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Biden is increasing investment in police. Will it increase officer accountability?

To get a different perspective on President Joe Biden's push to curb rising violent crime and how increased investment in law enforcement will impact police reform, Judy Woodruff speaks with DeRay McKesson. He's a co-founder of Campaign Zero, which aims to end violent acts by police.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now for a different perspective on President Biden's plan and its impact on police reform, I'm joined by DeRay McKesson. He's a co-founder of Campaign Zero, which aims to end violent acts by police.

    DeRay McKesson, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    What do you make of this multiprong, multipart set of proposals by President Biden?

  • DeRay McKesson, Co-Founder, Campaign Zero:

    So, in some ways, there is some good news here, right, that there's a focus on manufacturers, there's a focus on gun dealers in a way that we haven't seen before, because you know, like I know, that Black people are not building guns in their backyard. We're not making them. We're not — like, they're coming from somewhere.

    And focusing on manufacturers and dealers is actually a really good thing. We always get nervous when people talk about gun control, because we don't want guns to become the new drugs, right, that like people get so freaked out that, all of a sudden, we create these mandatory minimums, we believe, as a matter of public policy, that putting people in jail is the best way to deal with users, when the reality is, just like drugs, people are not,, making cocaine in their backyard in the hood.

    They're not doing it. It's coming from somewhere. So, that's the first part. But then, like you talked with Cedric, there's a lot of it that is troubling. It is not convincing that the police need more money to do their jobs.

    And when you pressed about how will there be any accountability on the money, you didn't get an answer, right? So, we see this a lot with the federal government. The federal government, there's a law that requires a police departments to, at the basic level, say who they kill, and only 40 percent of police departments report that data to the federal government, and there's no accountability.

    So, if police departments can skirt the law when it's really clear, I have no faith that they will implement this money and there'll be any accountability.

    But, Judy, what's also really interesting is that the clearance rates across the country have been pretty bad. So, homicide has increased. All violent crime has not, though, property crimes way down, things rape way down.

    But you look at it, and, in Baltimore, in 2020, the homicide clearance rate was about 40 percent. In a lot of American cities, it's not up to 50 percent. In New York City, it wasn't 50 percent last year, in 2020.

    So, you look at this and the answer, I don't think is actually dumping more money into police departments.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, you're saying — when you say the clearance, you mean that they're finding who the perpetrators are.

    But you did — and you mentioned what Cedric Richmond had to say when I asked him about money to police. He did say that they care about accountability, that they want to make sure that, in his words, the majority of police who act with responsibility, that's one thing, but those who don't are held accountable.

    And he said that is something the administration will keep an eye on.

  • DeRay McKesson:

    Yes, I'm just saying we got to see it, though.

    It's one thing to say it in a press clip. It's another to have an executive order or some policies that actually back it up. So, when you think about part of this plan is actually going to allow the ATF to go into communities even more — in a more expansive way and partner with local law enforcement, the ATF doesn't have a lot of rules around use of force right now, not very aggressive. There's not a lot of accountability in that department.

    They could do that with the stroke of a pen. They don't need Congress to tighten up the ATF or any of the federal agencies, like Border Patrol, which is 20,000 police officers, one of the biggest agencies in the United States. So it's one thing to say it on the news. It's another thing to actually put in a plan.

    Now, the George Floyd Act would do a lot of good things. If that does not pass, or if it doesn't pass today, the administration can at least, at the very least, rein in the federal agencies, like the ATF, that are part of this plan that's being rolled out. And they have not yet done that either.

    Now, the other good part of the plan is the focus on reentry and the focus on violence interrupters. But you know, like I know, one of the — what's interesting about this homicide spike is that it's an anomaly in the longitudinal data, and it's sort of uniform across cities.

    And you think about, what's the only other uniform thing? The pandemic, you know? So what would it look to do another stimulus, right? The economic anxiety, unemployment, those things are leading to crime.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me ask you about the money

    I mean, part of this proposal, as you heard Cedric Richmond refer to several times and the president, they want to invest money in the community. And you just said it, violence interrupters. They want to — in his word, they're going to spend more money that has ever been spent in the community addressing these issues before they become an issue.

  • DeRay McKesson:

    Yes, but the hard part, and this is — I don't even mean this cynically — what happens when the police are the violent people? Who interrupts that?

    So, in Baltimore, we had an entire task force, the Gun Trace Task Force, an entire task force was indicted and convicted for participating in crime, for selling drugs, for stealing drugs, for beating people up.

    So, what — giving more money to them is not a fix. And they were the task force solely devoted to guns, right? So, I say this because what we what we see across the country is that just investing more money in police, literally, it's just not changing the numbers.

    So, and the police, at their best, get after the crime has occurred. We actually have to start investing in the things that encourage people not to commit crimes in the first place. And that is deeper than reentry. It's deeper than just violence interrupters. It will be things more stimulus money. It'll be just straight outright resources…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And…

  • DeRay McKesson:

    … to communities.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I just want to ask you.

    I mean, do you see, with your point of view — coming seeing eye to eye with President Biden ever, when, as you just heard Cedric Richmond repeat, this is not a president who believes in defunding the police?

  • DeRay McKesson:

    Yes, I'm not really hung up on words, right? I want to figure out, what are the core ideas and what are the policies?

    So, like I said, if you believe that the ATF should be in communities, and if, like Cedric said, that he believes there should be accountability, I'm down with it. So let's just figure out what that accountable looks like. At least help me believe what you said.

    So, if that is true, then let me see the federal government rein in the ATF. Let's see some national use of force standards for federal agencies. That — you could do that tomorrow and still believe in accountability.

    And what I'm saying is that we're not seeing those things. We're hearing them. We're hearing them on TV. We're reading them in newspapers. I'm not seeing them in the laws or the policies or the practices that are put forward.

    So, this isn't about zeroing out police. I'm not interested in that with this plan, because this plan is decidedly not that. But it is saying — like, you can't even show me the research, the government can't show you the research that says community policing leads to better outcomes.

    You know why? Because there is no research that says that. That is like a police department talking point. And when you say restore trust between communities and police, we didn't break the trust, you know? Like, we didn't do it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    DeRay McKesson, co-founder of Campaign Zero, thank you very much.

  • DeRay McKesson:

    Good to be here.

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