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How do communities increase accountability and rebuild trust after police shootings?

Around the nation, from Ferguson to Staten Island to Albuquerque, communities are grappling with the aftermath of deaths caused by police officers who used lethal force. Gwen Ifill talks to Cornell William Brooks of the NAACP and Richard Berry of the International Association of Chiefs of Police about how to repair strained relations and curb the use of excessive force by law enforcement.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    A rookie New York City police officer was indicted today in the shooting death of an unarmed man in a Brooklyn housing project stairwell. The victim, Akai Gurley, was described as a total innocent in the case.

    New York is obviously not the only community grappling with the fallout from cases such as this. Last night, we brought you a story about efforts to curb the use of similar lethal force in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    So what are communities doing about it?

    For more on that, we turn to Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, and Richard Beary, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

    Thank you both for joining me tonight.

    Months later, after all the discussions of Ferguson and Staten Island, what progress are we making, Mr. — Reverend Brooks, in this and trying to get to policing reform?

  • CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, President, NAACP:

    I'm hopeful that there is an emerging consensus as to both our ability to bring about policing reform and a concrete set of policy proposals.

    So whether it be at the federal level in terms of passing the End Racial Profiling Act, which would tie federal funding to the training of police officers, so that they don't engage in racial profiling, to the NAACP-supported and passage of the Death in Custody Act — up until a little while ago, you would ask the commonsense kind of question, how many police-involved homicides are there in the country, there's no way to answer that question.

    I believe we're on our way to answering that question. To more flexibility in terms of promoting — or appointing special prosecutors. So there are a number of concrete proposals, reforms that we can pursue. And all across the country, you're seeing a young — a generation of practitioners of democracy, of protesting, are engaging in sit-ins and die-ins and who believe something could be done.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Richard Beary, what — do we agree on what the problem is that needs to be fixed?

    RICHARD BEARY, President, International Association of Chiefs of Police: Well, law enforcement is constantly emerging, just like the crimes that we investigate. There's been a lot of changes since I started in this business in 1977.

    The International Association of Chiefs of Police, we conducted a summit back in October, and we brought leaders from the NAACP and the ACLU and lawyers for civil rights and those different groups to look at the status of police-community relations and where do we go from here.

    So, we recognize that the number-one thing that law enforcement needs to be effective is community support. So we have got some great recommendations, and I have shared those. And hopefully we will continue to move forward on that.

    You know, one of the things that needs to be said too is, this is an enormous task. And when you consider that there's 12.5 million arrests in this country a year, that's about 34,000 a day. And those people are under arrest for a myriad of things. These are people under the influence of alcohol, drugs. Some of them have mental illness issues, and some are combative.

    So the opportunity for bad things to happen across this country is huge. That number is really relatively low, not great, but I do agree that there needs to be better data. And Cornell and I are absolutely in agreement on that.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, it's funny, because some people think that the beginning of the problem, the root of the problem is police behavior. And a lot of people believe that the root of the problem is community behavior.

    How do you even begin to get to what the solution is if you don't agree with — about what the root is?

  • CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS:

    Well, I think the chief would agree with me that because of the broken windows theory of policing, where we had a maximum number of arrests and people being arrested and detained because of often underwhelmingly minor offenses, and sometimes meeting and facing overwhelmingly major lethal uses of force, I think we would both agree that that's a broken theory, broken…

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Do you both agree on that?

  • RICHARD BEARY:

    Well, again, it depends on how you define it being broken.

    Do I agree that — no law enforcement executive that I know supports mass incarceration. Lees put it that way. I absolutely — we have never been ones to support that. But broken windows certainly had its share of issues.

    But on the flip side of that, if you're a resident in that area or you're a business owner, some people think it's been very effective, so I think that's one of the challenges we have as we move forward is coming up with good metrics on how we measure success and effectiveness.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    OK. So, here's one measure. People — a lot of people said at the beginning that police cameras, dashboard cameras, uniform cameras would make the big difference, because then we could see it. We would have the evidence.

    Is that something we're making progress on?

  • CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS:

    I think it's something we're making progress on, but it's not a panacea.

    In other words, where we — we saw in the Eric Garner case where we had a man choked to death who said he could not breathe 11 times, and he died between police officers on one side and first-responders on the other. So video alone is not a substitute for fundamentally changing policing in this country, making our police model community-oriented, because here's what we know:

    We know, based on the criminological research, that where a community — where a police force first gets the community to trust them, they're best able to protect them. We know that.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So then it's training, or is it?

  • RICHARD BEARY:

    It is.

    And we agree absolutely on this. What's funny is, if you go back to Sir Robert Peel, in 1829, one of the things that he said is, for police to be effective, you have to have community support. And this is a long time ago. So, I absolutely agree.

    I also agrees that cameras are not the panacea. Will it give us an accurate recording of what happened? Yes. But that's too late in the ball games sometimes. And we need to be proactive.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But community support is different from police training.

  • RICHARD BEARY:

    Yes and no.

    To get that good police training, you need that public support, because where does the money come for police training?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Oh, OK. When you say support…

  • RICHARD BEARY:

    So, you have to have those good public relations and support from the community.

    The drawback that I'm concerned about in cameras — and the IACP has done — has published some papers and model policies. What — the big pushback that we're getting is not from the officers. It's from victims and citizens groups that are worried about privacy, so that we're trying to figure out that balancing act. And I look forward to working with the NAACP and other groups, because I think it's an important tool, but we have to make sure that it's used properly.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    How to use it, OK.

    So we have the president's task force under way at the White House. And we have task forces and communities around the country having this conversation. What is it that has to happen and what period of time for those kinds of governmental or pseudo-governmental solution factories to really take effect?

  • CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS:

    We need to have a sense of urgency here. We're in the midst of an era of mass incarceration.

    We can't ignore that. We have young people who have lost their lives at the hands of police all across the country, thousands and thousands of young people protesting, engaging in sit-ins and die-ins. And so in terms of the recommendations of this task force, we expect them to emerge.

    I believe they will reflect what the research demonstrates and what we know all across the country. We have to have civilian review boards with teeth, in other words, the ability to issue subpoenas with investigatory powers and the ability to punish and sanction officers.

    We need training. We need to have — to take the position that racial profiling is, in fact, not only wrong, but ineffective.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Richard Beary.

  • RICHARD BEARY:

    Absolutely agree. Racial profiling doesn't belong in law enforcement. It just doesn't — it should not…

  • GWEN IFILL:

    What do you want to come out of these task forces?

  • RICHARD BEARY:

    Well, what I hope to see out of the task forces, again, we have been asking for many years — and we hope that they will continue to look at the bigger criminal justice system.

    Right now, it's all focused on police, but the system itself has not been looked at since 1967. So the system needs some adjustment. We expect training to be a part of it. I will never argue that — the best cops are the best-trained cops.

    But, again, I think you also have to factor that the — the men and women in this country wearing the uniform are in great danger. There ere more cops killed between gunshot wounds last year and being hit by vehicles, run over purposely, than were combat troops killed in Afghanistan last year.

    So we have to do a better job as a nation addressing violence and making the place, and making this country safe.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Richard Beary of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Cornell William Brooks of the NAACP, thank you both very much.

  • CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS:

    Thank you. Thank you.

  • RICHARD BEARY:

    Great.

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