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Should government play a role in addressing root causes of Baltimore’s upheaval?

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    We return now to the turmoil in Baltimore, beginning with a portion of President Obama's extensive remarks on the topic this afternoon in the Rose Garden.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they're not protesting. They're not making a statement. They're stealing. When they burn down a building, they're committing arson.

    And they're destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities that rob jobs and opportunity from people in that area.

    The violence that happened yesterday distracted from the fact that you had seen multiple days of peaceful protests that were focused on entirely legitimate concerns of these communities in Baltimore, led by clergy and community leaders. And they were constructive, and they were thoughtful, and, frankly, didn't get that much attention.

    And one burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again, and the thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way I think have been lost in the discussion.

    What I'd say is, this has been a slow-rolling crisis. This has been going on for a long time. This is not new, and we shouldn't pretend that it's new.

    The good news is, is that perhaps there's some newfound awareness because of social media and video cameras and so forth that there are problems and challenges when it comes to how policing and our laws are applied in certain communities. And we have to pay attention to it and respond.

    If we are serious about solving this problem, then we're going to not only have to help the police, we're going to have to think about what can we do, the rest of us, to make sure that we're providing early education to these kids, to make sure that we're reforming our criminal justice system so it's not just a pipeline from schools to prisons, so that we're not rendering men in these communities unemployable because of a felony record for a nonviolent drug offense, that we're making investments so that they can get the training they need to find jobs.

    That's hard. And that requires more than just the occasional news report or task force. That's how I feel.

    I think there are a lot of good-meaning people around the country that feel that way. But that kind of political mobilization, I think, we haven't seen in quite some time.

    And what I've tried to do is to promote those ideas that would make a difference. But I think we all understand that the politics of that are tough, because it's easy to ignore those problems or to treat them just as a law and order issue, as opposed to a broader social issue.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Less than a month ago all eyes were on North Charleston, South Carolina, where another police department was under fire in the unexplained death of yet another black man.

    Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, one of only two African-Americans in the Senate, is also saying things have to change. I met him at his Capitol Hill office earlier today to talk about it.

    Senator, thank you for joining us.

    SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), South Carolina: Yes, ma'am.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    As you watch everything that's being — unfolding in Baltimore, does it remind you at all about North Charleston and the Walter Scott situation?

  • SEN. TIM SCOTT:

    The images I see in Baltimore are very different than what I experienced at home in North Charleston for several reasons.

    One reason is that we had a video. The second reason is, there was quick action and arrest. And third is that the mother of the victim was very clear in asking for peace and sharing in her heart the forgiveness that resided in her heart for the officer.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Two things at work here. On one hand, there is the reaction to the — an incident.

  • SEN. TIM SCOTT:

    Yes.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And then there's the incident itself. If there had not been a video, you seem to suggest what would have happened later wouldn't happen. And there's still uncertainty about what happened in Baltimore to Freddie Gray after he was arrested.

  • SEN. TIM SCOTT:

    Yes.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So you're talking about body cameras. How does that get to the bottom of this?

  • SEN. TIM SCOTT:

    Well, I tell you, there's no doubt that body-worn cameras are effective tools to make it so that justice is done, and that clarity and transparency are available.

    I think it also helps to reduce the number of complaints against law enforcement officers. And it also, according to some studies, reduces the amount of violence and/or force used by officers by 60 percent. So the result of officers wearing cameras has been very positive, and the information that continues to come in reinforces the fact that body-worn cameras are a positive tool in law enforcement and bring the community and the police together.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But does it bother you at all that it's even necessary, that in order to protect people from inappropriate police violence, that you need the videotape? Isn't there a root problem here?

  • SEN. TIM SCOTT:

    Well, there certainly are a lot of things to consider.

    One thing we know for sure is that those cameras do help. I would suggest that the vast majority of law enforcement officers every single day work with integrity, the highest level of character. But it's finding the bad apple that spoils the whole bunch.

    One thing that a camera does is, it captures. And, very often, the information that it captures is indisputable. And what we need today more than ever before is indisputable evidence that leads to conclusions that can be reinforced by the very evidence that we have.

    And so I don't know that what we're seeing today is brand-new, as much as it is bringing it back to the surface because of the cameras.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Does the federal government have a responsibility to address the root causes? People say it's unemployment, that it's anger after years of being profiled, stereotyped. Whatever you think the reason behind all of this is, does the federal government have a role?

  • SEN. TIM SCOTT:

    I think the nation as a whole has a role in making sure that each individual, each citizen maximizes one's potential.

    And so we all have a role in that. As it relates to the federal government taking over local law enforcement issues, I don't think that we should. I don't think that we can and I don't think that we will. But having a role to play in making sure that we use the positions that we have to bring peace and transparency throughout the nation is very, very necessary.

    As a kid who failed out of high school as a freshman, I know firsthand and personally that sense of hopelessness and just being — drifting in the wrong direction, having really no hope. And being able to harness that frustration was incredibly valuable in my life. That's one of the reasons I focus so consistently on the foundation of education, because it helps to eviscerate those things that — unemployment, high jobless rates, poverty.

    Just it's as close to magic as you can get in America, education.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    You voted against the confirmation of Loretta Lynch.

  • SEN. TIM SCOTT:

    Yes.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Is there any role that she should play now?

  • SEN. TIM SCOTT:

    Well, certainly, congratulations. She's our attorney general. And I look forward to working with her.

    She has said that she stands ready and prepared to be of some assistance when necessary. I think, at this point, the state and the city are trying their best to handle the situation. I think, upon request, the federal government can play a role if necessary. But at this point, the city and the state have been able to work together. And we have seen the deployment of National Guard units, or being at least prepared to go in.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    You are obviously a black man, one of only two African-American men in the Senate. I wonder, if you were the child you talked about before who could have gone off on a bad path, whether you would expect more of government in this kind of situation.

  • SEN. TIM SCOTT:

    I think people, especially being that kid before — having been that kid just a couple of years ago — I use that term loosely, obviously — the fact of the matter is that kids look for hope. They look for inspiration.

    It doesn't have to come from the government, frankly. It just has to come. And for me, it came in the form of a mentor, a Chick-fil-A operated who invested the last four years of his life — he died at 38 — and created the first four years of my new life.

    So, the fact of the matter is that hope comes from many sources. I think depending on the federal government to be some sort of a savior is false hope.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Let's take the government out of it

    Just as a community leader, you have met with community leaders in Ferguson. You have obviously met with the ones in North Charleston.

  • SEN. TIM SCOTT:

    Yes.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    You're watching very closely as this unfolds in Baltimore.

    What should we as a society be thinking, be doing on behalf of the pain — to solve some of the pain we see arriving — arising in these communities?

  • SEN. TIM SCOTT:

    I guess my three P's would be pray, pray first. Second, prepare, and then persist.

    Let me talk about the persist first. Persisting to me means that today is the day for full engagement. We have to be persistent in engaging those folks in the community who have the ability to influence others. It's very difficult from the outside to come into a community and make a difference. But it was very easy for me, as a North Charleston native, to sit down and talk with community leaders, to pastors, to young people about what was happening.

    So, being persistent is very, very helpful. We have to also prepare. Part of preparation is understanding, how do you avoid circumstances that we're seeing unfold? That's why the body cameras are important, from my perspective. It prepares us in advance of a crisis.

    Another part of preparation is looking at the educational outcome of the kids in the neighborhoods. When you have high unemployment, when you have low graduation rates, you are starting to see the formation of challenging circumstances, especially when it's steeped in poverty.

    So, we can do something about those issues on the local level, on the state level, and on the federal level. We can unleash American capitalism in such a way that it helps to become headwinds to things that are destructive. We can be a force for good.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Senator Tim Scott, thank you very much.

  • SEN. TIM SCOTT:

    Yes, ma'am. Good to be with you.

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