helping movements succeed. as pastor billyto russell from e greater baptist church in minneapolis said to me, we need to make it right. mr. president i want to tell my minnesota community, my colleagues in the american people exactly howt i want to ue my power and my privilege to help you get right and in the coming weeks this will be moving forward with legislative action to focus on three priorities.
first, fundamentally transform the role of the police in our society from the way we fund's train and equip officers to the relationships between departments and the communities that they serve. we must rethink their responsibilities we assign to the police and the authority we give them to fulfill those responsibilities. we need to reimagine and reinvent american policing from the ground up. second we must fix the system's police department that obstruct accountability and transparency at every turn. our systems have insulated them from civil and criminal liability for their l actions. it leaves people of color to the conclude that they can't trust the police and it leaves the police to conclude they will never face consequences. tthey are both right so this means something is wrong. ..
accountability and preventing this misconduct from being ignored will not only help police departments responsible for perpetuating violence and unequal justice, but it will help prevent violence and injustice the next time. the justice for policing act led the justice for policing act led sen. tina smith: led by my colleagues, it's an important step forward. i'm proud to support it and i urge all of my colleagues to join in. racism is about behavior. we cannot legislate what police officers believe when we can and we must legislate how to behave. third, the communities that have been torn apart by injustice. in the twin cities, neighbors are already coming together to clean up the damage sustained by the unrest and people in the last two weeks. but that pack of making our
community hole goes harvey hynde than the physical damage. in healthcare and law enforcement and education and in housing, and an environmental policy. the people that i have spoke to what i was on last weekend, are grieving, they are angry and hurt. most of them, they are just exhausted. communities of color have spent years fighting to be heard and for justice, fighting for resources. fighting for survival. and as her senator is my job to carry that fight here to washington in the senate. 400 years cannot be overcome with a single piece of legislation or even by a single generation of legislature. but we can't let the enormity of the task blind as to the urgency of this work. the last two weeks have been extraordinarily difficult to minnesota twins in our country. but throughout history, the hardest times i've always been
the times that our country of the greatest progress. and so i choose to find a purpose in making sure that in this moment, i reached real progress towards justice and equality. this way i came to the floor today. no statement of intent, no matter how thoughtful or change the reality of this crisis, but i want this statement to be on the record. i want to be accountable for these commitments. i want to be part of holding this body and all of this in the senate accountable. so this then will be a first in the series that i intend to deliver. examining the systemic justice that plagues american policing and native and black and brown communities more broadly. nice the steps needed to address
the justice. redefining the role of the police and reinforce ending event reinforce ending the communities. and i am so blessed to serve them. this is a big fight. the scale of this is overwhelming. and can be be s hard to know whe it starts. but the people who come to the street last week in the twin cities, and the communities large and small across minnesota cities across this country, they are movement for change in their showing us the path forward. it requires us to be courageous, requires us to be humble. it requires us to be unconquerable. but it is at half rooted in love and trust and hope. we saw in the ways that the protesters brought joy to the most serious fights at the face pretty sound in the way they stood up to those who would do damage to their communities into the cause. we sought in the way that they kept their focus even in the
face of unimaginable brutality. so many many estonians have showed such courage and grace. i am proud to be her senator and i'm proud to be your neighbor. i'm committing myself to the path that you are forging. i hope that my constituents and my colleagues here in the senate, and all of my fellow americans will do the same. thank you. >> mr. president, we got a lot of problems in america today. a recession, the surge of violence my major cities and running outat nationwide call fr justice and hope. we have work to do in this body and in the city to solve these problems. and he that