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Pressing For Police Reform: Two Views On Practice And Policies

AP Poll Race and Policing
Frank Franklin II/AP
In this June 11, 2020, photo, pedestrians pass a mural in NYC's Union Square, highlighting police brutality nationwide. More Americans now say police brutality is a serious problem that too often goes undisciplined and unequally targets Black Americans. A poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows a dramatic shift in the nation’s public opinion on policing and race.

Baltimore Police Comm. Michael Harrison on the city's complex policing challenges, and Harvard Prof. Khalil Muhammad on why US policing must be reimagined.

Today on Midday, two conversations about policing and police reform...

It was a familiar scene: the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York delivering another impassioned eulogy of a Black man killed by police. Andrew Brown, killed during a traffic stop in which police were trying to serve a warrant, was laid to rest in North Carolina on Monday. Last week, a judge ordered that video tape of the incident not be released for several weeks. Brown’s family has only been shown redacted excerpts of the available tape.

That decision has led to speculation that the tape will be incriminating to the deputies who killed Mr. Brown, and that the shooting was racially motivated. Distrust of police in communities of color continues unabated from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; from cities large and small, including Baltimore.

Some raw data perhaps tells a different story when it comes to people’s understanding of racial bias in policing. As of mid-April, according to a data base maintained by the Washington Post, 30 more unarmed white people have been shot and killed by police in the last six years than unarmed Black people.

But as the steady stream of viral videos shows, there is no shortage of documentation of white police officers brandishing their weapons in encounters with Black suspects, which has led to the conclusion among activists and public officials that systemic racism pervades law enforcement agencies across the land. And, many of us wonder, why do so many interactions with police turn violent?

The Department of Justice chronicled a “pattern and practice” of unconstitutional policing in Baltimore in a scathing report issued in 2016. Baltimore continues to operate under a consent decree with the DOJ. The DOJ has implemented new consent decrees with other police departments in recent weeks, and promises that more will follow.

The 2021 Maryland General Assembly repealed the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights and replaced it with measures that involve more citizen oversight of police. And negotiations on Capitol Hill continue over the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

Yesterday, lawyers for George Floyd's convicted murderer, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, filed a motion for a new trial.

Efforts to reform policing, re-energized by the worldwide protests that took place after George Floyd's killing, continue at the local, state and federal level across the country.

Meanwhile, the streets in certain Baltimore neighborhoods remain dangerous and deadly. Baltimore has recorded more homicides and non-fatal shootings this year than last year. The Mayor and the State’s Attorney have positioned themselves at the vanguard of efforts to reimagine public safety.

Today on Midday, two conversations about police reform: first, Tom speaks with Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison about the BPD's response to the recent spike in fatal shootings on the city's streets, and what progress is being made in the city's reform-oriented consent decree.

BPD: Martha Stewart; Muhammad: Harvard U.
Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison; Harvard Kennedy School Prof. Khalil G. Muhammad

Then, Tom is joined by Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad. He is a Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. He's also the author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America.

BPD Commissioner Harrison and Professor Muhammad join us today on Zoom.

Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)
Rob is Midday's senior producer.