06/24/20 Lee Merritt

Police Brutality and Community Relations. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony recently on “Police Use of Force and Community Relations.” On this edition of Century of Lies we hear from some of the witnesses including S. Lee Merritt, a civil rights activist and attorney with Merritt Law Firm of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Rev. Dr. Doug Logan, Jr., President of Grimke Seminary, Co-Director of Church in Hard Places Acts29, and Pastor for Church Planting at Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia; and Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Plus we hear from US Senator Cory Booker, Democrat from New Jersey.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Guest: 
Lee Merritt
Organization: 
Drug War Facts
Lee Merritt
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DEAN BECKER: (00:00)
Failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, ordinance prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization legalization. The end of prohibition, a lot of us investigate a century of lies. Hello,

DOUG McVAY: (00:19)
Come to century of lies. I'm your host. Doug McVay, the Senate judiciary committee recently held a hearing on police brutality, entitled police use of force and community relations. We're going to hear from some of the witnesses, but first here's us Senator Cory Booker Democrat from New Jersey.

CORY BOOKER: (00:35)
Uh, ms. Chairman, I think parting from my prepared remarks, just want to say, what does it say about a nation where two senators from the same state have very different wildly different experiences with law enforcement right here in these last few weeks, I've had conversations with black folks who work for the Senate. People on both sides of the aisle, who all have their shares of stories, of traumatizing experiences, of feeling like they were a one sudden move or one mistaken moment for experiencing violence. And the challenge is that this has been nothing new. Um, I think if we took the time to listen to each other, uh, we would see that we have a culture where so many parents have to teach their children to be afraid in order to be secure. I heard moving comments on the floor today about one of my colleagues who listened to their staffers, where their kids were told by their parents to keep your receipts because you'll be accused of stolen things.

CORY BOOKER: (01:38)
I know from my own experiences, having guns drawn on me being accused of stealing things. The challenge is is that this often is unfair. It is unacceptable. It is wrong, but when it explodes, like we see it where people capture on video tape, the kind of violence that you were traumatized and violence that you were going to show. I'm really grateful for Senator Harris. Who's been my partner over the last few weeks. And she and I did as was said by the ranking member, work together with a congressional black caucus leaders and ultimately chairman Adler, uh, to put together a bill called the justice and policing act act. We put it together, obviously in the wake of George Floyd, we put it in the wake of not just black men, a black woman sleeping in her home and the deaths that have brought to attention much of this in our national discourse. And indeed have brought in all 50 States, literally thousands of protests of people, of all backgrounds. I mean, all backgrounds, not just race, religion, that's, who've been calling for an end, a meaningful reform. And yet even in the days since Kamel and I put together our work with other members of this Senate, as well as people in the house, we continue to see things caught in videotape as was said before Rashard Brooks shot in the back.

CORY BOOKER: (03:10)
So we need to be very clear. What we're talking about is a nation that has two different justice systems, two different experiences with law enforcement that go all the way up to this body. If you stop and talk to the black people who work here who have very personal stories, including Senator Tim Scott's eloquent exposition on the Senate floor, The unmitigated killing of unarmed black people in America by law enforcement, not to mention the disparate treatment is something that we must do something about. We have a choice right now. Now I'm about 51 years old. And since a little bit before my birth, til now there have been so many studies, so many commissions from the Kerner commission all the way up to the 21st century task force on policing and nothing has changed.

SENATOR GRAHAM: (04:02)
Okay.

CORY BOOKER: (04:04)
Cities from Ferguson to Minneapolis have done a lot of reforms. And as the data has shown, whether it's diversifying your police force, a lot of these things have been done before, but we still see the killing of unarmed African Americans. And so we really have a choice to make. And every day that we don't do something puts more and more of our fellow citizens in danger, not just of death, but of the kind of treatment we would never want our own family to face. We have a choice between us before us. And so this idea that there is a Republican bill and a democratic bill, we need to look beyond that for a second and simply understand that the things that are in the bill that Senator Harris and I worked on actually have wild popularity amongst Republicans.

CORY BOOKER: (04:54)
You hear Republican leaders from George bushes. First address to Congress said we should stop racially profiling Americans. That's not something radical. It's this idea that we're equal under the law from choke holes to no knock warrants, things that would have saved lives. We have failed to do in this country by making them the law of the land setting standards for practices and policing that reflect our common values. Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly support these kinds of practices. Being banned in our country that are in our bill. They would save lives. Brianna Taylor would be alive today. Eric Garner could be alive today, but it's not just setting a standard. Accountability is having ways of measuring progress to those standards. We are a nation that doesn't even collect the data on how many people are shot by police. I ran a police department. I learned the hard way without data. There can be no accountability without measures. I played football. If not the standard has gotta be fast to be wide receiver. If you have no way of measuring that well, good as the standard Activists, local leaders, the federal gut, we all should have transparency into policing without that. No accountability. And finally, you said it yourself took note of what you said, mr. Chairman, that unless there are real consequences, when you fail to meet standards

CORY BOOKER: (06:19)
Where there's lawsuits Or federal action criminal court, there are two aspects of this bill changing a standard in the criminal courts. It's almost difficult if not a to meet the wilfulness standard, that's common sense and God qualified immunity. I could start listing and take a time. I won't all the conservative organizations from the Cato Institute, from the remarks of Clarence Thomas, that support getting rid of qualified immunity. And so I worry in this moment, I really do that. We're going to repeat history that this is the movie Groundhog day, because here we are, again, in a nightmare, not a comedy.

CORY BOOKER: (07:02)
The here we are here at talks of, again, a so-called reform packages, more studies, more nibbling around the edges, as opposed to acting boldly and doing the things that we actually know will hold police officers accountable for their conduct, which will set meaningful standards will allow us as a federal government to enforce a law. This is not an overstatement on overdrawn motivation to say that the stakes right now are high. Will we meet this moment in history and actually do something real? Or will we find ourselves back here again a year from now three years from now with mass protests in the state streets, by people of all different backgrounds, demanding change. And so mr. Chairman, the truth is I actually have faith in us as a country. I don't have faith. We're going to get there on time. And justice delayed is justice thigh.

CORY BOOKER: (07:55)
I though believe that there's going to be a time in American. When we in ban in human practices like Chouf, Colt, and religious profiling and, and no knock entries, I believe there'll be a time in America where we don't treat mental health issues with police and prison. I believe there's going to be a time in America where a black woman is safe to sleep in her own bed or a young man reaching for his cell phone. Won't get shot dead. I believe there will be a time in America when black parents like mine, don't have to fear for the safety of their child who just got their driver's license. I believe there'll be a time in America when we understand that public safety is not about simply the number of police on our streets, but about how number of people who no longer live in poverty or are safe to drink their water, or don't have to deal with addiction in prison, but can get treatment.

CORY BOOKER: (08:43)
There will be a time I know in this country, but if the arc of the moral universe is long and bends towards justice, we have to have the courage now to be the arc benders. The question is not, will we get the question is the time now how many more people have to die in our streets to get us there? How many more people have to suffer? The indignities that even our own colleagues have talked about in the United States Senate, I believe the time should be now for us to make bold change, or we will be back here. Again. These changes will happen, but they should not happen someday. This should be the day. This should be the time so that we can ensure that this nightmare ends in America.

DOUG McVAY: (09:24)
That was Senator Cory Booker speaking in the Senate judiciary committee and the opening of a hearing entitled police use of force and community relations. You're listening to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVeigh. Now let's hear from S Lee Merritt with Merritt law firm of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mr. Merritt is a civil rights attorney and activist,

S. LEE MERRITT: (09:44)
Senator Graham, other members of this honorable committee. We live in the deadliest police culture and most incarceration prone, please culture in the modern world. Our criminal justice and legal system is as ravenous as it is racist. Our law enforcement community racks up thousands of civilian deaths each year, tens of thousands, more brutalized injured in Maine. Millions more are arrested in jail, making the United States, the single most incarcerated nation in the entire history of the world.

SENATOR GRAHAM: (10:17)
Okay.

S. LEE MERRITT: (10:18)
This is an American crisis, a genocide.

S. LEE MERRITT: (10:23)
This is not hyperbole, but rather a reality that demands a national response. And I want to thank this committee for taking immediate swiff and responsive action. I come before you today as a civil rights attorney, a practitioner, I am a, the legal director for the grassroots law project, and I represent families of citizens killed by police. Some of the names, you know, far too many of you have not heard. I represent the family of a Matar Berry who was murdered by a former police officer, Gregory McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael, and their neighbor, William Bryan. While I'm here to provide testimony about justice and policing and a Marbury was not killed, uh, in an officer involved shooting, it was failures in policing that directly contributed to his death and the delay of justice to his family. Neighbors initially sought help for the black jogger that frequented their neighborhood, that they considered suspicious from officer Ronald rash of the Glenn County police department. He encouraged them to pursue a course of vigilantism.

S. LEE MERRITT: (11:31)
He was aware for months that these men were actively hunting a black suspect to whom they intended to do harm. Once the deed was done, it was law enforcement that lied to Wanda Cooper Jones, a Mott's mother telling her that her son had been killed in the course of a robbery by the homeowner local DA's Jackie Johnson, George Barnhill participated in a coverup of his shooting and the gun police chief, where this crime occurred was subsequently arrested on completely separate criminal corruption allegations, along with a handful of his top officials. My story is not just tragic and unjust. It lays bare the need for every imagining of police in America and their mission in our society. I run a practice dedicated, exclusively to responding to police murders. I'm one of many attorneys that has this crisis at the root of their firm. As this nation churns out enough bodies and human rights violations to keep us all occupied for a very long time. I continue. I continue to stand for the family of George Floyd, Derek Sharvin and other officers of the Minneapolis police department held him down for eight minutes and 46 sexes under the unbearable weight of oppression. He could not breathe. And as the nation looked on and on horror, we could not breathe. Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellis in Minnesota, Minnesota, top law enforcement official preemptively declared that this will be a case difficult to prosecute

S. LEE MERRITT: (12:57)
As hard as that is to accept given the evidence we have now seen with our own eyes. It is consistent with the American experience because of existing laws that basically give carte blanche to law enforcement to kill it will with the utterance of these three words. I'm sorry. These five words I feared for my life. Hard-fought rare prosecutions and difficult convictions have characterized the experiences of families like both from John. He was killed in his apartment complex. He's in a bowl of ice cream. Uh, his killer Amber Geiger said that she was instructed. She was trained that if she can't see the suspect's hands, shoot them. Uh, Tatiana Jefferson also gunned down in our own home. After leaving the door open to catch a cool breeze of relief from the heat of the night in Fort worth, Texas Fort worth police officer Aaron Dean crept around the back cartilage of her home. I saw her standing in the window and shot her through the bedroom. And she played video games with her nephew.

S. LEE MERRITT: (13:57)
The beautiful families that I've traveled with represent a cross section of America, disproportionately black, undeniably strong relentlessly committed to the cause of justice and policing. They include the father of a young woman named Maggie Brooks. Her father is a fire chief in Arlington, Texas. His daughter was accidentally shot by a police officer who recklessly shot at her six month old puppy, but struck Ms. Brooks instead of killing her qualified immunity has banned her family access to the court. Under the current federal laws, there will be no criminal or civil liability for this officer or his department. They include the family of Michael Dean who went out to get his six year old daughter, a birthday cake, and never made it home. I wish I could tell you what happened to Michael Dean, but the video has still not been released by the department. Although the officer has been indicted on manslaughter charges,

SENATOR GRAHAM: (14:52)
Okay,

S. LEE MERRITT: (14:53)
This family has still not been allowed to sing. See the body or dash cam evidence of what happened to their loved one. They have been denied access to these videos by the city of temple, Texas and Belle County district attorney Henry Garza, Cameron lamb of Kansas city, Missouri was unarmed and shot in his bed in his place of business and his home. The chief of police in Kansas city, Missouri has broken with the local district attorney and refuse to submit a probable cause affidavit. In the case, making prosecution very difficult. Jamil Robeson was a hero from Chicago. He was working as a security guard at a nightclub when the nation was hobbling from one mass shooting to another, a gunman entered his club and began shooting indiscriminately at patrons, Jamil sprang into action, disarming him and he waited for police arrived to arrive when responding officer Ian Colby arrived. And when told that the suspect was being held around the corner, he quickly went to the scene and shot to Mel Roberson in his back three times, killing him. There has been no accountability in that case.

S. LEE MERRITT: (15:56)
Antwan Rose was a 17 year old unarmed when he ran from a traffic stop. If you could wrap it up, please. Thank you. Go ahead. Sorry. We're looking at the clock. It says, w I'm sorry. Am I over? Yes, sir. Just take your time. Write that up. Yes, sir. Answer on rolls was 17. When he ran from a traffic stop, the officer who killed him had just been sworn in the department that day after transferring from another jurisdiction, under concerns of racism and brutality. The question we must ask, we must be the generation answers. What are we going to do about all of this? Well, future generations, look back at this moment with the pride that we confronted our greatest evils with real courage, or will they be disappointed because we had a moment to make change possible and felt right now that answer still hangs in the balance. Thank you for your time.

DOUG McVAY: (16:49)
That was Lee Merritt with merit law firm of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mr. Merritt is a civil rights attorney and activist. He testified recently before the Senate judiciary committee at a hearing entitled police use of force and community relations. You're listening to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVeigh editor of drug war facts.org. Let's hear now from the Reverend Dr. Doug Logan, Jr. Dr. Logan is president of Grimke seminary co-director of church in hard places, acts 29. And pastor for church planting at remnant church in Richmond, Virginia,

REVEREND DR. DOUG LOGAN Jr: (17:20)
Chairman Graham and ranking member finds things, senators, brothers, sisters, and friends. My name is doctor Doug Logan, jr. I serve as the president of Grimke seminary and former pastor of epiphanies Camden epiphany fellowship in Camden, New Jersey. I serve now as a pastor in Richmond, Virginia at a church called remnant. I've been asked to talk about, um, um, the policing and the use of force. And I come to you today, not only as a black man, but also a Christian clergyman who worked, um, closely with, um, mayor Dana Redd, my friend in the city of Camden as, um, I don't want to use the word defund, but I'll use revamp reteam and retool the police department for more effective policing and a more effective police force in the city of Camden in 2012, 2013 and 2014. I have lived in inner city for most of my life.

REVEREND DR. DOUG LOGAN Jr: (18:15)
Many Americans wouldn't drive through my Camden block after dark or my Patterson block and North Jersey after dark. I speak as someone who has not only observed great injustice, but also experienced them firsthand because of the color of my skin. In spite of all that. However, I speak today, not as someone who was filled with rage, but someone who was filled with hope. I am hopeful that we can recover some common ground in this country, starting with a renewed understanding of justice. I am, I must, it must be a vision of justice and equitable treatment of all people who are worthy of dignity, respect, and fairness, having been created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. And it must be a vision of justice built on a commitment of all people and their government to do onto others. As you would have them do onto you.

REVEREND DR. DOUG LOGAN Jr: (19:09)
Anything less than this will not provide us with the common ground needed to strive for justice and more than name only yet. I am significantly hopeful. I'm a preacher. So I got three points. I pray that we would listen. I pray that we would learn. And then I pray out the listening, learning. We would legislate, uh, pray that we would listen to the cries, the shouts, the screams of black and Brown people, and many white people that are screaming on the streets for a new day and a new way and real justice and policies to be put in place. I am hopeful that we can create connect, reconnect such a vision of justice to our shared dream for society that promises Liberty and justice for all, it is clear from the cries in the streets that many of our nation's citizens do not feel they have equal access to these realities in view of America's long history of racial injustice.

REVEREND DR. DOUG LOGAN Jr: (20:10)
That seems undoubtedly true. As a man who has grown up under the difficult circumstances of inner city America, I lived among what some would call the urban poor. I have been taught that racism is one of the many problems facing impoverished minority communities and anyone who blames everything just on racism past the present has failed to consider the complexities of those realities and frailties of the human soul. Yet I am hopeful. I am hopeful that we can restore the proper view of the police in our society. And those who have been entrusted by and thus will be held accountable to God, the government and the people. There's an entrusted sewage ship, which comes with responsibility and greater accountability since they are permitted to use force to secure order and to keep the peace yet without molesting or denying justice in the process, the police force is a necessary public servant to uphold justice in the midst of societal injustices and should be an agent of holding the good for all people towards this end, let us consider the best statistical data, wherever it is available to fairly evaluate the rates of police misconduct against minorities.

REVEREND DR. DOUG LOGAN Jr: (21:23)
But let us also listen to the stories of the people from the minority communities who also, who almost invariably reports, statistically unquantifiable instances, and bias. Simply put the facts on the block. Aren't often recorded in any data, the cries of grandma, grandpa, and my friends and my cousins that we talk about in a barber shop often don't make it to statistical data we can do so we've listened. We learned now I pray that after listening and learning, then we'll legislate. We'll listen to the cried, listen to the pain, listen to the problems and legislative. We listened to the people in learn from our cities. I believe we can have comprehensive improvements. I pray for the day for my three biracial sons and my Puerto Rican grandkids that as I was given the talk and told to hold the wheel, right, and do whatever you have to do to get home. My father told me, do whatever you have to do to get on the best time to argue with a cop who was mistreating you is w is a mile down the road while you're alive. So I pray that the talk I'll have with my grandkids and great grandkids, won't be how to survive racist police, but it'll be the talk about in 2020 during a virus and riots that my country, the one I love came up with wise and radical laws that made them safer. Thank you.

DOUG McVAY: (22:59)
That was the Reverend dr. Doug Logan, jr. President of Grimke seminary and co-director of church in hard places acts 29. Now here's Vanita Gupta, president and chief executive officer of the leadership conference on civil and human rights.

VANITA GUPTA: (23:13)
Well, the recent murders of Ray shard, Brooks, Rihanna, Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police officers have once again, put the issue of police brutality in the national spotlight, the outpouring of pain and anger is anything but a reaction to isolated incidents or the misconduct of a few bad apples. Instead, the outcry is a response to the long history of violence with impunity toward black people in our nation. And as law enforcement leaders themselves have acknowledged from early slave patrols to the modern day, criminalization of people of color policing has involved the unjust enforcement of unjust laws and help maintain structural racism in too many communities in this country. We are now at a turning point and there really is no return to normal. We have to create a new way forward. One that truly transforms policing and leads to more accountability for communities.

VANITA GUPTA: (24:08)
It is imperative that we get this right, and that Congress's response in this moment appropriately reflects and acknowledges the important work of black lives matter. And the movement for black lives that has brought us to where we are today. My tenure as head of the justice department, civil rights division began just two months after 18 year old, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri by a police officer. And the justice department was hardly perfect, but we understood our mandate, which was to promote accountability and constitutional policing in order to build community trust. During the Obama administration, we opened 25 patterns or practice investigations to help realize greater structural and community center change often at the request of police chiefs and mayors from around the country. And after making findings, we negotiated consent decrees with extensive stakeholder engagement, to overhaul, unlawful policing practices and develop sustainable mechanisms for accountability police departments around the country studied these consent decrees.

VANITA GUPTA: (25:11)
They study president Obama's 21st century policing task force report to advance best practices. That is not the justice department that we have today under both attorneys, general, Jeff sessions and bill BARR. The department has abdicated its responsibility and abandoned the use of tools like pattern, practice investigations, and consent decrees, the disruption of crucial work of the civil rights division and throughout the department of justice to bring forth accountability and transparency in policing is deeply concerning in the absence of federal leadership, the leadership conference education fund launched the new era of public safety initiative with a comprehensive guide to support local communities on police reform and building community police trust. While a lot of these changes have to happen at the state local level, success is going to require leadership support and commitment of the federal government, including Congress on June 1st, the leadership conference, and more than 450 civil rights organizations sent a letter to Congress offering critical recommendations to move us forward on the path to true accountability.

VANITA GUPTA: (26:19)
They included creating a national standard on the use of force prohibiting racial profiling and requiring robust data collection banning the use of choke holds and other maneuvers that cut off blood and oxygen ending the militarization of policing prohibiting the use of no knock warrants, especially in drug cases, strengthening federal accountability systems and increasing the justice department's authority to prosecute under the color of law, creating a national and police misconduct registry and ending qualified immunity. These comprehensive measures are reflected in the justice and policing act. They are necessary for police accountability proposals for data collection, commissions, body cameras. These are insufficient responses to meet the moment that we find ourselves in and more people will die. Where we have seen these kinds of nibbling at the edges policies implemented. We continue to grapple with police officers killing African-Americans with impunity police accountability, and the framework that our coalition outlined must be the cornerstone of any meaningful first steps towards transformation.

VANITA GUPTA: (27:25)
Ultimately, however, this moment of reckoning really requires more than tinkering at the edges. It requires leaders together with communities from both parties to envision a new paradigm of public safety. That means not just changing policing practices and culture, but ultimately shrinking the footprint of the criminal legal system, including police and black and Brown people's lives. And it means shifting our approach to public safety away from exclusive investments in criminalization and policing toward investments in economic opportunity, health education, and other public benefits. I have heard police chiefs, police officers, bipartisan elected leaders and communities that have all been giving voice to these issues. This approach not only furthers equity, but also constitutes effective policy. When we finally stop using criminal justice policy as social policy, we will make communities safer and prosperous George Floyd's death has impacted the world, and now it is on us to change it.

DOUG McVAY: (28:22)
That was Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the leadership conference on civil and human rights testifying before the Senate judiciary committee at a recent hearing, entitled police use of force and community relations. And that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to century of lies for the drug truth network. This is Doug McVay saying so long, so long for the drug truth network. This is Doug McVeigh asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition. The century of lies, drug truth network programs, our conduct, the James J. Baker, the third Institute for public policy.