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tv   Laurie Robinson  CSPAN  April 28, 2021 10:36am-11:08am EDT

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>> we apologize we continue to have some technical issues with the house appropriations hearing this morning with labor secretary marty walsh so we're going to move on in our program schedule here on cspan3. >> ms. robynson thanks for joining us this morning. >> good morning. >> to the topic of police reforms coming out of the trial you had a police in politico that takes a look at reform efforts post trial. the headlines says the terrain
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going forward will not be the same. can you tell us why? >> certainly. i think, first of all, it's helpful to step back and think about the terrain before this as well. if we look back to michael brown's death in ferguson, back in 2014, and the death of eric garner, tamir rice and others in the aftermath of that, the very institute of justice did a study and found that 34 states, and the district of columbia, passed 79 laws on police reform in the two years after ferguson. and so there was a flurry of activity at that time to pass laws on things like body-worn cameras, on training for police, on what's called crisis intervention team training of
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handling individuals with mental health problems. so there has been a forward movement of some kind in recent years. but in the aftermath of george floyd's tragic death last summer, there has been movement forward. and, in fact, national conference of state legislatures has totalled up and said that 30 states have passed 140 laws or a little more than that in the policing area just since last may. but i said that the terrain has shifted now because despite the -- all the attention that has been focused on this area by states and also local governments in changing laws, the attention with the verdict last week of not only our country but the international
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global community has really been fixed on why policing in their view is still broken and what more can be done to fix it. and i think that attention will continue to be mobilized around what steps can be taken to move forward in this area. and that's why the quote. >> the last line of that piece by the way, you talked about this idea of what's broken in american law enforcement. what would you say are the top elements? what's broken as you currently see it? >> well, what i also said was the importance of leaders within policing to carry the banner forward on this. because i think there are strong leaders within policing, particularly on the management side, but i think police unions are also important to help in
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building corrective action here. and i think the two areas where we need a change, particularly, or perhaps i'd say three, but particularly substantively, on not surprisingly on use of force, and also on police accountability, that's kind of two buckets, two areas, and the broader area is, i guess, one would say kind of police culture, the way things are done. and i think we need to recognize that institutionally changing institutions is not an overnight task. and that work will proceed over a period of time. we also need to recognize that policing is very decentralized in the united states. unlike many of our european
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colleague countries, for example, in britain there are something like 35 police departments. here we have 18,000 state and local police departments, police agencies, and they are not federally controlled. they're all controlled, as we know, at the local level, by mayors, by county commissioners, locally elected sheriffs, and that means that you don't, for example, order change from the top. i was surprised when i co-chaired the white house task force that president obama appointed, how many people, including some members of the washington press, asked me, after the -- a report was concluded whether president obama was going to order police chiefs in the united states to implement some of those
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recommendations. the president of the united states doesn't have the authority to order any police chiefs at the local level to do much of anything. because of our federal system, of course. as you would know. so our decentralized system means that institutional change in policing is a longer process. >> this is our guest laurie robinson of george mason university, you heard her talk about the work at the white house when it comes to this issue. if you want to ask questions about efforts 202-748-8000 or 202-748-8001 or 202-748-8002. you can text thoughts at 202-748-8003.
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you talked about the influence the federal government has on this, we heard from attorney general merrick garland yesterday, talking about investigations. i want to play a little bit about the why of why they're doing that and get your response to it. >> we are uniquely aware of the challenges faced by those who serve as police officers. we see their commitment firsthand every day, and we recognize the complex issues that make their already difficult jobs even harder. the justice department is also charged with ensuring that the constitutional and federal statutory rights of all people are protected. as i explained last week, congress has authorized the department to conduct pattern or practice investigations to help it fulfill that responsibility. those investigations and the recommendations and actions that
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ensue do not only protect individuals' civil rights, they also assist police departments in developing measures to increase transparency and accountability. >> so those investigations, the minneapolis and louisville police departments, what do you think about the justice department's role and can you talk more about these investigations that he spoke of? >> well, first of all, i would say i worked very closely with law enforcement over my career. i was with the justice department for ten years as an assistant attorney general. and worked with state and local law enforcement across the country and with the international association of chiefs of police as one of their committee chairs. and so, i agree with attorney general garland that law enforcement, particularly on the front lines, have extraordinarily challenging jobs that call for very difficult decisions frequently made in
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difficult terrain and on kind of split second required decision-making. at the same time, the justice department has an important role, and i think attorney general garland is making a correct decision in reinstituting the pattern of practice of lawsuits or investigations i should say in this case, that he has done in the minneapolis case and here in -- with the announcement this week in louisville, kentucky. these investigations and lawsuits were authorized by the 1994 violent crime control act, so called crime bill. and i think represent, as a measured response by the federal
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government, to ensure, as he announced yesterday, that constitutional rights are protected and that political director -- and that police departments are not interfering in inappropriate ways with those rights by individuals. of individuals. >> once those investigations are completed, what happens then? are there teeth so to speak, if corrective measures are needed? >> yes. in some of those cases federal judges oversee a monitoring agreement under which a police department agrees to a set of measures that are changes in how it operates and under those agreements there is then kind of a track of whether or not the department continues to implement those measures.
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so in cities like baltimore and seattle, as examples, those measures are now under way. >> for our guest, this is jim in missouri, democrat's line you're on with laurie robinson, go ahead. >> good morning. myself i would say the default is that police are not supposed to kill people. sure defend yourselves, you know, defend somebody else. the same as any other citizen carrying a gun. now if i make a mistake and i shoot somebody with a phone to their head, i will go to jail. treat the police the same as everybody else. legislating use of force, they talk about training as if
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it's -- was written in the bible somewhere. if the training results in bad results, change the training. i lived in south florida for a long time, and the people and the traffic, the tension in me, and i was ready to go postal. i moved to a rural area. my aggression tapered off, disappeared. i cannot imagine how policemen in the same environment that i lived through, not developing a bad attitude. they'd never get to move to the country like me. they do it every day, every day -- >> jim, thank you. we'll let our guest respond. ms. robinson go ahead.
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>> i think you rightly point out that training is important and stresses are there for police officers to deal with. i would say that there are certain situations, though they're very limited, in which police officers do need, unfortunately, to use lethal force. if there is a hostage situation and a hostage is about to be killed and there are a number of offenders with guns and somebody has a chance to rescue that hostage, i mean, we can think of situations with violent drug gangs or whatever it might be that, in that rare situation, there may be a need for lethal force. that's why it is authorized by law for police officers to use. obviously the problem is those
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events should be extraordinarily rare. >> from gary in orlando, florida. you're next up. hello. >> hello, how are you doing today? my name is gary, i grew up in my father's first cousin, his name was singh. he worked for new york city transit. i always assumed the police were good. in 1977, december 3rd, i had went to church, came home from church. my mother sent myself, 14, and my brother, 16, to the store. when we got to the store, i turned to my brother and said, be careful. it was slippery, it had been sleeting all morning. as soon as i went in, a police officer picked me up and threw me into a metal container, a big
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dumpster that split my head open. as i laid on the floor, i kept asking him, why would you do that, why would you do that? he just kept looking down at me saying, you people always cause problems. and i kept repeating, who are you talking about? who are these people? i don't know what you're talking about. he kept yelling at me. you people always causing problems. so my 14-year-old brother standing over me trying to help me up, goes, you mean people like my family who pay taxes and your salaries? to which he took out a knife, jabbed my 14-year-old brother in the ribs and slammed him on top of me. we both got each other home, helped each other up the stairs to the second floor, barricaded ourselves in the room, and my mother was outside the door crying, what happened, what happened? she saw a trail of blood going up the stairs. >> caller, in the interest of time, we appreciate the story, but what would you like our guest to address from that?
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>> it's not the training. the training is right. the training is working the way it's supposed to be. we are targets. i live in hunters creek in orlando, and i have been stopped 11 times walking through my own area. i've been stopped in front of my house twice and asked for a green card that i don't have. gary, again, appreciate the story and the personal story. miss robinson, if you wanted to address that. >> racial profiling and similar kinds of actions or police brutality of any kind -- >> i'm here. >> -- cannot be accepted. thus the earlier comment about police culture. it has to be changed. it cannot be accepted. it obviously is not true for, i would say, the vast majority of our law enforcement officers in this country who are dedicated,
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honest and not embracing of those actions. but it certainly sadly is of some, as our caller has reported. and while his actions that he reported took place many years ago, sadly they still occur today. and it is those types of occurrences that far too many people in this country have also experienced that have, sadly, given law enforcement a bad reputation. and one of the things that does encourage me is that so many of the leaders in law enforcement are committed to changing this, and we need support from within law enforcement to make this
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change. and i think that support is there. we need to join hands to make this happen. >> there is a story in the "washington post" this morning, miss robinson, that talks about efforts in albuquerque by federal authorities investigating issues there and issuing a civilian oversight agency as one of those recommendations. it says that the police union sued the agency and later demanded the resignation of a board member who pushed to tighten the police department's use of force policy. talk about the union's role in reform. what role do they play? >> well, i thought that that story, which i did read this morning, was very revealing and very discouraging. research by the council on criminal justice, which is an important, new criminal justice think tank, has shown -- this
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recently came out -- has shown that civilian review boards and civilian oversight groups have frequently not been effective because they have not been given sufficient power, subpoena power and oversight tools, audit ability, ability to go in for internal records, to really play a meaningful role in oversight. so i think that was a critical piece of that article. and that has made them vulnerable to the kind of attacks and bullying, i would say, that that article described about police unions. and i think that policing,
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sadly, have been obstacles to change that is needed in law enforcement. now, that is not true of every leader and individual involved in police union work. but overall, police unions have served as a barrier to needed change, unfortunately. >> tom is next. tom from paris, california for our guest laurie robinson of george mason university. >> caller: hello. good morning. >> good morning. >> caller: i would like to make a comment of how it's not so much a place in reform. i'm a two-time felon, and any time i get pulled over, they already know who you are, and any time you're going to think you're going to run from them, you're going to get that reaction. so, you know, when they try and
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get shot and stuff, just hand it over. you're already there, you're in custody, you're not going to win. just like the man was telling george floyd. just give it up, you're not going to win. i don't think it's a reform thing, i think people have to understand law enforcement is going to do their job no matter what. bad things happen when people don't comply. >> miss robinson? >> i would like to think that a properly operating law enforcement would not be a bullying law enforcement. so i don't know that i would agree that that's the way it should operate. but it may be the reality in many jurisdictions, as you say. >> when it comes to the topic of qualified immunity, laurie robinson, i want to play a little bit of lindsey graham, the republican senator from south carolina. he talked a little about police reform efforts, what qualified
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immunity does and what he sees. i'll play his perspective and then get yours. >> number one, we would have had police reform in the last congress but chuck schumer and kamala harris made a conscious effort to block tim scott's reform bill. they filibustered tim scott's bill, because they didn't want tim scott and president trump to get credit for it. there is no reason we shouldn't have done it last time. we'll try again. qualified immunity is a very big deal. if you want to destroy policing in america, make sure that every cop can be sued when they leave the house. so there is a way to find qualified immunity reform. take the cop out of it. my idea, along with senator scott, is you can't sue the police officer, you sue the department if there is an allegation of civil rights abuse or constitutional right abuse. we can solve that problem. we can solve the issues if there's will to get there, and i think there's will to get there on the part of both parties now. >> miss robinson, that's his perspective. what do you think of it and what
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would be yours? >> well, the qualified immunity issue has been, as you say, the sticking point. and apparently it's the sticking point right now between the house and the senate that is kind of the nub of the negotiations, apparently, that are going on right now between the house representatives and senator scott. our white house task force, back in 2014-2015, did not address this issue, and i am not an expert on that issue. i've looked into it, and i can see arguments on both sides. i think that a compromise may end up with something like ability to sue but the possibility of the department or the local jurisdiction covering the costs rather than an individual officer. i don't know where that will end
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up. and i have somewhat personally mixed feelings about it. i think that there does need to be some ability to hold individual officers accountable, but as for holding an individual officer, making him or her pay large sums of money and then losing their homes, et cetera, i don't know. perhaps it has to do with the severity of the action that they took. i'd have to think about that in greater detail. but accountability is an important issue. very important issue. >> from kevin, richmond, california. go ahead. >> caller: good morning. i come at this from an hr point of view. it's true that police officers' jobs are very stressful, as are other classifications which require psychological evaluations on an annual basis. why is that not the case with
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police officers? >> well, that's actually a very good question. and it's not only a psychological evaluation but mental health more broadly. one of the issues that our white house task force took up was the issue of officer wellness and safety, and on the officer wellness side, we encouraged that there be, as well as a general wellness check which, by and large, does take place as far as physical health for officers every year, that there be a mental health wellness check as well. one of the challenges for officers and agencies right now,
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and traditionally has been, is that with all of the stress that police officers experience inúiu the kind of macho culture of law enforcement, it's really, in the culture, kind of frowned upon to go for mental health counseling. that's not unusual. it would be the same in many other types of settings like firefighting and other -- in the military, probably, as well. so one of the good developments has been peer support groups which have arisen, and i think that's a very good development. but more needs to be done broadly in this area to give support to police officers, and i think this would really
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benefit the profession broadly. >> let's hear from paul. he's in kansas city, missouri. >> caller: good morning. thanks for this segment. in america, the police, i believe, should always be backed in a gun fight. in a gun fight, it requires that there be a gun present on the other side, too. i'm not saying that only -- think -- that's not a gun fight. and one of the things that we see too often is police using deadly force rather than trying to apprehend someone. if i shoot you in the back within 10, 20 feet of you trying
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to run away, i'd rather kill you than try and stop you or put in the effort to chase you. and that i see as a huge problem with policing. >> paul, i have to leave it there, i apologize. but we'll let our guest respond. >> well, your points are very well taken, and the supreme court has actually said, in tennessee versus garner, back a number of years ago that it is not constitutional to shoot at somebody who is retreating. and so that is well taken. one of the positive developments is the -- i know one of our callers was skeptical about training, but some training, rigorous research has shown can
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reduce use of force, and that specifically is de-escalation training if done correctly. and what de-escalation training can do, to your point, is really diffuse the situation, using distance and good communication to just lower the temperature of the confrontation. and try to lower the adrenaline of both participants and try, particularly if substance abuse is involved, if the individual, the civilian, has mental health issues, to just lower the temperature and slow it down. this is proven, again, with rigorous research to have a real impact. >> laurie robinson is the professor of criminality law and
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society at george mason university. also served on the post of 21st century policing. thank you for the conversation. >> thank you. c-span is your unfiltered view of government. we're supported by these companies and more, including comcast. comcast is partnering so students can get what they need for anything. c-span3 is supported by these providers, giving you a front row seat to democracy. federal reserve chair jerome powell will talk about the economy this afternoon following the latest federal open market committee meeting. watch live at 2:30 p.m. eastern on c-span3.
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online at or listen live on the free c-span radio app. as he approaches his 100th day in office, president biden will give his first address to a joint session in congress tonight. our live coverage begins tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern with the president's address at 9:00 p.m. eastern. online at or listen to the c span radio app. health experts testified on air travel safety amid the coronavirus pandemic. it runs 129 minutes. >> we have a history of tradition, and i plan to continue that tradition as chair.


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