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Policing While Black

Anthony Barksdale Former Acting Commissioner, Baltimore Police Department
James Secreto Senior Advisor, StoneTurn; Retired Chief of Housing, NYPD
Michael J. Fortner Assistant Professor, Graduate Center, CUNY
Coleman Hughes Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Contributing Editor, City Journal
Thu, Oct 15, 2020 EVENTCAST

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Policing While Black

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Policing While Black

Anthony Barksdale Former Acting Commissioner, Baltimore Police Department
James Secreto Senior Advisor, StoneTurn; Retired Chief of Housing, NYPD
Michael J. Fortner Assistant Professor, Graduate Center, CUNY
Coleman Hughes Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Contributing Editor, City Journal EVENTCAST 01:00pm—02:00pm
Thursday October 15
Thursday October 15 2020
PAST EVENT Thursday October 15 2020

By turns denounced, ignored, and scrutinized in recent debates and events, black cops have an incredibly unique vantage point from which to view and understand the tumultuous debates around race and policing that have resurfaced in recent months. Through minority recruitment and promotion, and other means, departments across the country have made earnest efforts to grapple with the claim that racism and policing are inextricable.

But controversial police-citizen interactions have continued to fan the flames of a contentious debate. How have the unique racial dynamics in major cities in the U.S. been reflected in black cops’ experiences within their police departments? Is some degree of racial tension between police and the black community inevitable? Can the perspectives of black cops help break down the invisible wall between police and communities of color? A fascinating panel of black police executives and experts speaking to how history, culture, and looming racial tension shaped their experiences on the force. 

Event Transcript

Coleman Hughes:

Good afternoon and welcome to this fourth event of The Manhattan Institute's New Policing and Public Safety Initiative the initiative aims to improve policing policy through evidence-based research and intelligent creative ideas. It's impossible to think of a more fiercely discussed aspect of law enforcement this year than race. The death of George Floyd in police custody in May struck a national and global court that led to protests rapid reforms and legislative change. It also fanned a narrative that every police agency in America is racist. A narrative that has gone so far as to indicate that no American police department can be without racism and therefore all must be either abolished or diminished. The voices of black police officers are surprisingly missing from these debates. As according to the data we will discuss today, are the true feelings of working and middle class Black Americans. And those are the perspectives that we are looking forward to delving into today. We're lucky to have a panel that represents deep experiential and scholarly knowledge on these topics.

Coleman Hughes:

Our first panelist is Anthony Barksdale. Anthony Barksdale served in the Baltimore PD from 1993 to 2013, including as interim commissioner and deputy commissioner. Earlier, he served as deputy commissioner of operations overseeing all BPD patrol and detectives. He ran the department's comp stat management meetings in which role he helped steer the department to historic lows in homicides. Commissioner Barksdale was born and raised in West Baltimore and attended Baltimore's Polytechnic Institute.

Coleman Hughes:

Our next panelist is James Secreto. James Secreto served as chief of NYPD's Housing Bureau, heading all police operations in New York City's 326 housing developments and supervising 2,229 personnel. He was assigned as chief of South East Queens in New York City to bridge gaps within a community polarized by the fatal Sean Bell police shooting. Chief Secreto implemented extensive community collaboration programs, helping reduce violence and crime in public housing to historic low rates of shooting incidents and overall crimes. He earlier served as chief of NYPD's School Safety Division responsible for the safety of over 1.2 million children.

Coleman Hughes:

And our last panelist is Michael Fortner. Dr. Fortner received a BA from Emory and a PhD in government in social policy from Harvard. He teaches political science at CUNY's Graduate Center and he is the author of Black Silent Majority, The Rockefeller Drug Laws and The Politics Punishment. He is co-editor of Urban Citizenship and American Democracy. Dr. Fortner has been published in the New York Times, Newsweek and Descent Magazine, and his research has been covered in the Atlantic, the New York Times, the New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Time Magazine and elsewhere.

Coleman Hughes:

So now that I've introduced our guests, I'd like to start off the conversation by talking about videos of unarmed Americans getting killed by police that have sparked protests in really over the past six, seven years, and especially over the past year. My question, especially for Anthony and James, when you see one of these videos enter your news feed and you watch it, how does your perspective as someone on the other side of law enforcement inform what you see and perhaps, if at all, lead you to draw different conclusions than a civilian would?

James Secreto:

Anthony you want to go first?

Anthony Barksdale:

Sure I'll start.

James Secreto:

Okay.

Anthony Barksdale:

Thank you. One of the biggest things that I always think of when I see these incidents is I need to see it all. I need to know all, from beginning to end. When we're judging a police involved incident, strictly on what you see on social media, you're not getting the story from the start until the end. It is disturbing, some of the incidents that I've seen, are highly disturbing and I start to think of police training. Where's the accountability for their supervision for their executives and I don't always just look at the cops at the bottom, I need to look at the whole organization and sort out how did something like this happen? What is going on in this police department? And unfortunately, now as a civilian, I can't just pull a case. I can't just call in the chief of detectives. So I'm cautious to get as many facts as I can before I can make a judgment. And that's what I would like to start seeing or hoping that citizens can understand, before everyone acts on emotion, let's try to get as many facts as possible. I think police departments can do a much better job of dealing with communication to the public and basically that's where I am with each incident.

James Secreto:

Okay, some of these shootings, some are going to be justified. If you have a gun and you fire at the police and they fire back and kill you that those are justified, and those you know I kind of understand a lot better than the ones that we've been seeing in the media. A lot of these ones that we've been seeing in the media, they could have been avoided and I think that's what upsets people so much, is that they seem to have escalated and have not been necessary. Now, you mentioned Coleman, for the last six or seven years, I've been kind of following these things for since I was in high school in 1975, they had a kid, 10 year old killed in the 103 in Jamaica Queens. He was killed by officer Shea. And then in '76, there was a 15 year old killed on Thanksgiving Day in the 75th Precinct in Cyprus Houses by a cop, Robert Torsney, where he shot the 15 year old in the head and went and sat in the radio car. And he got off on a psychomoto epilepsy defense whereas he had like a epileptic seizure of some sort and he involuntarily shot this kid in the head and he never had an episode before that day and he never had another episode after that day.

James Secreto:

So I say that to say that I've been seeing these things for 40 or 50 years, anywhere from what 10 year old kids to 12 year old kids, Tamir Rice, and a lot of them are avoidable and there's no explanation for them, and people are just fed up, it's enough is enough. And since George Floyd, I think three more have come to light, Prude, the other young man in Denver, or in colorado, Elijah McClain. We just had another one in Rochester, that was Prude, and then we also had Jacob Blake who's shot seven times, so they're still continuing as we speak, and that's disheartening.

Coleman Hughes:

Is there a policy that you would change to prevent these kinds of incidents in the future?

James Secreto:

That's a tough question because in New York City, certainly after Eric Garner, we did quite a few things to try and make things better and community policing was one of the things, body cameras was another, implicit bias training, the entire police department, NYPD, had implicit bias training from the commissioner on down, I went myself. De-escalation training. We had tasers so that the gun isn't the first thing you reach for and I think we have made some progress, we've made some strides they, there's always been the choke hold bill, we had that as a policy where that was illegal as well, and now criminal justice reform does help somewhat. So we've been doing things to... crisis intervention training, mental issue training, so we've done things to make it better and I think those things will help. And the mental health training, several of these incidents that occurred were as a result of someone calling that their family member is off their meds and they need help with this family member and the police department goes there and we kill them. So that's not what we should be doing and there has to be a way, that's one thing that certainly we could do better have someone come there that's a professional, a mental health professional and help to deal with someone undergoing a crisis that's the way I see it.

Coleman Hughes:

So I want to talk a little bit about the attitudes of black residents in high crime neighborhoods toward crime. Because I've noticed, if you're just reading journalism and watching television and pundits, you can get the impression that every resident of a high crime neighborhood wants to defund the police or abolish the police, and my impression has always been that the truth is much more nuanced and complicated than that. So this is a question for all three of you, but especially Michael, who's done a lot of research on this issue. So how would you characterize, in general, the attitudes of black residents in high crime neighborhoods towards crime? And how that is perhaps misportrayed in the media?

Michael Fortner:

I want to respond to the first two questions and then get to the third. When I see these videos of black men murdered by police, I must say I'm horrified. This last year, I've been broken by it and I think that's okay. We know we have a history of police brutality in this country, we shouldn't deny that, we shouldn't deny people's feelings or anger whenever they see these incidents. I think the fundamental problem though, is that our political system, our media, is incapable of processing these moments in ways that are helpful for black folk, ways that are consistent with the views and attitudes for black folk. For example, in the aftermath of George Floyd, you read in a lot of elite media, black folks are racing to the streets to defund the police, to abolish the police. In the New Yorker, esteemed historian, Jill Lepore, wrote about slavery and policing and the connections. You don't hear in that piece on policing, how folks in high crime neighborhoods actually feel. You don't hear and see in that piece, the experience of people who have been robbed or murdered in their communities.

Michael Fortner:

And so I think it's okay for folks to be angry to be hurt, but the question is how can we have a political system, a process, a media, that doesn't frame the debates in ways that will polarize attitudes and politics and undermine approaches that might actually solve the problem. African-Americans, if you say, "Do you want to defund the police?" Around 40 to 60 people will say I wanted to fund the police, right? But what do they mean by that? 90% of African-Americans who say they want to defund the police or when they were are asked, "What do you mean by defund the police?" They say, "I mean reform the police instead of getting rid of the police." And that's the result of black communities being over policed and under protected. And so I hope that as these events, these incidents, don't happen, but when they do, I hope that the media and our political process attends to the specific desires and wishes of African-Americans instead of being polarized by the sort of ideologies of elites in the media and in our politics.

Coleman Hughes:

Do either of you have a response to that?

James Secreto:

Yeah, one of the one of the things I neglected to mention was, over the last few years, I would say the last four or five years, we made a conscious effort to make less arrests because under Commissioner Bratton and then O'Neil, the feeling was that, listen, we are over policing the minority community. So we made a conscious effort to make less arrests, certainly less stops, from the 670,000 in, I believe was 2011, down to probably less than uh 25,000. So there was a conscious effort to do that and to decriminalize smoking marijuana, urinating in public, that type of thing. As far as the community, I don't think that the middle class person the working class person I don't think their voice is being heard at all. The people that I know and that I came in contact with in my last five years in the housing bureau. I forged great relationships with them and they don't agree of defunding the police or doing away with the anti-crime police and I'm still in contact with them and I got to say, on my way out, in the last few months, they had appreciation receptions for me up in the Bronx, Throgs Neck, Red Hook, Brooklyn, and I had a good relationship with the people, but their voice is not being heard this.

James Secreto:

A lot of these criminal justice reforms, although they were needed, because you have people that are staying in jail and more likely to take a plea because they couldn't make bail, I get it. But some of them need to have been more thought out in my opinion. But a lot of the people that live in the housing developments, they're upset that people are smoking marijuana in the entrance to the building and that they have to walk through a crowd of people in the building that the police can no longer tell them you can't hang out here, they have to allow them to stay there. And I think the normal person, now I shouldn't say normal, but the working-class person, the middle-class person that lives in those, their voice is not being heard.

Coleman Hughes:

So I want to talk a little bit about what has been called the Ferguson Effect. I'm sure you've heard this term but it refers to the hypothesis that, in the aftermath of an incident, a shooting, such as happened in Ferguson, that it's possible for the police to back off of proactive policing and the crime rate to rise as a result of that backing off. So I'm curious what you think of that idea? Is that something you think is a legitimate concern or is that something you think is not something to worry about? And in general, what's the relationship in your experience and also in your research, Dr. Fortner, between proactive policing and the crime rate? That's for any one of you.

James Secreto:

Okay, I'll jump in. I was in the police department when that happened and for a while, the cops, I think it affected more of the summonses and some of the proactive quality of life offenses, but cops are still gonna run to gun runs to calls for help, they're still gonna they're still gonna react to that, that's just in their DNA and in their blood. And recently, to that point, I would say about a month ago, the police department, the NYPD, made more of a gun arrests than they had in 25 years. And that speaks to the point that, listen, they're still getting involved, it's still being proactive to a certain degree, but it also speaks to the number of guns that are on the streets right now.

Coleman Hughes:

So the research suggests that if you increase policing in certain areas, that can sort of lower crime in a particular area. The question though is, should we do that? And the debate or the argument on the left has been that just because aggressive policing might work, does not mean we need to do that. And I think there is some truth to that, but again I think the the way the debate is framed is not what are the most effective ways of policing high crime neighborhoods, but right now the debate is whether or not we should police high crime neighborhoods, and I think that's a mistake.

Coleman Hughes:

And most African-Americans again, they don't want to see police kill innocent black folks, they don't support police brutality, but they do support removing people who are smoking weed in the front of their building they don't. Many of them don't like people selling loose cigarettes on the streets and so I think we have a complicated question of how to provide quality public safety, how to improve quality of life in high crime neighborhoods and black folk, at this point, believe that police and policing are should be part of the solution to those problems. And I think policy makers and media should pay more attention to that and pay more attention to their deep desire to live in sort of clean safe neighborhoods.

James Secreto:

And one of the things, if I could just jump in here, the police commissioner, yesterday, he announced a series of community forums and is designed to get input from the community on how we can better reform the police department, how we could better move forward, so I think they partnered with the New York Urban League, the Robin Hood NYC Foundation, and the FPWA Agency to have these firms in all five boroughs, and kind of get the community's input on how we can best move forward, how we can best reform the NYPD. And that's critical, because the community should have a say in how we move forward in policing in 2020 and beyond.

Coleman Hughes:

All right, at this point I just want to quickly remind viewers that you can submit questions via the chat function of whatever platform you're watching on and in about 20 minutes we will get to viewer questions in our Q&A. So next question, this is about community policing. So how common is it for black cops, and cops in general, to police neighborhoods that they themselves grew up in? And second similar question is, how common is it for cops to be policing the same neighborhood every day and getting a chance to meet people in the neighborhood and form relationships versus how common is it for cops to be in a different location every day? And how important do you think it is for cops to be in a place they're from familiar with and where people are familiar with them?

Anthony Barksdale:

Well, I grew up in West Baltimore and when I hit the street, I started work about 10 blocks away from where I grew up. So I felt comfortable with the area, I knew the locations, if a call came out I knew where to go, I knew my intersections and eventually as I moved into narcotics, I actually started to work cases in the same neighborhood that I grew up. There were times where I'm arresting people that I grew up with and to some cops they're uncomfortable with that. To me, it was me doing my job and throughout Baltimore City you will have cops who grew up in certain communities that they grew up in and they still do their jobs.

Anthony Barksdale:

So I think there's a plus to it. There have been cases where cops asked to not go to a specific district in fear of they still have family there and they worry about that, but I always saw it as a plus to know the community, actually know some of the people on your day-to-day patrol duties or even detective duties, it's always helpful. You also get more information that way. People aren't as hesitant to say, Hey Barksdale, this is who did it," or something like that so I think it's helpful. I think that knowing a community is just a huge plus instead of coming from another state and then having to learn an area.

Coleman Hughes:

Anyone else on that one?

James Secreto:

Yeah, I think it could be a blessing and a curse. Because I remember as a narcotics sergeant patrolling the Albany Houses doing buy and bust and locking up people I knew was it was pretty uncomfortable. I personally could not put handcuffs on somebody I knew and if they needed to be arrested that's one thing my partner could put the handcuffs on him but I personally didn't want to put the handcuffs on them. But now as an executive, as the commander of the 75th Precinct in East New York, as the chief of the housing bureau it came to benefit me greatly that I grew up in public housing. Now, I'm the chief of housing, it was like a local boy did good and they even had features on me, Channel 7 did a feature on me, Channel 2 did a feature on me, so the people that I knew were proud and it helped you know, it definitely gave them a confidence in you, a trust in you that maybe an outsider doesn't get, so in that regard it definitely was a help.

James Secreto:

And I would imagine working in a neighborhood, and I always wanted to work in a black neighborhood, minority neighborhood, as I felt I could make a difference and I and I could be a positive. And probably the, I don't know how to put it, the whitest neighborhood I've ever worked in was Central Park. I worked in there for three years, and I worked with Stephen McDonald, God rest his soul, back in the 80s. But most of the neighborhoods I worked in Bed–Stuy, East New York, Central Harlem and I enjoyed it because that was the hood and I enjoyed being able to make a difference.

Coleman Hughes:

Do you feel like, as black policemen, your interactions with black suspects go differently, either better or worse, then a similar interaction between that same suspect and a white police officer?

James Secreto:

Again, when I was in narcotics, we would lock up, in Central Park as well, we would lock up black kids, white kids, and when we locked up the white kids we would be getting calls from priests and community people to let them go they're good kids, and we didn't get those same kind of calls from the black kids. And a lot of times we would talk me and the other investigators whatever, talk to the kids, "Listen, you're going down the wrong path, dealing with drugs is not the answer," and some of our white colleagues just said, "Why are you wasting your time talking to these kids?" So I talked to both white and black kids but it seemed like my colleagues thought I was wasting my time trying to talk to and mentor the black kids.

Anthony Barksdale:

My experience is, it's that it's just basically case by case. Some suspects had no issue with a white cop or a black cop arresting them, some of course if I'm making the arrest and I become a uncle tom or, "Why are you dancing for the white man, he don't care about you." And also, I've seen white cops who cared greatly about the kids in the community or the people of the community. So I think it's the specific cop and how they relate to the community and that can vary person to person.

James Secreto:

Anthony, to your point, I was the commander of the 28th Precinct, which is a pretty much all black area in Central Harlem, and I followed, one the one of the commanders there was a guy Bill Morange, a white guy, and every everybody measured you up to him because the community loved him, the clergy loved him, and they called him the White Prince of Harlem. So the race was for second place because he was the top guy in that 28th Precinct and everybody loved him, and to this day, everyone loves Bill Morange. So your point Anthony, you got white guys that are tremendous in the community as well.

Anthony Barksdale:

That's right, yes sir.

Coleman Hughes:

So the next question for all three of you, how well do you feel the Black Lives Matter Movement, which is admittedly hard to define because it's a leaderless movement. But nevertheless, how well do you think the Black Lives Matter Movement captures and reflects the attitudes of typical Black Americans? Do you feel that they're very closely in line or do you feel that there's some distance between the way reform is talked about in a BLM crowd and at the proverbial family black barbecue?

Michael Fortner:

So I don't think it's controversial to say that Black Lives Matter is not anchored in the traditional organizations of black civil society. It explicitly is not connected to black churches, civil rights organizations, and that gives them some autonomy for them to make their own claims based on their own ideology. It is also the case that Black Lives Matter is very popular in general among African-Americans. But when you drill down to policy positions like abolition or defund the police, those policies are not very popular among which you call typical African-Americans. The real divide is among young and old. So older women who may go to church on Sundays are not supportive of abolition or not supportive of defund the police, but young college-educated African-Americans are, so I think there is a generational difference that is extremely important when discussing what Black Lives Matter is and whether or not it is representative of the community.

James Secreto:

Yeah, Michael to your point, I think you're right. The younger people, they probably could do without the police, but I think most people realize that the police are needed and especially in New York right now, you're seeing levels of violence that you haven't seen in decades probably. And so I think people understand that we need the police. I think that term defund the police I think, symbolically, I don't like what it represents symbolically, and I think it started out in the protests as an out reach of the protest now let's get rid of these police, and I don't like it, I don't kind of understand it and certainly we can't abolish the police. As far as the Black Lives Matter Movement, I think I understand it, or at least its origination right, it started in 2013 after Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his murderer, so I get it because, I get it, Black Lives Matter, we're not just a dent on a car, something menial that we could just move on, it's okay that it happened. No, it's not okay, I get that.

James Secreto:

But now it seems to have created Black Lives Matter on the right or on the left and Blue Lives Matter on the right and then All Lives Matter, it seems like, it's just often happens, the message kind of gets a little blurred. And so now I see there's a lot of Blue Lives Matter events, support for the police. But I don't think one necessarily... it creates a us against them which is what I don't like. Because as a black man I agree that we shouldn't be unnecessarily killing black people or any people for that matter, but black people are the ones that are suffering. So I get that part, but I also, Liu and Ramos were executed in their radio car, I bawled like a baby at Ramos's funeral. So I get both sides, but I don't want it to be us against them, I want us working together to fix the problems in America. We've come a long way but we have a long way to go.

Anthony Barksdale:

I'm absolutely open to hearing all issues from Black Lives Matter. The thing is that what all of this goes on and you have Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, we still have black and brown people being slaughtered across the United States of America, okay? So I get that's what you believe in, let me hear it. But we've got to do something about the daily homicide rate and attempted homicide rate in black and brown communities. And that's just my priority, so I see it as one fungible mass that we all need to figure out. And right now we're not doing a good job of it in New York, in Baltimore, in DC, in Philly, so I just need us to get to a point where we are having that communication not yelling and we really start seeing some real steps to solve this. And if I can go back to something really quickly, when I talked about... James was right on point, a lot of these police involved incidents don't have to happen. But when you're sending cops out, like in Baltimore maybe a month or two ago, I watched the body cam footage of two cops, two young cops going to a mental health crisis call. They take angles the person goes for a gun pulls out a gun and aims it at the cop they both shoot this man.

Anthony Barksdale:

All I'm thinking about is, why were they sent in that way? Where was their... your body bunker to take it slow see what you have and if necessary pull out. So we're talking this, but some things can be addressed, just like James is saying. We can fix training, we can hold police executives more accountable for what their officers do, even if they're in the office 10 miles away they're still your cops, how they've been trained, do they have what they need out in the field? So it's one of those things I'm really passionate about us solving this. But we can't solve it this way. We have to do better.

Michael Fortner:

This is a critical point. I don't think it is a coincidence that Black Lives Matter, criminal justice reform, has been taking off in a moment when we're at historically low crime rates in a lot of cities. If you grew up or if you lived during the early 1990s, where murder rates were insane and these communities were extremely dangerous, I could see why you would want to embrace policing and police and why you don't want to defund the police. At the same time, I understand why if most of your life you lived in a relatively safe context, you are more focused on police brutality than murder and homicides in these communities. I think the potential tragedy is, that we don't exploit this opportunity to, in both police brutality and sort of the violence that inherits a lot of these communities. We should see this as a moment where to deal with both murder and property crime and police brutality across the country.

James Secreto:

And Anthony and Michael, to both of your points, Black Lives Matter, I understand it as it regards to police brutality and the police murders of innocent people, but I also would love to see that same level of outrage when a one-year-old is killed at a barbecue in Bedford-Stuyvesant or you know a six-year-old is shot at Juve a month ago, I would like to see that same level of outrage and I was glad to hear Reverend Sharpton speak to that, as was I think George Floyd's brother spoke about that. Because it seems a little hollow when you're saying Black Lives Matter but these things don't seem to upset you to the same level that a police shooting does, and that's something to me that needs to happen.

Coleman Hughes:

Yeah I've tried to talk about this a lot as well and a lot of other people have you mentioned, Al Sharpton and others, but it does seem like the moment you bring this up, the tensions begin to rise in a room and people feel that people hear what you're saying and what they hear is we shouldn't care about police brutality. And it's so difficult to communicate that, that's not what you're saying but it's just it's a very difficult issue because people have it presented as either or.

Michael Fortner:

Coleman. But it depends on which room you're in, correct?

Coleman Hughes:

The ones I'm in.

Michael Fortner:

If you're at the barbecue, right, people talk about both, without having any kind of ideological or philosophical discomfort and a lot of communities, people can easily talk about both without sort of feeling like one is emphasizing more than the other. So I think part of what's going on is that there is an elite conversation that is not sensitive to the nuances of the debate that's actually taking place at barbecues, in the homes of working in middle class black folks.

Coleman Hughes:

That's a great point. All right so now we've come to the audience Q&A portion of the event. So let's go to our first question. If research says that focused enforcement can lower crime, wouldn't backing away from that model hurt high crime communities most?

Michael Fortner:

So there's an argument to be made that that's the case. The alternative is that, we also know other things like nonprofit organizations that focus on violence reduction can also have an effect on crime in these communities. But I think the bigger point is, how do we have a public safety strategy that is sensitive to both crime and sensitive to both the needs and desires of the community not to feel harassed or brutalized in any way? And I think the earlier points made about mental health issues is exactly right, there's no reason why an armed agent of the state should be called when someone is having a mental health crisis. I don't know very many police officers who want to deal with that situation, I know members of the community who don't you know want police officers necessarily to deal with that situation, so I think this is an opportunity for us to think about the ways in which we can use policing aggressively in some situations to deal with hot spots in neighborhoods but also to think creatively about other methods and strategies that might also lower violence and property crime while not having the unintended consequences that sort of violent policing can have.

James Secreto:

And what one of the strategies to get away from over policing minority, communities high crime communities, was to do precision policing, whereas you're just targeting say the gang members or the drug dealers or the guys carrying guns or whatever, so you're not like doing a blanket policing of a community. And so I think if you withdraw that you are certainly gonna hurt those communities that are experiencing crime and violence.

Anthony Barksdale:

Well I say we look at just some of the basic life-saving principles that New York used, that Baltimore used, in the more successful years. The mapping, Cops on Dots. If you're seeing homicides and shootings and robberies in a community, you're gonna get my resources. I'm sending them in there, but back to James's point, there has to be focus. You're not just going in there stat driven, lock anybody up and you can make overtime, and you get daily overtime, and court over time, no. This is about zooming in daily, making quality cases against the violent individuals in that community. I thought it was a good way for Baltimore. With the plan I used, we cut arrests, we moved away from mass arrests and we were focused in specific areas in specific communities taking out the right individuals.

Anthony Barksdale:

And one of the things that I have to say, over policing, I just need to talk about that. In Baltimore, you have areas for example, Pennsylvania Avenue and Baltimore City is a historic heroin, opioid distribution area. So if you take out one group, we know another group wants to come in, and when that type of stuff happens that's when you get the back and forth violence fighting for territory. So there are some communities, until bigger social issues are fixed, the cops have to be there. You have to be there on a daily basis, and this is not to occupy the community, it's understanding the reality that there is a crime problem and you just can't leave that area until that's resolved.

James Secreto:

And if I could jump, in my last few years in housing, we had what was called an impact response team. And this is about 40 police officers that are working on a particular shift or whatever. And if you took them out of that development, we had two developments that were at odds with each other, and we had to have those officers in each housing development to prevent one from going over to the other firing a couple of shots and running back home. And if you took those cops out of that development, there were problems. But the thing is they no longer... because we stopped giving summonses for marijuana, summonses for urinating, that type of thing, and I didn't want that because then they would go into the precinct and the post would be unoccupied and then we'd have problems.

James Secreto:

So I just wanted them out there like potted plants we would say, just be there to be a deterrent and that worked but I would catch some flack because the police department is still numbers driven sometimes, they want to see arrests and that wasn't productive for what I needed to get done. So I used to take flack from my bosses, they don't have any arrest, but we don't have any shootings. It's hard to measure what they prevent but I could always point the fact that we had no shootings while these guys were out there, and ladies we're out there.

Coleman Hughes:

Okay, next question from Virginia, should we push back against the tendency to nationalize this discussion? How important is it to trust localities to know what is best for them?

Michael Fortner:

So, and I would love to hear what the other panelists think about this. I think one of the reasons why it's important to focus nationally and to have sort of a national approach and perhaps a national strategy is that locally, police unions have a lot of power. And I'm not sure they use their power for good and so one reason for looking to national approaches is to undermine the potential power of police unions to scuttle reform and to scuttle revising collective bargaining agreements that allow bad actors to remain on the force. But I would like to hear what the others think about that.

James Secreto:

Number one, I think the discussions that have taken place over the last few years, Black Lives Matter, over policing, police brutality, I think they're critical because people would love to say there's no problem, everything's fine, but it's not. And I think that's getting these conversations going is productive. I was amazed that some jurisdictions so they don't they don't know what they don't know. So for example, and I hate to point out, put somebody on blast, but Galveston, Texas, in August of last year they arrested the gentleman and the two horseback cops are leading him to the precinct with a lasso or whatever and that was bad enough the way that looked in 2019. But there was nothing on the books in that police department that made that wrong. And so I see he just filed a million dollar lawsuit for the embarrassment and everything like that, but there's probably cities throughout this country that have these archaic rules and procedures and policies on their books that need to be addressed and looked at on a bigger scale.

James Secreto:

And far as the communities getting involved, I spoke about that earlier and I think that the NYPD is doing that to get the community people to get their voices heard and how they view policing and how they want to be policed and I think that's that's an important thing to do nationwide.

Coleman Hughes:

Okay, next question this question is from Richard, what do you make of what seems a trend of property destruction being accepted as an acceptable response to controversial police actions? Yeah so this person must be referring to looting, setting fires as a response to our police brutality.

Michael Fortner:

So I don't I haven't seen... so I don't have a lot of survey evidence to give you a definitive answer but I will tell you as someone who grew up in a black family and a black community, that black folks don't want to see their neighborhoods devastated. Black folks don't want to see fires, black folks don't want to see buildings destroyed, black folks don't want to see their services end because the stores have been looted. I think black folks are also sensitive to the anger that can erupt at a moment when you see videos of police brutality, but the idea that has been pervasive in a lot of elite circles on the left that rioting is just, and destroying these things are the right thing to do, it may be from a philosophical standpoint, but in terms of if you think you're doing that for black folks stop doing that for black folks because black folks actually don't want that, even as they understand a lot of the pain and anger that the tragic deaths of George Floyd and others can cause.

James Secreto:

Yeah Michael, to your point, I think that people understand the anger and the frustration but that's not acceptable destroying property violence against the police officers. I know in the Bronx they ran over a police sergeant, that's unacceptable and I feel bad that it's kind of associated with the left and the democrats it's kind of like listen this is what you got to look forward to if you vote democratic. I kind of resent that and I feel bad that that's the way things are being portrayed. But as far as damage and property and hurting the police officers, that's unacceptable and needs to be addressed for what it is.

Anthony Barksdale:

I agree but we're in a period now where you're having people, I was just in a little back and forth on twitter about this, where you had people encouraging others to fight the cops, resist arrest, and I think that's a horrible piece of advice. This is me, just me, just saying it's comply. The goal is to live. If you're getting locked up, I want to see you live. When you resist arrest, we're not trained to lose. And that is something where once again, if we care about police brutality and police doing the wrong thing doing arrests, don't push it, just try to live to see the next day, get yourself a lawyer, sue.

Anthony Barksdale:

As a kid, my mother gave me a few rules. Never run from a cop, never turn your back, answer yes sir no sir, try to get the badge number. If you see somebody that knows the family tell them go get your mother go to the house, go to your house. And we're giving out bad advice now and I also have a problem with the thinking that oh well I'm gonna you know burn this store down, I'm going to burn this business down because they have insurance. And it's just not helpful. We need to get this together and really start finding solutions instead of all of this bad advice being thrown around and everyone acting off of emotions.

Coleman Hughes:

All right, last question from the audience. In the US, some states have longer training required for barbers than for police. How much do you think the problems stem from the inadequate training required or provided? And I'll add, what kinds of training reform would you recommend?

Anthony Barksdale:

I absolutely believe that training does impact how policing occurs in the United States. When I was deputy, I actually launched a training program based on realistic scenarios from my office. And one of the biggest things I was happy that we did, we actually did mental health crisis scenarios where we actually got church members to come in and go over the scenarios with the cop saying, "Hey, my son is inside he has mental health issues," and I just feel like a lot of training is inadequate. And also, they're not getting properly trained on the proper equipment, we're still seeing cops incident after incident, pushing an incident instead of holding and pulling back. So whoever asked that question, yes there are issues with training, I agree with you.

James Secreto:

Yes, and I know in the NYPD, we had de-escalation training we had the implicit bias training and the mental health crisis training, those things were invaluable in helping us to be better at addressing those issues. But a lot of times we're quick to say something's a training issue when it may not. But some of these things you see on video, Jacob Blake for example, that was bad tactics in my opinion. So that is a result of training. But some things are not training, we always say it's training, it's training, but no, some things are not training, we're not trained that way, we're not trained to do those things. But the things that we have trained on more recently are designed to reduce the number of police-related shootings and other incidents.

Coleman Hughes:

Can you say more about that James, when you say that James Blake video was bad tactics?

James Secreto:

It's my opinion now that that was bad tactics. He was on the passenger side of the car and then he made a move to go around to the driver's side and everybody kind of chased behind him. I think maybe someone should have went around the back of the car and intercepted him before he got to that door of the car. And now, this officer felt that he had to fire seven shots into his back. I'm sure he was not trained that way. So we could say, yeah training, maybe the tactics could have been training to address those tactics but I'm sure he was not trained to shoot someone in the back seven times like that.

Coleman Hughes:

Yeah, I'm curious about this myself we're just about out of time in a few minutes but I think one thing that does shock civilians about these incidents can be the number of bullets. And this is one of the moments where I'm aware of my ignorance, as someone who's never been a cop, never even held a gun, and doesn't know about gun violence and shootouts and what number of bullets makes sense. So I'm aware of he possibility of backseat driving so what can you guys teach civilians about what it means for there to be five bullets or one bullet or ten?

Anthony Barksdale:

All right. Well, I'll jump in here. Let's say that I've got 14 shots of 40 millimeter and a glock. Training I could shoot all 14 rounds well under four seconds. It happens that fast. And I know it sounds excessive, I really understand that, but when you're squeezing that trigger it happens really fast. So seven shots, I don't know if anyone has an amount of time that it took to fight those seven shots, but it happens really quickly. So that's all I can say, a lot of shots can be fired in a short amount of time.

James Secreto:

But we're also trained to stop the threat. So if it's one shot that stops the threat or it's three shots to stop the threat, a lot of times you know unloading your gun and reloading, it could be considered excessive, and in a lot of cases it is.

Anthony Barksdale:

Absolutely. In Baltimore, I'll train, shoot to incapacitate. So even with that, if you've got a cop who hasn't had a lot of training, and I'm not arguing about that blame everything on training, but if you don't have cops being deployed, that really have that training to measure if someone's incapacitated then it's bad for the citizens, it's bad for the agency.

Michael Fortner:

That's why I think it's important for local agencies to have the power to remove bad actors. I'm struck by the Galveston example. If a police officer is on a horse and he's dragging a black man down the street in a noose, why does he still have his job. And that someone doing that right could still have their job or that people who can be bad actors and be written up a number of times or have a lot of complaints still be on the job, is a fundamental problem and doesn't it create the right incentives that would deter people from being extra violent in these communities. So I think part of, training may or may not work in some cases, but being able to create different incentives, in terms of employment, I think might make a difference.

James Secreto:

But that wasn't against the rules in Galveston, Mike. That's the only thing and that's shocking, in and of itself.

Anthony Barksdale:

But if you can document that you're properly training your cops and they violate, that makes it easier for you to get rid of them. And on the executive level, you're constantly looking for, "Okay did they follow the rules?" And if you can document and keep that and keep track of their careers and they go sideways on you and they get out there and they do the wrong thing, it makes it easier for chief to fire them.

Coleman Hughes:

Well on that note, I would like to thank all the panelists for this excellent discussion. Before we close, I'd like to invite our audience to sign up on our website to receive updates from the police and public safety initiative, of which this event has been a part. On our website you can also browse the Manhattan Institute's research and subscribe to our newsletters. If you're able please also consider supporting the Institute at the link you see below. MI is a non-profit organization and our work depends on support from people like you. Thank you so much.

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