BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

SHOULD WE DEFUND THE P0LICE?

June 11, 2020 Dana Lewis Season 1 Episode 10
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
SHOULD WE DEFUND THE P0LICE?
Chapters
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
SHOULD WE DEFUND THE P0LICE?
Jun 11, 2020 Season 1 Episode 10
Dana Lewis

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the calls for "defund the police" have echoed across America.   Black Lives Matter say police reform has repeatedly failed. 
And they want police budgets slashed and police officers replaced with social workers who won't use force.  

Minneapolis has already said they will defund police.   Will it work elsewhere?

Join host Dana Lewis on BACK STORY where we talk to Brian Higgins, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, and a former police chief and public safety director in New Jersey. And Dr. Darrin Porcher who teaches criminal Justice at Pace Univ. 

  

Show Notes Transcript

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the calls for "defund the police" have echoed across America.   Black Lives Matter say police reform has repeatedly failed. 
And they want police budgets slashed and police officers replaced with social workers who won't use force.  

Minneapolis has already said they will defund police.   Will it work elsewhere?

Join host Dana Lewis on BACK STORY where we talk to Brian Higgins, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, and a former police chief and public safety director in New Jersey. And Dr. Darrin Porcher who teaches criminal Justice at Pace Univ. 

  

Speaker 1:

Let's just get rid of the place. It's almost that we're talking about. And so absurd. The fractures within the structure of policing. We understand that in the wake of the death of George Floyd, however, we need to make those cuts smartly as opposed to an overaggressive measure .

Speaker 2:

Hi everyone. I'm Dana Lewis, your host, and from London. This is backstory George Floyd, a black man murdered by a white policeman in Minneapolis has come to symbolize everything about racism and police abuse of power. And his death has rocked America

Speaker 3:

test spread across the nation and then around the world. And in Washington, if you listened to his brother, felonies testify at a house hearing, you surely would be moved by what he had to say.

Speaker 4:

The man who took his life, who suffocated him for eight minutes and 46 seconds, he still called him, sir, as he begged for his life, I can't tell you the kind of pain you feel when you watch something like that. When you watch your big brother who you looked up to your whole entire life, die, die begging for his mom. I'm tired. I'm tired of pain, pain. You feel when you watch something like that. When you watch your big brother who you looked up to for your whole life, die, die begging for his mom, I'm here to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain. Stop us from being tired. Joe has called for help, and he was ignored. Please listen to the call. I'm making to you now to the cause of our family and the calls ringing out the streets across the world. People of all backgrounds, genders, and races have come together to demand change, honor them on a George and make the necessary changes that make law enforcement, the solution and not the problem.

Speaker 3:

So where do we go from here? Well, the debate is about too much policing, too hard, too muscular, too insensitive to communities of color. The call is to slam the brakes on overzealous policing and abuse of power and to even defund police. What does that mean? Let's listen, joining me now is Brian Higgins. He is a professor of the John Jay college of criminal justice in New York and a former police chief and public safety director in New Jersey. And then dr. Darren Porcher who teaches criminal justice at pace university was a police Lieutenant for the NYP D and worked internal affairs. They're investigating among other things, police complaints. I would ask both of you , um, are you excited that this is a turning point or skeptical of calls to defend police and change the system? Brian, can we start with you?

Speaker 5:

Well, as, as we spoke about earlier, you know, I've been following this very closely now since this started and it just seems to be there's this moving , uh , message right now, and those who, who put this defund police message out there kind of haven't collectively agreed on what it really means. Um, you know, as far as the funds budgets for police departments that are at different ways to look at budgets, I've been in those situations where it's either tightening the belt or , um, an administration wants to send a message to its budget. I'm looking at each line item, we refer to as a zero sum budget where , uh , we start with zero and you have to justify every single line item, including the equipment to police use. If it's something like that, I think it's always good to , um , take a fresh look. There is obviously something happening in the United States related to police community relations. But , um , the idea, the far extreme of let's just get rid of the police is , uh , it's almost not worth talking about it's so absurd.

Speaker 3:

Darren , what do you think we're talking about? I mean, this is far more than line items in a budget,

Speaker 1:

right? I agree. Um, I believe the , the current narrative that's being introduced is pushing forth an agenda that represents a moratorium, a moratorium on policing. It's not so much as to reduce the budgets we have to take in consideration we're in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. So it's safe to say all municipalities should experience a financial haircut, so to speak because the tax revenue hasn't come commensurate with the needs of any particular agency, so to speak because we've coolly come within a situation where it is the government and local municipalities are having to do more with less. So as a result of that, we look at a municipal organization, such as a police department, it's understood that they should regress somewhat in terms of the budget. But when we look at the direction of the funding, I think that's when it becomes somewhat questionable. And I have a, I have a common statement, the people that are closest to the problem or closest to the solution that being said, police have a greater understanding as to what's happening on the ground, so to speak. And as a result of that, there's been fractures within the structure of policing. And we understand that in the wake of the death of George Floyd, however, we need to make those cuts smartly, as opposed to an overaggressive measure. One of the things that have come to the forefront .

Speaker 3:

Well, if I , if I can, if I can jump in, though, they want an over aggressive measure. Black lives matter is really talking about almost the disbanding of police. They say that they tried reform it didn't work, and they simply want to get rid of police period coming into their community because they believe that the police should be a last resort. They use force that is unacceptable reforms. Haven't haven't happened, Brian .

Speaker 5:

Well, first of all, we see it saw the example in Georgia recently of an African American male, who was killed by two men who in my opinion, acted as vigilantes. So the thought of eliminating the police and then society policing itself is a unrealistic. You're going to have this vacuum created. That's going to be filled like five vigilantism . So one, it doesn't make any sense. And my experiences , those areas that see the most crime rate , which are quite often , uh , based on socioeconomic scale, much lower, but quite often , um, occupied by people of color. They usually want the opposite. They want to know why they're not getting enough police when the crime goes high.

Speaker 3:

But even as we've seen demonstrations across America, we have seen strong armed police tactics, Darren again , uh , which seems to even erode more confidence in any kind of policing in the community.

Speaker 1:

Okay. The second parts of my initial statement was traditionally, when we look at policing, a it's viewed through a prism of 90% of service related and 10% is enforcement related. So oftentimes the budgets, although 10% is enforcement related disproportionately had experienced a higher level of expenditures for the enforcement component. So what the goal was, what I think should be introduced is we should make an adjustment and more what's was the community policing element of service. And as a result that provides creating that symbiotic relationship between police and community, I think that's what we need to bring more resources and logistics to the full , to strengthen that relationship.

Speaker 3:

Okay. Let me jump in there to understand what you're saying, because, and I don't want to cut you off, but I do want to expand on what you're saying. So you're saying 10% is enforcement, which means that the , the nine one, one dispatcher says to a car, you know, we've got an armed robbery on the corner of, of so-and-so. And so, and so, and that's enforcement, you go and get the bad guy that the rest of it though , um , a lot of people are saying that is where the real debate will come in, where you have police handling a lot of, you know, mental health issues, housing issues, things that police may be are really not needed for probably never asked for , uh , in terms of having to go and get involved in that. And now they say we can have other teams and other social workers go and deal with that rather than police showing up with sirens and flashing lights . Is that what you mean?

Speaker 1:

Well, partially, but it's more of extending that relationship because what happens like when you mentioned, let's say practitioners of a professional nature, such as a psychologist being engaged in instances of the homeless, or maybe even a domestic dispute that works well and good, but you also have to understand that's going to require another, another level of financial resource to keep that machine moving. You're going to see a series of benchmarks that are going to be introduced in a back channel negotiation between police executives, elected officials, and community leaders. That group of people are going to state that, Hey, look, there's been issues with over-policing in a communities of color. We need this. There's going to be a series of , um , demands and expectations that the police are going to have the expectation of meeting, but in a lot of this stuff is going to require additional funding. I'm okay with that. But it's one of these things that's constantly, it's like throwing , um , it's like throwing glue . It's like throwing something up against a wall, so to speak. It's like it's going to eventually smash. And then unfortunately it's the police that come in and attempt to clean it up and they just haven't done a good job. So as a result of that real , are we good to where are we going to go with these finances or the economic obligations attached to police? And I genuinely believe

Speaker 3:

you want to take a run at this.

Speaker 5:

Look, I agree with dr. Porter and a lot of it , um, a lot of what he has to say there, there are areas that we can look at particularly , um, recently we've seen more and more non traditional policing roles being assigned to the police, you know, here in New Jersey. Uh, we understood very quickly as most of the country did. We can't arrest ourselves out of the opioid addiction crisis. And the fact is coronavirus has taken over , um, this, this current , um , environment of protest has taken over, but that's still a significant crisis in the United States. So when the police have an interaction with someone who , uh, is in possession illegally of opioids , uh, they have a choice either basically throw themselves on the sword and say, I want to take this other process that, that doesn't include the court system. That might be where the police, the police are supposed to then follow it through. Maybe we, the police then completely handed off to , uh , mental health and health professionals. So there are areas that we can look at where , um, the police definitely have entered non traditional police roles that can be passed off to professional . I think

Speaker 3:

that when, when I hear the , the black lives matter strategists and spokespeople, they're not talking about that. I mean, they want something more substantial than that. And I think that that's maybe an, you know, you can disagree with me and , and hopefully you will, but isn't that where the disconnect is going to come in this interrogation of the model, if we can call it that because yeah, you might be able to trim here and move something towards social services that police respond to. But when it, when it comes to the whole issue of , of police abuse and in the context of what's just happened in Minneapolis, people want to see more substantial, rapid , uh, overhauls of , of the police model. And I don't think they're going to get that. Are they in the current climate?

Speaker 1:

I think that it's not going to , it's not going to be a revolution in that. When I say revolution in police practices, it's not going to happen overnight. We go back to under the Obama administration, you have something referred to which he referred to as 21st century policing. And what it did was it presented a dynamic of policing community relationships. And it was something that they felt that it was necessary to allow a level of transparency, so to speak. I thought that there were good components in place there. However , there's some things that I wasn't really too comfortable with, but the, the agenda was for the policing community to have that relationship that runs consistent. So when you look at what black lives matter is looking for, they believe that the structure is completely faulty and we need to redirect a different structure. And that may not be policing. They're looking more towards a public safety model, but there's nothing specific in terms of what the, what the design component is. It's just, look, we just want to eradicate policing and start from scratch. Therefore, we need to sit down if that's what the public wants. I'm not in agreeance with that, but if that's what you want, let's sit down and draw up a schematic as to how best, how we can best , um , invite or introduce policing across America. Because ultimately we need to have a structure that represents the social contract and black lives matter. And a lot of these other groups with that, a protest thing have failed to understand that, okay, present something that's credible. That's not happened.

Speaker 3:

Well, I guess that's the beginning of the discussion, but you've both dealt with bad policemen. You were an internal affairs, Darren and Brian, you were the chief of police. And has that changed, do you think psychologically where somebody who had as many complaints as this officer did in Minneapolis, that the police administrations and internal affairs officers and city councilors will look at that and say, you know what, these guys smell bad. Maybe we can't prove it, but we think we have a bad cop there . Just get rid of them. Do you think that that will at least change right now? It's too much of a liability anymore?

Speaker 5:

I hope so. You know , in again, in New Jersey and it's quite , uh , similar in New York , uh , we have what we referred to as early warning systems and early warning systems on their general scope. Uh, look for officers who would be , uh, officers who are concerning employees. Sometimes it's not always that the officer's going to abuse their authority or use force and appropriately. Uh, we see a very high percentage of officers, high number who , uh, commit suicide because of the stress of the job. So these early warning systems are meant to officers

Speaker 1:

who have issues coming that needs to be in place. I believe it also needs to be standardized throughout the United States. Uh , in may police departments have an algorithm where you're able to detect , um, an inordinately high amount of complaints. Um, my experience in the NYP, we had a monitoring program. Whereas if an officer incurred a certain number of civilian, civilian complaints or internal affairs complaints, then that all person would be required to be retrained. So to speak. We look at what happened in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We had an officer that had 18 complaints in a 19 year period. I think that that really begs the question of ineffective effectiveness of the organizational structure in that why wasn't this officer either roped in and , um, placed in, in an assignment that didn't allow him, that police and community engagement, so to speak, or that officer should have been terminated? That's the question that I don't have the answer to because I don't have the specifics to the dynamics of the complaints attached to the officer, but we go back to a supervisory matrix. I think that that's very important to manage complaints that come into a department, because oftentimes if you have an officer that's gaining excessive numbers of complaints, you have certain options as a first line supervisor. And one of those options is you just may have to babysit that officer and take him, take him or her as your driver, or have consistent supervision for that individual that can be an arduous and laborist task . And it may not be something that the department may want to adhere to. So you have to look at other plausible alternatives, such as removing the office from the street, or even terminating an officer as a result. But we have something that's coming into fruition here in New York, which referred to as 58, 58 introduces, or it allows the public to gain. Um, they have a level of transparency to what an officer's complaints are. We sit within their tenure in the department in the past, this has always been prevented, whereas people were not able, let's just say the public didn't have the ability to see the number of complaints that was lodged against an officer. Recent legislation is in a process of being passed in New York that would allow citizens to see that I think that's one element of transparency, but the professional development is something that always comes into play. When we take in consideration implicit bias training. When I say implicit bias training, I mean , we all have somewhat of a level of stereotypes , so to speak. So when we look at what happened in the, the, the , uh, the George Floyd case case in point, the union leader , um, in that Minneapolis police department has made some really, really tough statements. If you seen him , um, he was on stage with president Trump. He spoke to how necessary it is for the cops to be uncuffed and put the cuffs on the people in the street . I just

Speaker 5:

think that he really set somewhat of a bad precedent in terms of that that is a union .

Speaker 3:

Well, you raise it. You raise an interesting point, dr . Portrait, because a lot of people have said that the unions are simply too strong and they've gotten in the way of police reform, but Brian, can I just have you wrap this up for us? I mean, if you take the, I don't want to say far, right. But if you take the far end of the spectrum, black lives matter saying ballers police defunding the police. Um, but then you look at people like Joe Biden, for instance, now who is distancing himself from that politically , uh , and in saying, yes, we need to reform, but nobody politically is using the term in the mainstream defund the police. Do you think that the black lives matter are going to be a little disappointed with how this turns out? Because it is going to be a massaging of the structure of police departments across the U S and funding, but it is , it is not going to be defund and, and get rid of place

Speaker 5:

if it really is their goal to , uh , disband police departments throughout the United States and not have a policing entity, they're going to be disappointed. It's just not going to happen. Um , everybody I see from Joe Biden onto other , um, uh, Democrat far left , uh, politicians are really distancing themselves from , um, disbanding. So it's not going to happen, but we do have a time for , um , a conversation. And I think we need to look at policing moving forward.

Speaker 3:

Brian Higgins professor at John Jay college of criminal justice in New York, dr. Darren Porcher , uh , teaching criminal justice at pace university. It's great to have you both talking about this and thank you so much.

Speaker 5:

Thank you, Dana. Thanks for having us

Speaker 3:

George Floyd's murder and issues of police funding will be a central issue. Now in the U S election president, Donald Trump has largely failed to condemn police actions,

Speaker 2:

racism, and he allowed force to be used on peaceful demonstrators, including tear gas and rubber bullets. To clear his path for a Bible photo off at a church near the white house. Trump keeps tweeting law and order providing no leadership on reflection and reconciliation between black and white America. That's backstory I'm Dana Lewis. Please subscribe to our podcast and share, take care.