Indirect Message

Episode 13: The End of Policing?

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Laci Green: (00:18)
Hello. Hey guys. Hope everyone's doing okay. Up air in the upside down, um, in a dramatic turn of events, America seems to have decided that police brutality easy in fact bad in ad these police brutality protests. There've been hundreds. If not thousands of instances caught on camera of more police brutality. One night, I was just scrolling on Twitter, sort of captivated by what was happening. And it started to feel like I was watching some sort of civil war light unraveling in real time. Now I know I'm probably not alone. When I say that this time feels different. I have never seen so many people take to the streets to protest police brutality in my admittedly brief existence. And yet there happened several high profile cases since the black lives matter movement began about seven years ago. So what changed? Why now? I'm not totally sure, but I have a few theories for one George Floyd's murder was caught on camera, clear as day, meaning that there was no spinning it. Another contributor is that gen Z is now in their teens and twenties.

 

[Tik Tok Videos]

We are getting killed every day for our skin tone.

 

Don't put your hands in your pockets. Don't put your hoodie on. Don't ride with the music too loud.

I support black lives matter because black lives are human lives! And if you don't think so, you've got a screw loose in your head and you need help!

Laci Green: (01:41)
There are 74 million zoomers who are growing up with movements like black lives matter online. Unlike the old days, you're probably not going to lose your job or your brand deals for talking about police brutality on social media. In fact, people might even give you shit if you don't. Which side site, I have some complicated feelings about, because obviously we want to incentivize people to speak out if there's something horrible happening, but it also means that, you know, some cringy influencers are going to use things like death and tragedy to promote themselves to gain clout. And that's not even a mention the nauseating performative wokeness that we have to endure from all these giant corporations that want to lecture people while also having very exploitative or even racist policies. It makes me wonder, are companies replacing churches? Are they becoming our new moral compass? My last theory is that people are just tired of everything. They're tired of the lack of accountability. They're tired of the corruption. So it's no wonder that some people look at this and just want to burn the whole thing down. You know, whatever the magical formula is. We are here now and it finally feels like change might actually be happening. But the question now is what kind of change? What will it take to not only reduce police violence, but to end it?

Chapter 1: PREPARE FOR BATTLE

Laci Green: (03:05)
There's been a lot of discussion about how police brutality is a systemic problem. It's basically the idea that we can't really fix this by just eliminating individual bad apples. We have to think critically about how policing is actually done in America. The philosophy of it, the practice of it from top to bottom.

 

Mecole Jordan-McBride:

You're giving the police a lot of power. They have an authority to take someone's life. They have the authority to take someone's Liberty and to allow that level of authority into the hands of someone, without allowing for some kind of formalized training outside of militarization. I don't think that that is the way that we should be approaching this. I mean, we require doctors. We required nurses. We require phlebotomist, you know, to have formalized education.

 

Laci Green:

This is Mecole Jordan McBride. She is the senior program manager at NYU policing project. She is working on a pilot project on the ground right now in Chicago that changes how they police.

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (04:05)
We believe that if we actually allow for the community to be at the front end, then we don't have less backend acts happening. And that looks like allowing for the community who are experts in their area, um, to be able to say, these are the issues, this is what public safety looks like to us. These are some solutions that we think will be viable. And then you have buying in not only from the CPD, but you have it from the community. So they ended up communit doesn't feel like they're being occupied. They feel like they're actually being heard most often, what we see is back end accountability. So that is, you know, misconduct reading for us. It's all these things that's happened after the fact. And I really hope and pray that we get to a place where we started thinking more critically about how do we think about front and accountability?

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (05:03)
Because at the end of the day, anytime we're talking about backend accountability, someone's life has been changed.

 

Laci Green:

So you're piloting this in Chicago right now. Yes. And how's it going so far? So good. I mean, obviously these are trying times across the country. Um, one thing that I always say is that we didn't get here overnight, right? Where we are with policing. Like this is the historical situation. This is, these are systemic problems that we're dealing with, especially when you have a situation where you have, um, people who are not of color, who are going through this militarized training, there's already very strong stereotypes that are certain communities, and you're thrown into these communities at midnight or at the height of when there may be unrest. And the only thing they have to rely on is this rice training, because it becomes a, this is what I was trained to do.

And this is how I'm going to get home at night. And this is the opposite of what it needs to be police officers across the country, especially as they are wanting to various communities need to understand what make up those communities, the background of those communities. And personally, I feel like there has to be implicit bias training and understanding of cultural differences for, we used to send people into these communities and say, have at it. 

Laci Green: (06:45)
And the message sort of is have at it. When I was looking up information about police training for my little brother, you know, he was kind of interested in maybe becoming a cop. I was floored at some of the things that the police leadership are saying about their profession. Like they're at war. One recruiting website reads "In hand-to-hand battle, staying in shape. It may be the edge that keeps you alive. Once I became a police officer, I noticed several others in my profession that in my opinion were too out of shape to be cops at 50, I was jumping 12 foot chain link fences while my cover officer around my age, stayed on the other side and watched, I consider those so-called cover officers useless to me. The youngster is you'll be chasing, are going to be half your age. And a lot of them are twice. Your size." Is the difference between a bad cop and a good cop how well you can tackle somebody?  This sentiment is echoed in trainings across the country where the average cop gets about 110 hours of firearms training and self-defense training and only eight hours of community problem solving. 

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (07:42)
I don't know the exact point where we started using tanks and full suits, even camouflage, right? It's like a paramilitary is definitely seen as an occupying force. And so when you have that, it's like a war zone.

 

Laci Green:

Yeah. It's almost like they're training soldiers. Now you had mentioned the importance of implicit bias training. Have you guys found in your research or in these pilot programs that this makes a difference?

 

Mecole Jordan-McBride:

So we're in what's called the 25th district here in Chicago, um, and allowing for community lit, um, trainings, um, and allowing for the officers has been a part of the pilot to actually have the time and the space to have conversations like hard conversations, right. Um, to challenge that implicit bias. You know, I do think that implicit bias training is great, but we also have to be able to allow for the interactions to help, to debunk the myths and the stereotypes that people grow up with. And so if we just do a training and we never have applied or application of it, then that does not go far enough. 

Laci Green:
The conversation element seems important because if you have a group of people who may be, you know, grew up being exposed to racial stereotypes, like we all are, and then, you know, go to one or two trainings talking about, here's why it's wrong. Here's my, why it might affect your work. It seems like it's still leaves an opening for the humanization and othering to happen, especially when there's a lot of tension. And it's a high stakes situation. To your point, what oftentimes happens is that trainer, that community person becomes like, Oh, they are the exception, right. That person is wonderful, blah, blah, blah. You know, that's a whole nother story. Do you find that people in the community want to engage with the police in this way?

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (09:39)
Obviously there are extremes, right. There are people who want to completely abolish the police and not have to deal with them at all. Um, and then just like you have police that don't want to have anything to do with community engagement. Um, but I do think that there is a significant population and particularly in black communities that are willing to come to the table and have these conversations because they do feel like, you know, the police can play a significant role and public safety, but it just needs to be on their terms. And they, they don't want to consistently be misunderstood and mistreated because of your misunderstanding.

Laci Green:
Yeah. Certainly, you know, it does kind of conflict a little bit with some of the activists protocol that I've seen out there though, where, you know, it's, it's not on marginalized communities to be educating, um, you know, these groups of people who may be inflicting violence like the police. Do you think that maybe there's a little bit of a conflict there with the activist philosophy and maybe what some of these changes are really going to take?

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (10:47)
I get it, I get it right. I should not have to bear that responsibility. Um, however, I also feel like how else will you know me if I, if you don't talk to me. Right. And so I think that again, it's about intentionality. The more that we allow for basis where we can actually just talk and laugh and talk about shared experiences. And so it becomes less pressure. I feel of me educating you as opposed to us just actually getting to know each other on, on a real human level. And so yes, it is very hard to say, hot dog. Why do I have to keep, go read a book, right? You want to tell people like over you the book. But I do think that just seeing that and not allowing for space, for interaction, no matter who you are, I can't just read a book about my husband and say, Oh, well I know him. No, I have to actually spend time talking to him. I have to talk to my best friend in order to actually know them. And I think that that's what we have to get to.

 

CHAPTER 2: DEFUND THE POLICE

Laci Green: (11:54)
While we can look at cops and say, Hey, you know, you're not doing your job. We also need to ask ourselves what job we're asking them to do over time. Police have been expected to address a truly dizzying number of social problems all by themselves, drug addiction, mental health crises, homelessness, domestic violence, truancy. I mean, the list goes on.

 

Mecole Jordan-McBride:

When we don't take the time to understand the complexities of everything you just mentioned, especially when you start thinking about education, right? And how deep funded education is in certain communities, which leads to certain, certain social ills. We don't have nearly amount of guidance, counselors or social workers in schools where it's really needed. And so what you have is a cycle of violence. You have a cycle of poverty that leads to some of the social ills that we have. And so the things that come with that are oftentimes is how you're crying. And so, because we won't take a step back and say, okay, what got us here? We want immediate gratification. The immediate gratification is we need more police.

Laci Green:
And I wonder how much fear plays a role in it. People see problems in their communities and they feel scared. And when you feel scared, you want to feel protected.

 

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (13:54)

I mean, that's fair, right? Everyone wants to feel safe. Everyone wants to feel like they can make it home at night and be protected in their home. It is up to leadership, right? Of cities of, of States whole have the tools at hand, have the ability, have the numbers to actually be able to say, this is what got us here. And we have to do everything we can in our power, in our budget to right, these wrongs.

 

Laci Green:

It's this point about getting to the root of our social problems that leads some to argue that we should defund the police. And I find that what a lot of people mean by this is that we should divest from the police, right? We should be cutting the budget. And instead putting that money toward things like education, social services, job training, transitional housing, things like that. But others interpret defund the police in more radical terms, right? To, to literally abolish the police. Some black lives matter. Activists have raised the concern that this would likely just mean that police become a private company. And that could mean even less accountability. And Mecole also worries that the approach could backfire.

 

Mecole Jordan-McBride:

I'm careful to go from one extreme to the next, without a pathway there, because we still have all these other social factors that lead to the violence that has happened. And that consistently happens in our community. That's not even just from the police itself. It's just because of the nature of what systemic racism has done in our communities. That's still there. But I do think that the conversation is lending to restructuring, right? So that we're not looking at spending so much money on military equipment and things like that. Like we actually started looking at one bouncer, dimes and nickels of what we're spending our money on within the police department funding. That's going into those actually putting them into social services so that police aren't having to do as much of the social service work that they're complaining about. Right. And so I think that when we actually get down to the nuts and bolts, that's where the conversation really needs to go right now. And as we are moving towards that direction, maybe there's a conversation later for a complete abolition. But I think that that to take it from here to there that quick, without a strong in between point will potentially backfire on us.

 

Laci Green:

I think one of the more poignant tweets I've seen this week with regard to budgets, it's like, how did the police have tanks in our doctors are wearing garbage bags right now, these are our priorities. These are not things that are unchangeable and fixed. This is what we've chosen to do.

 

Mecole Jordan-McBride:

How many people are still sleeping outside at night, because there are no more beds in a homeless shelter, right? Let's restructure some of this because where we put our money is where our priorities are.

Laci Green: (16:00)
I think no matter what camp, you know, people find themselves in, we can probably all agree that we should have a little think about the budget city operating budgets have been flying all over Twitter. For instance, in Columbus, Ohio, the police have a $360 million budget. Now pull out your magnifying glass and see if you can find education in there.

CHAPTER 3: CAN'T TRUST THIS

Laci Green: (16:27)
Is it true that the police investigate themselves?

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (16:30)
So, yes, historically speaking, the police have the authority to write their own policy internally without having to vet it publicly. So they set their own agenda. They said, you know, their standards and maybe that's a conversation starter to a certain degree with the mayor's office. Um, but there is no community input. There is no real community process in order for you to be accountable, you have to also be transparent. If you're lacking in transparency and all of these areas, there is no way for the community to hold you accountable because you can shift gears where out of the community knowing anything, because we didn't know what she was supposed to be doing in the first place. Like these policies have to be more out in the open, especially the major, these major policies. I'm not talking about how low you can cut your hair or what stocks you need to wear.

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (17:18)
Whatever. I don't care about that. I'm talking about these policies that say, at what point is it okay for you to go into the community? At what point is it okay? You know, what is the exact policy on releasing a tank into the community? Those are the, the policies that community members have to be made aware of, because if we do not allow for transparency on that level, then the community is not empowered to be able to say, Hey, I thought you said XYZ and you didn't do it that way. When we have police agencies that are willing and cities that are willing to be that transparent, I think we'll start to see a little bit more trust in the policing system, as it stands,

Laci Green:
What role does qualified immunity play in that? My very abstract understanding of it is that there's basically a very high bar for police to approve, um, brutality cases, because they're trying to protect the cops from, you know, feeling like they have to think twice in high risk situations, but this is basically resulted in, um, people not thinking twice, anytime. 

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (18:23)
Police union contracts provides an extreme amount of protection. For example, officer has up to 24 hours before they have to make an official statement, right? When they are involved in a shooting or some other major incident, and they can modify their statement after video and audio recordings come out, it was a conversation. My husband and I have because he's, he works at corrections ironically. And so I know we have these discussions. Sure. And, um, you know, I get it, you know, after you have a normal person, if you have to discharge your weapon and you know, that that has resulted in either significant life, altering alteration or death, that's a lot to process for a normal person. Right. And so I get like being able to have some time to like, okay, let me get my mind together the 24 hours, without having to say anything. And the ability to come back and retract or change your statement allows for, for example, with requirement Donald, where you saw this officer, like literally jumped out the car and opened up on this 17 year old and four or five police officers all came up with the same exact statement that was a blatant lie. And if these videos didn't exist...

Laci Green:
No accountability.

Mecole Jordan-McBride:

Exactly.

 

Laci Green:

It's like, okay, 24 hours to settle down, but also 24 hours to get your story straight.

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (19:52)
And even like, if you were a person here in Chicago, say I had an interaction with a police officer that was not favorable. And I wanted to file a complaint because of the union contract me as a regular citizen. I will have to disclose my name, address, phone number, all my identifying information and sign a legal affidavit that then says, if I'm found to be perjury myself, then I could be held to the highest standard of the law, like very intimidating language. But then that is also turned over to the police officer that I'm complaining about. So you could just imagine, I'm not giving you this officer my home address, because if they was blatant enough to do whatever they did, what's to stop them from retaliating. So it seems like that this in the police union contracts, that most people don't dig into enough.

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (20:40)
And you see so many officers that are found not guilty or acquit, it all comes back to what they followed. They followed through. You know what I'm saying? When these policies and things are protected by the union.

 

Laci Green:

I mean, it kind of goes back to the broader issue of cop culture. There's this sort of tribalism that's happening. That happens. I think when people work together and when they have maybe traumatic experiences together... 

 

Mecole Jordan-McBride:

You have like the brotherhood or the sisterhood, you all have similar experiences. It's easy in that position to justify or to see things from that perspective. Even if it was a flawed outcome, you put yourself in their shoes and you say, Oh man, if I had been in the same position, I can see how that happened. And it does feed into this, us against them as opposed to us all being one community.

 

Laci Green:

I wonder about, um, you know, the case in Buffalo, for instance, where 50 some officers quit when there was a cop that clearly assaulted a citizen on camera, you know, is that a case of all these people putting themselves in his shoes and saying, I could see myself doing that? 

 

Mecole Jordan-McBride:

Group think is probably putting it lightly. And I think that that does not allow for a situation where people can feel like the police are on their side because of these kinds of things at the end, without the video, that story would have stood.

Laci Green: (22:04)
I think this underscores how revolutionary cell phone cameras and social media really are on this issue. It's easy to see how in the past this stuff has just been swept under the rug over and over and over again. And finally people have tools, you know, an everyday tool to demand accountability, but with America's legacy of racism and police brutality, you know, creating wounds that run very deep for many generations, it leaves me wondering what it will take to heal if it's even possible to heal, how can the police start to rebuild trust in their communities? 

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (22:47)
In some places it's not even a rebuilt, it is initiating and getting the initial part of trust. Right? So I'm mom told me a long time ago, that trust is the thing that is the hardest to build and the easiest to lose. Some people are just never going to have it because of the flawed history of how deeply it has run. But I think for those who can be captured with the idea of, we can really build this together, it has to be more transparency. It has to be a real pathway for community members to be a partner and not an afterthought. And how do we really start thinking about public safety? What does that look like to you, community member? What does that look like to us as a policing agency? How do we sit down at the table and actually come up with a plan that we all can take a, take a role in, and that is the basis and the base level for where we start building trust.

Laci Green: (23:41)
There's been a lot of talk about improving transparency through technology. A lot of people, I think it was after Ferguson were calling for the use of body cams. This doesn't seem to have gone the direction that I think a lot of optimists had hoped. Could you speak to the body cams and maybe policing technology more broadly and what role it can play in increasing transparency?

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (24:07)
My 6 year old can swipe better than I can. I swear, that's all we are with technology, but I think that we can't rely on technology alone. A technology in and of itself is just a tool, right? It's I can't think for you, it can't, it can't reason. It cannot be relied on for the trust building and the relationship building and the transparency that is needed. There still is someone who has to create it and someone who has to use it. And so there's still a place where bias can be built in bias can be taken, can be, um, a result of it, even look at the makeup of technology companies. Most of them don't look like us. Most of those who are building these technologies and shopping them to policing agencies, the vast majority aren't women, and they definitely aren't black or Latin X. And so because they come from a lot of times, a very different life experience.

Mecole Jordan-McBride: (25:01)
I want to say that it's not even intentional, but you cannot understand, or even think far enough to understand the potential implications of not building in some kind of stop gap or putting a certain thing into a technology and knowing what that could potentially do in the community. I think that that is a failure also with, even in the tech industry that we have to consider. And we have to start looking at, there has to be a, an explicit decision by, um, police agency leaders and city government to say this, these are the things that we are going to do. These are the steps that we're taking or how we're going to reduce violence so forth and so on. Does that make sense to you as a community? If not, how can we be better? And here are the time increments in which we will report on our efforts to the community and the around for open space, say for contradiction, for discussion. And I think not being afraid of the rebuttal from the community and not being afraid of negative responses, because I think that a lot of times people want to be applauded. No, we have to leave space for, um, criticism and healthy criticism. Cause that's just how we're going to get further. And so it's not just technology. It is all these other pieces that have to be a part of it.

Laci Green:
Thank you so much. You guys, for joining me for this conversation and a huge thing to McColl and the NYU policing project for their help on this episode. And I'd suggest checking out the resources on their website, that's policing project.org. I'm also going to be donating all of the advertising revenue to the policing project. And if you want to donate yourself, I'll drop a link down below, take care of yourselves out there. My dears, and I will see you next time.