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I'm the best emailer. While I love the live audience, don't worry, I'll catch up with just you on the other side of this conversation where I'll give you some really specific ways to citizen for this episode. In the meantime, I'm going to hand the mic to myself as I set up the conversation with our amazing guest.
I have been thinking about this word normal a lot lately, what is normal mean? You know, normal is this state of things that we get used to and normal can change to. For example, I don't think is normal to have 15 different streaming platforms vying for access to my wallet and my attention. I think that is very abnormal. But someone just coming into the world today says, OK, Grandpa, thanks for complaining. This is how it is.
Stop your whining. In the United States, we have grown accustomed to a lot of normal that feels pretty abnormal if you start to look at it a different way. And nowhere is this clearer than in the area of public safety and in particular the area of policing. We exist in a moment right now of pandemic and uprising and revolution centered around so much of this issue of policing. And it has become normal in this country to spend one hundred billion dollars a year on law enforcement.
It has become normal for school police departments to have grenade launchers, you know, in case the kids get out of hand. It has become normal for the number one budget item in many of our cities to be going to the police department, making all of us residents by default, by mathematical law, residents of a police state. But a challenge has emerged from this moment to change that normal, to do something different to defund the police and I don't know, when I first heard that, I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
What are we talking about here? This sounds like madness. What about crime? I literally I was like, what about crime? What about murders?
What have all the bad things? And there's an answer to that and answer we're going to explore far beyond the slogans in this show, we can spend our money in many different ways. We can make the public safe. Without calling on a relatively unaccountable man with a gun to try to resolve a situation. And I wanted to have that discussion, I wanted to explore this range of options, are we going to have any police at all? It sounds a little crazy.
What about the cops already there? Like, some of them are good people, but also what about social workers and people who actually know how to solve some of the problems of homelessness that we are burdening these police officers with? And what about the risk to communities who are so overburdened with exposure to law enforcement, for whom they are not protecting and serving, but doing something much more dastardly? I can't do that discussion on my own. And I knew two people I wanted to do it with and we're going to get the benefit of their genius and their brilliance in this episode.
The first is Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff is the co-founder and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity. This is the world's largest think tank, an action tank focused exclusively on race and policing. It's like he built an organization designed for where we are right now. Also, as if that's not enough. He's a professor of African-American studies and psychology at Yale University. His team at CPD uses data science and partnerships with law enforcement agencies and communities to reduce racial bias in policing.
Joining Dr. Phil Goff will be Zach Noris, executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights Zachs, also the author of a book made for this moment called We Keep US Safe Building Secure, Just and Inclusive Communities. He's the co-founder of Restore Oakland, a community advocacy and training center that will empower Bay Area community members to transform local economic and justice systems and make us safe and secure future possible for themselves and their families.
That's the formal introduction, the informal introduction.
As I have known these brothers for twenty five years, we're in the same year from Harvard and I have seen them do this work their entire adult lives. They've devoted it so much deliberation to improvement in very different ways. I am excited to welcome you, Phil.. I'm excited to welcome you back, Phil.. I've had such insight into your work. I've literally, like, been hanging out with police chiefs and you in the same room at the same time.
And so I'll give you an opportunity to expand briefly on just how you describe what your work is, because I see you doing the data science thing, working in communities, trying to stop police from killing black and brown people in a very scientific way. And we're in a moment where it's like defund the police. And yet you are also working with police. So can you describe your work so that we can understand that better?
Sure. And I know that I'm skipping ahead, but there's no there's no way to prevent me from doing that. I'm genetically predisposed. OK, when we hear people talk about defunding the police, I just want to want to say I've been hearing police talking about defund the police using very different language for years. There is no police chief that works with us. That doesn't think it's a terrible idea to send law enforcement to deal with drug overdoses. Like why would a badge and a gun help with that situation?
But I mean, the long part of what it is that we do I mean, you said it basically exactly. That we work between communities and law enforcement to help on the inside of law enforcement, making them less racist and less deadly and then on the outside so that communities are empowered to make decisions about where they want law enforcement to go. And just as importantly, especially in this moment where they don't want law enforcement to go, the sort of key value add the thing that we do that other people hadn't been doing.
We don't just calculate disparities. Right. So let's say black people are four times more likely to get beat up by the cops than white people, which is roughly right nationally. Right. If we imagine there's racism in policing, why on earth would we not imagine that there's racism in housing and education and in employment and in health care, all of which happens before any contact with police, that four to one number that some police, if some poverty, it's some other forms of racism.
And I want to hold police accountable for the things that they do. I don't want to make them accountable for all the things they don't do like we do for everything else. We make them accountable for all public health, for all education. So we we use science to give them back a measure of justice, not just a measure of crime, and that allows communities to hold them accountable. And in doing that, we've also essentially created the algorithm that says and here is where we no longer need them.
So in this moment when people are talking about defunding, my hope is we're going to end up talking a lot more about investing, funding, blackness. Right. But if we need a roadmap for how to do this and not have to worry so much, the violence is just going to become the second pandemic in this phase. There are ways to measure that, too, because there's a lot of policing that has nothing to do with violence, has nothing really to do with the fastest route to public safety.
And to the degree that there's good news in the middle of the space, there is no responsible police chief who won't tell you that to their face.
Zak, I want to give you a similar opportunity to break down where you fit into all this. What is the work that you're doing through Ella Baker and and particularly through Restore Oakland?
Yeah, I appreciate that. At the Ella Baker Center, we advocate for books, not bars, jobs, not jails, housing and health care, not handcuffs agenda. So we very much like alliteration and we also like funding a social safety net. We've seen too much investment and what we call a punishment dragnet and we want to actual safety net to be supported. I mean, if covid-19 shows anything, it shows that public safety actually starts with public health.
For so long, we've said, you know, public health issues need public health solutions. We never thought we would need to say that as it relates to global pandemic. Right. But leave it to this president to use a global pandemic as just another excuse to blame, shame, scapegoat, marginalized communities, people of color. And so that is that has a long history in this kind. And we have been fighting since the mid 90s when it was not popular to do criminal justice reform or anything along those lines, to really advocate for the funding of blackness, the funding of communities of color, the funding of dignity in low income communities and communities of color across the country break down what Restore Oakland is and what you've tried to design in that.
Yeah, for so long, we have been pushing for resources to be shifted away from sheriff's departments, probation departments, police departments, prisons and towards community based supports for people who are navigating issues of homelessness, drug use, mental health issues, et cetera. And we finally found some success. About five years ago, we moved Alameda County to move about 10 million dollars away from the sheriff and probation department towards basically community stuff to support people who are navigating the jail system.
Now, what we found is a lot of the same nonprofit agencies were getting the funding who were good at putting together an RFP but were not good at actually providing people with a job or doing restorative or transformative justice. They had no felt community connection. And so we're like people need visual aids. Sometimes government need visual aids.
We decided, hey, let's create Restore Oakland to actually show what we mean by community safety. It's an 18000 square foot building that houses restorative justice, one of the first dedicated spaces for restorative justice in the country. Much like you wouldn't just go to a courtroom and have a sandwich or have a beer. We think restorative justice should be held in a kind of sacrosanct manner to help hold people accountable while still holding them in community. And that is within Restore Oakland, a restaurant run by formerly incarcerated folks and others who have been locked out of opportunity and nonprofit organizations that are fighting to hold not just community members accountable, but also elected officials accountable to our vision of books, not bars and jobs, not jails.
So all of those things come together and restore Oakland. And you can imagine it almost as if it's like the first solar panel when it comes to public safety in our mind. Right. Because how would you imagine a new energy future if you hadn't seen solar panels and wind turbines and those things? And so much of our imagination has come to be dominated by shows like Law and Order and Cops. And also, you know, orange is the new black that we think of prisons as really the architecture of public safety.
And we're trying to shift that in people's mind by actually providing this visual aid. That sounds beautiful, it sounds like you built Wauconda in Oakland. We tried. I'm still trying to get a shout out from my brother, Ryan Coogler, who also went to my high school. Shout out, Ryan, if you could come to restore our credibility to appreciate it.
Well, I'm sure he's going to hear that because everybody is going to hear this podcast. Right. I want to give you an opportunity to define a term that you dropped a few times in there, which not everyone is familiar with. You said restorative justice. Yeah. What does that mean? Yeah.
So restorative justice is a process for individuals, for communities and for nations. And on the level of individuals, it's the person who's caused harm, the person who's been harmed, sitting together in a circle surrounded by the people that support them. And what happens is an accountability plan is developed so that person has to make amends for the harm that they have caused. It's amazing because it reduces recidivism rates, meaning people are much less likely to get back in trouble again.
Victims report much higher satisfaction rates because they can see the accountability they know. Here are the steps this person is taking to right this wrong. And it's amazing for democracy as well, because all those people who are in that secondary circle surrounding that person and the person who's caused harm really have to actually ask, what could I have done to prevent this and what can I do to make it right? So it's really building this kind of community accountability muscle that I think is absolutely critical in this moment because we got politicians that are running wild.
And if we don't really have this practice of, like, holding people accountable in a way that isn't, you know, just like exile or exile. Right.
Because you can't be answerable to someone if you can't actually hear them or be an interface with them.
And we've relied on a punishment system that actually short circuits accountability rather than engenders it. And that's what restorative justice is really all about.
You know, thank you for that. When I think about the way we do policing in this country, I'm reminded of my first visit to a jail in this country, which is Rikers Island in New York City. And it was just a few years ago. And it stood out to me because it is a massive complex, about ten thousand people there at the time that I visited. And I had lived in New York for a decade and had no idea it is like that Game of Thrones north of the wall area, that we are allowed to forget a part of ourselves, you know, a part of our society, our neighbors.
And these were people who hadn't even been convicted of a crime.
They were waiting for trial because they didn't have bail money or something. So thank you for breaking that down. Thank you for reminding us. I think that with the community can have a role in accountability and in achieving public safety. Paint me a picture, Phil. When we do public safety right in this country, how is it different from the way we do it now, especially given your proximity to law enforcement, your partnership with them? What does it feel like?
You talk about that like we don't do it right. And that's just not quite accurate in this country. We absolutely do it right. Just not where we're thinking about it. Because you're thinking about it like where you live in L.A. We definitely don't do it right there or where I live in New York. We don't do it. I mean, they don't do it at all in some places where exactly is right. But there is this wonderful place, not Wauconda, but it feels mythical where when somebody loses their job, they have money and they have retraining community colleges they can go to when they have a mental health crisis.
There are counselors they can talk to when there's a break up. They got counselors they can serve on. They got friends who can support that marriage when their kids acting while they have a community can call in an aunt or a grandmother who can talk to them, a neighbor who can take advantage of a trade. And when law enforcement called, it's called to deal with the most vulnerable or the most serious. And it is not too severe or too lenient because it's aligned with community values.
And you're looking at me like all confused. Wouldn't they have heard about the place you may have driven through this place? I want to I want to take my time to pronounce the word right. And these called the suburbs.
Yeah. So I know it was a long walk to get to the punch line of that joke. I feel like it was worth it.
It's also a long walk to the suburbs because it really is. Exactly public transit doesn't get there, which be by design. They didn't want the folks who lived in the inner city to get out anyway. It's kind of like caged like they meant to do it that way, both on Medda and in their schools. But this is not the point. The point is we do this right. Imagine a community of fifty people. We all know each other and there's a sheriff and the sheriff just beats the hell out of the kids for petty theft.
Well, the 50 plus won't get together. We don't get a new sheriff because that's not how you treat kids. Now, imagine the sheriff lets the kids run wild, kids burning down homes. What we don't get together is 50 people. We don't get a new sheriff because that's how we treat our homes. The problem in larger cities and in some of the rural areas and in fact, in some of those suburbs, when outsiders come in like folks and get out, is that we untether right.
The issue of severity and protection and we just campaign or we just message around protection because we refuse to see the humanity of the people who caused those harms. So in smaller communities that have resources, there's hell to pay if you were too severe on somebody shot. But in communities where the parents of the children who are most likely to cause problems don't have any power, there are no checks on the authority to administer punishment. And that's what I'm talking about when I'm talking about how we do public safety, right?
Yeah, right. There's no reason for massive military policing in suburbs where they have control over their law enforcement. They wouldn't stand for it. But in systems where power is concentrated among elites and where those who are most vulnerable to underground economies and to the violence of poverty instead of in addition to the violence of street crime in those kinds of places, policing is not just to keep everybody safe, is protect one group of citizens against another. And when you set up policing like that, we have accountability.
Police, we get punished every time that the people who have power are upset with what they do. Right. But that's a different kind of accountability than democratic accountability. And so I want us to be specific. Let's not act like we don't know how to do public safety right. In America. And it's just it's this unfathomable thing. We do it all the time. We drive through it on the way to the place where we want to get stuff fixed.
So it's not mythical. It's practical. We can hold it. The difficulty is both remembering that these are part of the same country hard if you travel back and forth and then the price of the ticket from where we are to where we're going, because that change is real and painful. And there is a place where people are reasonably concerned about violence. And that's part of the conversation we absolutely have to have right now.
I mean, I remember reading this book about the opioid crisis and reading, I think it was about Burlington, Vermont, and the police chief there was coordinating with the hospitals, encouraging them to use methadone or whatever it is to step folks down from the addiction. He was saying, no, don't do this in a law enforcement thing. Here's the public health thing, as I understand it. And I was like my mind was blown. I was like, what in the.
How is the police chief like, you know, coordinating with hospital systems in a way that actually promotes a public health response. But to Phil's point, I mean, it's real. That being said, like we live in a country that is profoundly racist. Right. And so when what I often say is like, how could we think of taking care of public safety if we haven't taken care of the public and we are coming to be a majority people of color nation and we are not taking care of that majority of people.
And I just feel like we have to call the question of the larger system as a whole and understand that police chiefs have some say so. But also there is this huge problem. And to Phil's point, like let's not make it all the police problem, but let's still address the larger problem. We went from a country that said, you know what, the only good Indian is a dead Indian, as during our westward expansion to neoliberal governance over the past 40, 50 years that have said the only good government is death government.
And I know that sounds harsh, but I honestly believe that if recession after recession, you only fund policing in prisons, the very thing that if recession after recession, we've seen 23 new prisons in California built just one new university, 53 cents of every federal dollar goes to military. As you said, Baratunde, the lion's share of resources on the city level goes to police departments, sheriffs. You talked about sheriffs. The sheriffs are the most powerful political entities in many municipalities.
And so the very things that accelerate the morbidity of black and brown people are the things that have been recession proof over the past 40, 50 years. And that's not including what, you know, Reverend Barber calls the death measures on the DL. So every half million people who don't have health insurance, 800 people will die, 700 people are dying a day from malnutrition and poverty. Right. And so we have funded governance that is allowing and covid-19.
These are all pretty covid numbers. covid-19 is exposing this in a different way. And I think that there's a reckoning with governance that isn't actually supporting and sustaining life, that is about policing, but it's also much larger than it.
Can I just add back on to my friend del Pozo, who's the the former chief ambulance. And that is not just the outlier. That is what he wins awards from other chiefs. Right. In the same way that Scott Thompson, who led the transition of Camden's dissolution and then rebuilding a police department. Not that that's a model, not that that's remotely close to perfect. But Scott talks about all the time. I'd rather have a Boys and Girls Club than 10 officers.
This is now mainstream within law enforcement and was 10 years ago. They were saying, like, you guys want us to do everything. We can't do everything right. You can't be like a stop street crime. And I do hair like that's not a thing that law enforcement can do. And what that means is either you reckon with the violence of poverty being something that cannot be handled with a badge and a gun, or you have decided that all you want to fund is punishment.
And law enforcement gets that on some really deep level at the top, not all the rank and file, not all the sheriffs on all the rural folks.
So it's not the full profession by any means and not a union heads and not the union heads who are often not representative of the rank and file that they're supposed to represent. But there is a class of law enforcer who's been saying now for decades, get us out of the places where you could possibly train us to be shrink the size of what you're investing here and give it someplace else. They don't like the idea of their budgets really shrinking because they already feel too stretched.
They will get OK with it when they no longer get asked to be responsive to all of these other companies. And if they don't get OK with it, that's OK. I'm Holly Frying, and I'm Maria FreeMarkets, and together we're exploring the margins of history and specifically at the intersection of history and true crime.
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I'm looking for examples. Can you share something about what people have been able to accomplish in this arena that could give people like me and anyone who's listening a bit more faith in ourselves to change the direction of all this?
Yeah, I mean, the first thing I'll say is like, the sky will not fall. We can actually close prisons and increase public safety. And I have an example to prove it. When I first came out of law school, I worked as an organizer with the Ella Baker Center, talking with families of incarcerated youth and young people who were being isolated 23 hours a day for weeks and months on end, families driving 250 miles just to see their kids, only to be told they couldn't visit because they had on the wrong color pair of pants or because their kid was on lockdown.
Unsurprisingly, giving these conditions, three out of four young people were being rearrested within like a year and the state was spending over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars per year per young person on that system.
And so parents and grandparents and others said we need to close these youth prisons down. And this is not you know, five years ago, this was turn of the century youth super predator time period. I personally was like, I don't know if we can do that, but I had the good sense to listen to my elders.
We organize. We got what started as a dozen families became over a thousand families. We went to the Capitol in Sacramento. We were persistent and insistent. We brought those statistics to them and the recession helped also. And over a 10 year period, we close five of eight youth prisons. And guess what? Youth crime continue to decline during that same period as we were closing down youth prisons. Now, the governor of California wants to close the remaining three youth prisons, and we want to ensure that that is done right.
But it shows that we can actually do something different. We can do something different not only when it comes to nonviolent offenses, but also, quite frankly, when it comes to violence as well. I'll stop there. But I want to speak more about kind of violence and the possibility of taking a public health approach as it relates to that as well. I will just say, like, never doubt that a small group of people, as Margaret Mead or somebody said, can't make a huge difference.
Right. Because like nobody believed that this group of moms and grandmothers who were derided as the welfare queens who were believed to be the problem could have made this change. And in coordination with the Youth Justice Coalition and amazing organizations, we were able to shut these prisons down and increase public safety through that process.
I really appreciate you sharing that story and reminding us, you know, I think there's a model of change that a lot of us digest which says, well, we've got to get a billionaire to. We did our own, like, mechwarrior, you know, to come in and fight on our behalf in this battle.
And you're like, these are moms and grandmothers, I'm sure a lot of Latin necks and black moms and grandmothers who people in the state house in Sacramento are used to regularly not having to pay attention to because they don't pay a lot of property taxes. They don't necessarily vote regularly because they don't give to campaigns, because they can afford to show up.
And to be clear, that was part of the strategy, because just by going to the Capitol and showing up and saying we are desperately trying to support our children and grandchildren, we were pushing back on decades and centuries of misinformation and structural racism and just racism, as Ibram Kennedy reminds us, to just just call it racism.
And so, you know, so much of the dehumanization comes from separating families. And we were pushing back against that very intentionally.
Bill, do you have a story of the power of people in some of these communities you're working with potentially to actually achieve a different outcome, a better outcome for more?
Yeah, I think that I mean, when we work in communities, that's all that we accumulate is we accumulate stories of people being more powerful than the systems that the rest of the world feels like to find them. I think that there's a really popular one that everyone has access to. But I think it's easy to forget in this moment, which is at the height of the stop subquestion regime in NYPD, for every one hundred thousand black males between the age of 16 and thirty five, they were stopping one hundred and eighty nine thousand a year.
That's OK. So mathematically they were stopped and brothers twice or five times, right?
Yeah. So. You would get stopped multiple times per year if you were in that age and race demographic, that's I'm not a mathematician, but I am a mathematician. So that's too many. If the definition of that is just too damn many times and the explanation was, well, this is what we have to do because crime is so out of control in those neighborhoods. So then they stopped because the court said stop. And crime continued to go down.
Violence continued to go down. And they said, well, you wait for it, you make us keep doing this and it's going to go back up again. So now what we see is as murders go up across the country, everybody said, well, see, we told you so. Come on, man, you don't get an eight year window to decide that eventually sums it up. And that's that's sort of the moment that we're in. The thing I actually want to point to, though, because that's the example of, look, we don't have to be doing policing this way as an easy example of that.
There are two things I want to point to that give me hope right now. One is the Community Navigators program actually in Minneapolis, and here's what gives me hope so that you and I, we talk about this, but it's usually not for camera. But one of the things that I'm most passionate about in my job is dealing with the survivors of sexual assault, the survivors of the most intimate forms of violence. And the second worst thing, and for some of them, even the worst thing that happens to folks who are survivors.
Is they have to explain to somebody. No, I didn't want it. Yeah, we had had a relationship, but this time I was clear. I think I was clear. Why does it matter what I'm wearing? It doesn't matter how much I was drinking. Those are the questions of the person who's supposed to protect you, who's taking your report so that the state can advocate on your behalf. It is a violence, the things we put people through.
So why do it? Yeah, you can send social workers whose job it is to connect people to the services. They're going to make them whole as people first and say when you're ready. And that might not be today. I can take a report that will be the legal report. But before we have to do any of that, how are you doing? What do you need? Are you talking to somebody about it? How's your support? So the response to crime, the response to violence doesn't need someone armed for violence.
And that basic recognition that policing doesn't have to show up whenever there's the trace of violence, especially if violence has already left the scene, that allows us to imagine a more humane response to the people who are experiencing violence or survivors of it. So that's the first thing that makes me hopeful and that inspires me because that's people saying people should be responsive to this. The second thing is so the Monday after of Minneapolis City Council said, all right, we're disbanding the police department.
The city council comes out and says, hey, would you mind if we tap you all to be one of the people who helps do this? And was five minutes before Rachel Maddow and she was going to go on right before me. And I was like, I guess, OK, bye. And then she went on to say that, by the way, we're going to do this. Rachel Maddow asked me.
I was like, yeah, I guess we don't do that thing. They said, that's how it's a great negotiating tactic here.
And now you have to be chair of the council. So that week we got nine hundred and fifty calls from different cities and there was chiefs and community members and mayors and city councils all saying, we want to be responsive to this moment because we get we've been doing public safety wrong. But how. Yeah, so we started putting together a road map and the road map is not this is what to do. The road map is do this and then you'll be better positioned to make an informed decision.
It's literally who's calling for police? What services are people calling for? Where are they going when they're on their own? What neighborhoods are blighted by crime and which ones are blighted by police surveillance but not crime? Those are the places where you should be investing resources and you do those four steps and all of a sudden you have a map of, OK, this is what they do and where they go. Do we want them to do that, considering that in some of these communities, it's less than 10 percent of the time that they're spent is on violence at all.
That allows for some reasonable response. And the thing that makes me excited, we unveil this with the Obama Foundation a couple of weeks ago. I did it live last week on the TV. And we've had dozens of cities and we're not waiting for you all to come in. These things like things we can do, we're doing them. And they're like, oh, now that I see the numbers, we have things to do. Yeah. So that instead of waiting around, there's a roadmap to go because it's course it's going to take time, but everybody should also be reasonably expected to be tired of waiting four hundred plus years for this.
Right. So the people to pick it up but they're taking it and running it. That's exciting to me. What's a weigh in that you've seen work, that someone who's not a full time activist or full time in this work can do to be a part of this, to help make public safety more public and more on the safety?
Yeah, the first thing I would say is I want to lift up that we can actually respond to violence in a public health way. Also, I want to lift up the work of DeVone Boggan in Richmond. Richmond had one of the highest per capita murder rates around 2005. He came in, developed a mentorship program and supported these 30 young men who the police believed were responsible for some 70 percent of the crime. And over, I think an eight year period helped reduce homicides by some 70 percent.
And it was profoundly simple in the sense that he was like, what do my children need? What do my adolescent children need? And basically designed a fellowship program around that to provide them with monthly stipend, positive mentorship and travel opportunities. And as these young men were invested in as they saw themselves as part of the solution, rather than being derided as part of the problem, they really helped usher in a wave of peace in the city of Richmond.
The work he does is now called advanced peace. And that wasn't just instrumental for them. That was instrumental for moms and grandmothers who was trying to go to the park down the street for shopkeepers who wanted to keep their businesses open. And this didn't come through primarily a law enforcement response, but really just asking people who were believed to be responsible for the violence in a city what needs to be done. Who do you have beef with? How do we resolve those issues?
And it had a tremendous impact and effect. And so some of what we're saying that people can be doing in this moment is just be good neighbors. Understand that when someone comes through your community who maybe you don't recognize, maybe the first thing, if there are darker skin color, then you don't call the police.
Don't do that. Don't be that neighbor. And one of the ways in which we're promoting this kind of different ethos around community safety is through an event we call a night out for safety and liberation. Every year since the 80s, police have done this event called National Night Out, which I think has the right spirit behind it. I'm going to be real. It has the right spirit, which is, you know, community members reclaiming safety. But I think too often police bring a very narrow definition of what community members should do to promote safety.
They say you're the eyes and ears of the police. And if you see something, say something which results in George Zimmerman murdering Trayvon Martin. It results in the kinds of calls that, you know, this woman did to call the police on this birdwatcher. It is that kind of culture of suspicion that I think we need to move away from. And so night out for safety and liberation is an opportunity for people to reclaim community safety in a more holistic way, to recognize that we have hearts, we have hands, we have minds.
We have a lot of things that we can do to contribute to community safety. And this year it'll be on October six. There's some 30 cities participated last year and it's growing every year. So we're really encouraging folks, especially especially in this year when the two visions of safety are on such full display that he keeps us safe. Lie of Donald Trump, which is, quite frankly, an abusive lie. It's the lie that says only trust me, even while you're doing the dirt and causing the harm, scapegoats entire communities and individuals.
We reject that lie. We believe that we keep us safe, that all of us contribute to community safety. And that's the vision we're bringing with night out for safety and liberation. So one of the things that people can do is just contribute and and get involved in that event. Over the years, host Erin Manque and the team behind law, unobscured and cabinet of curiosities have scoured the globe to bring you tales from the past with a hint of darkness, from superstitions and folklore to the curious and the bizarre.
But now it's time to bring that journey home, because while America's history books are filled with people, places and events that sit on lofty pedestals, there's a whole other world of American history that waits for us in the shadows tales of unlikely heroes, world changing tragedies and legends that are unique to the American spirit stories that we call American shadows. Each episode is handcrafted by the Greyman mild team and narrated by me, Lauren Vogul bomb and while we might be traveling some dark and lonely roads, you're also bound to learn a thing or two along the way.
Get ready for a tour of American history, unlike any other. Get ready for American Shadows. Catch new episodes of American Shadows every other Thursday, listen on Apple podcasts, diet radio app, or wherever you get your podcasts. My name is Langston Kerman, and I love black people. I love them short, I love them tall. I love them thick. I forgive them when their booties are small. The only thing I love more than black people are the conspiracy theories that black people come up with.
So I, along with the beautiful oppressors that I heart, radio and big money players have a brand new podcast called My Mama Told Me where each week me and a special guests will explore all of the deep and twisted conspiracies that the white man doesn't want us to know about. We'll talk silly conspiracies. We'll talk crazy conspiracies. We'll talk those conspiracies. You learn from your uncle who used to wear jean shorts when he went swimming at the public pool.
Anything from baby urine as an acne treatment to lotion being a tool for government mind control and sterilization. Ladies and gentlemen, I don't want to be your president, but if you want to hear where the president is hiding that AIDS vaccine, then listen to my mama told me available on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or anywhere else that pods are cast. We are going to go to questions, first up, we have Sarah Hughes, where are you and what's your question?
I'm in Rochester, New York, and I wanted to ask a question about the basic design structures within our society being fundamentally hierarchical and if that is something that you think may have contributed to power imbalances because it's designed in a way that aggregates power at the top. I'm curious to know to what extent you think that is a factor and also in what ways this conversation might be informed by reimagining the models. So I'll go ahead and hit that one first. Yes, also, yes.
I don't know if that's enough specificity for you, so I'll explain just a little bit. It just it wouldn't make sense for law enforcement to continue to engage in these behaviors if there weren't people who said, yeah, that's about right. Right. And let's keep in mind that in many communities, nine one one is the larger driver of contact between law enforcement and communities that are officer initiated, which means that law enforcement ends up serving as the personal racism concierge for Karens all over the world.
If it weren't OK, it wouldn't be that way. So the question is, how many people are OK with it? What levers of power to the folks who aren't OK with it have to pull? Because clearly there are communities that say that we've had enough. I think pretty much everybody who's in the audience here has said we've had enough, but we're not enough to get that done. At least we have it. So that means we change tactics, change strategies.
We have a different approach to how to leverage our power, which is why we see folks out in the streets. Sixty nine, 70 days in a row, unprecedented in US history. That's a way of engaging in democracy. And we put pressure on the people who do feel that discomfort only when we put pressure there. But remember that the Dick Wolf show is not law, it's law and order. And the order part is the problem, because if I am empowered to keep order and my idea of order is the social hierarchy as it stands, I'm allowed to use force when you step out of line.
And that's the that's the gospel truth for law enforcement. Right. Is that they're also order enforcement. So, again, yes, real quick, because it's racism, but it's also patriarchy.
We live in a society that undervalues taking care of people and all of the caring profession, from teaching to health care to so many other things that actually are about safety, are underfunded and under-resourced, and that is as a result of that form of human hierarchy. Thank you, Zach, that's a great addition and creating more of a culture of care is something that we should do so. Thank you, sir. Thank you, Phil.. Thank you, Zach.
Next up, Jesse Faber.
Let us know where you are and then what's your question? Your topic.
I'm in Minneapolis. So it's been a whirlwind, but been engaged, been excited. And there's a lot of work from organizations like Reclaim the Block about changing the city charter, taking the police off, putting community safety and violence prevention in. And I'm wondering what all of you think is is the appropriate first step. Is this necessary for change to even happen or is it premature?
So as a scientist, as one of the nation's leading experts on these issues, these really important for me to say clearly, I have no idea. I don't know what the right next steps are because I have a sense of what the goal is. Everybody wants to live in a community where no one has to call the police. Police want to live in that community. They understand that that's their job to like put themselves out of business and certain kind of way.
So that's not how they're run. They understand concepts. That's their job. And everybody understands that we should have more options when we're in crisis than just imagine a gun or a badge, the gun, an ambulance or a fire truck. Like we understand that. But how do we get there? Don't know. What I will say is it's both incumbent upon us to move quickly and not to rush 400 hundred plus years worth of repression deserves a plan like you should put a plan in place and it should be one that's based both in something you can communicate clearly and clearly with the community and that's got some kind of evidence nearby.
But it won't be evidence on what's worked because we've not done this before. We've not managed the change across. What I would encourage folks to do in terms of as we move through these processes, it's OK to demand. So how are you going to deal with violence? How are you going to deal with the current staffing issues that you've got? And how are you going to know that on the other side of this, you have given to the vulnerable communities a definition of public safety that they agree with?
Because if they don't feel safe, guess who's not calling the cops and a neighborhood where no one wants to call the cops? That is a great place to crime, right? If I wanted to crime, I would crime in places where no one wanted to report crime. And that means everybody's less safe in the same way that you have these small communities that can't social distance. And now everybody's sick. Right. The social networks that spread violence are literally the exact same.
Have these small communities where they can't get out of the crimes trap and the violence trap and it spreads. Suicide spreads that way. Gun violence spreads that way. Virus spreads that way. We could be using these same systems to trace back the virus, to identify the folks most at risk for other kinds of violence. We don't you can demand that. And that's the best we're going to do, make sure that they're tracking it enough so that they can say we did this and we messed up because otherwise they're going to claim that they won.
The other side's going to claim they lost either way.
And I would just say don't keep doing the same allocation or misallocation of resources, especially in the context of a coming depression. Due to covid, we see municipalities still giving the lion's share of their resources to sheriff's department rather than understanding we're going to have a ton of homeless people. We're going to have people who are hungry. And we need to actually this is the rainy day. We need to fund people's survival. The other thing I'd add is like Crisis Act in California is an act to create sort of a pilot program for a different form of response to emergencies that people would be able to call upon.
And in those communities where people don't feel safe, calling the police would have a different access and resource that has to be funded and scaled and publicized so people know about it. Rabbi Gennie, coming up next, I think is the first time I've ever had a rabbi call into the show, I feel so special.
Rabbi Jeremy, let us know where you are and what's your question?
I'm calling in from Santa Fe, New Mexico. And my question is for community leaders like myself, what do we do in situations where we need support in terms of security? Because the Jewish community I know the Muslim community and I'm sure there are other communities. We're constantly under various kinds of threats and we need help to protect ourselves, but at the same time don't want to be complicit with the police structure. Also, we don't want to put our members of color under any kind of threat to either themselves, physically or emotionally when they come into the communities and if they see police officers, whether they're in uniform or not.
So my question is, how can we provide adequate security for our members without getting into this complicit relationship? It's a fantastic question. And the model that I might turn to is the way that schools have started to remove law enforcement because they're also concerned they got outsiders. Folks were not in the school, particularly concerns about gang affiliation. So what do you do? Well, they some have hired private security. And it turns out that does a lot of the same things that law enforcement does.
Right. Someone said, well, we'll keep the law enforcement, we'll push them further out. That means that they're further away from the violence when it happens. But there are models in Phoenix and in Detroit and in Houston where what they do is they make outreach to the very folks they're concerned about committing acts of violence. And they say, what is it that we need to do to make sure that you are safe as you approach our community and they talk to the folks who were the targets and say, who are you afraid of?
And they build a bridge where the folks who are most aligned with that violence, folks were most concerned about having violence done there, especially community interrupters of that violence. And so it's a kind of radical love where you're doing outreach to groups where you've got concerned that violence is happening. You set folks up as protection, but from community. Now, that can happen in places where the violence is. Fists and clubs and knives is much harder when you have organizations that are dedicated to the extermination of the group of people inside the building.
There are not radical anti high schoolers in the way that there are radical antisemite. Right. So that model doesn't work everywhere. But knowing your enemy, as so many people who are survivors of violence already do, is often the right model in the context of anti Semitism or anti blackness for churches that are concerned about that. I don't know that there's a model that I love that solves it, in part because we have just so many guns and it's so very difficult to protect against guns without armor and guns of your own.
And this is a place where many people do end up going back to a form of law enforcement, which is off duty. They're working at the behest of the folks local. But there's not a perfect solve, which is part of the work that frankly has been doing so well for so long, is building these bridges between these areas. What we don't solve mass incarceration without talking about violence. We don't solve the problems of violence without talking about access to guns.
These are the same issue. So for you, I would say, again, in my most full throated from my chest voice, I don't know. But there are models of community violence interruption that depending on where the threats are coming from, you might want to investigate. I'm happy to talk to you offline on that.
I want to acknowledge and appreciate you naming the gun issue for the United States is a nation of guns populated with a few people as well. And I think there is a lurking. Truth around this whole conversation of public safety and policing, that guns are a major player in the fear that is often cited not unreasonably by law enforcement officers, I fear for my life. I you know, you look at the distribution of calls for police and maybe four or five percent are explicitly violence in the headline that it's like traffic stop is domestic dispute, but a gun could be anywhere, you know?
So it's like, well, if any interaction is potentially a violent interaction, then I guess I understand why you need a grenade. Maybe not a grenade launched feel a little while, but like a shield. And so I don't have an answer either. But I do think they're intertwined. As you said, they're connected. And to create the public safety we want, we're going to also have to contend with our long term addiction and obsession with this wild, easy access to firearms, which has made us all less safe and a culture of violence if we're being real.
You know, I think we exist in a country that has glorified violence in different ways. And it's about shifting that culture in addition to shifting the actual availability of guns. You know, and I'm looking at the time.
I know Bratton is going to have the last word, but I'm a go ahead and take this little handoff here, because I think this is one of the central issues moving forward I talked about before. You can't solve massive frustration without dealing with violence because most folks who are in prisons and jails are not LOW-LEVEL nonviolent drug arrests. Like that's just not the reality of who's to be put into cages. If we don't deal with how we think about violence, then all we're going to have we have a bunch of platitudes, a bunch of incremental elements on an entire penal system.
But anybody does something that gets categorized as violent, by the way, breaking into a home where there isn't anybody that gets categorized as violent. Right. That's going to be how we get caught up and how we fail to meet this moment. So, like, if I'm thinking about what I want, everybody who's listening and watching and and here with us in real time or later to be doing, I think the most important thing is don't look away.
We have just begun to scratch the surface. And the only way to the light through one of these moments is to a pile of bodies that will be another and another and another. And if we get discouraged or dispirited in this moment with just this, that we weren't worthy of the journey and we're trying to make a more perfect union. If this is a national or even if this is a spiritual journey for individuals, we can't look away. I remember very clearly Alton Sterling killed Baton Rouge, groups of people who loved him, who cared for him.
I still get text messages every two to three weeks from folks. That's twenty sixteen, four years later, talking about the cameras went away. But I'm not done. When Gwen Car and Sabrina Fulton talk about their loved ones, they lost to police violence, the second most painful moment after hearing that news was when the cameras turned away and we didn't sustain the efforts to get ourselves educated and to be ready for the next one. So we're showing up like we're brand new to this one as a nation.
We're not brand new to this. This is every couple of days. It's just every 30 or so years we decide to care and decide to say that this is going to be the time. We've now heard that every single time. And I want to remind us in 90 to immediately after what happened in the uprising in L.A., we got the 94 crime bill in twenty fourteen. Two years later, we got drunk right in the late 60s when the police reform was a thing, as was prison or jail reform.
We don't teach that when we talk about civil rights. But it was a major thing. You know, we got mixed in. These moments are immediately followed by regressions of great moral vulgarity in this nation's history. And if we look away now, if we don't get ourselves emotionally prepared for what's next, I am very concerned that we will see the same thing a mere six years after Ferguson.
Thank you for that film. Zack, is there anything you want to offer up for people to do to be constructive, to be committed on this moral journey?
I appreciate the question. Cornel West said that, you know, justice is what love looks like in public. And Stevie Wonder said love is in need of love today and saying it so beautifully. And I just know that the hearts of the folks on this call who have called and want to see a nation that is just and that is beautiful and that is loving. And part of that, I think, is resetting our priorities.
And I know that money doesn't move everything, but we do need a reset of our values through our budgets and to actually fund the things that keep us safe food, clothes, shelter, et cetera.
So much of the violence often stems from people not having enough. And that's not all forms of violence. But that is a critical aspect of it. And I think we can do better to take care of the public and therefore to take care of public safety. I've been dreaming of this conversation for a while, and I want to thank Zach Noris, Dr. Phil Goff, I appreciate you as a friend, as a citizen, as a brother. Thank you for what you both have been doing.
And thanks for giving so generously of your perspective in your time. Just now, I feel charged. I think I feel motivated and a little emotional at the same time, the way Phil talked about this pattern and his ask of us to don't look away, the idea that he's still in communication with previous involuntary martyrs or the families thereof is a very humbling and a very emotional and very real thing. Zach said public safety starts with public health and nowhere could that.
And should that be more clear than in the middle of a pandemic? Our moral values, our budget documents as revealing of our morality is made clear. We have prioritized certain choices over others. We have prioritized riot shields of a face shields and gas masks. Over in ninety five, we have prioritized arrests over stopping the spread and arresting the course of a virus. We have prioritized punishment and that form of pain over healing and true accountability. And we've often done it in the name of victims who are nowhere present in the form of justice that we have practiced most of the time.
There are hints, Phil reminded us, that the suburbs show us the little window, a little more white Wauconda, a glimpse of what is possible.
But even there, there is unrest in the spirit and is not entirely the vision that we want. And Zak reminded us that the most dismissed can often be at the center of change. The mothers and the grandmothers who are so easily overlooked might have more power when they show up. Maybe they even doubted their power in the moment. But now we have evidence to show the closure of youth detention centers and prisons in the state of California as crime continued to fall.
And I am deeply humbled by the acknowledgement and the role of guns in all of this. I don't pretend that this is easy, that you just flip a switch, you take the money from the cops and you put it into the counselors and shazam, new great society, instant society. No, no, no, no, no. It's taken a long time to create this perverse structure that we're living in calling public safety is going to take a while to unravel it.
And guns will need to be a part of that unraveling. And so I ask that we contend with that, that we do not look away from that either. And then we not look away from each other. There is there is great promise in this moment, there's great work ahead, there's more tears that are going to come. And the good news is there's more of us. That have yet to really step into the ring and so I am heartened by the idea that if more of us did that, we get more done.
Hey, you, it's me again, it's just us. And I want to say we are living in a dark time in so many ways, especially in the area of policing, punishment and public safety. Yet there is good news. Closed youth prisons in California, reallocation of resources for sexual assault survivors in Minneapolis, the end of stop and frisk techniques in New York City, and the creation of restorative justice models. We want to fund not just bad policing models we want to defund.
If you have examples of positive, non-punitive public safety in your community, send them to us at comments at how to citizen dotcom. On a personal note, I am so happy to have had that conversation with Zach and Phil at the same time, I have known them both since we were college freshmen in nineteen ninety five. And I'm amazed at what they've helped create in the world. I consider them both to be model citizens. Now it's your turn.
In each episode we share things you can do internally and externally to strengthen your status in practice. Don't worry about remembering all the details. We post them on how to cities dotcom for this episode, keeping us safe beyond policing. Here's what you can do. For internal actions, these are things that help you become more aware, more empathetic, more knowledgeable and are a key step in how to citizen before you go traipsing off into the world, telling other folks what to do.
Here are some options for internal actions. It starts with you. So we want you to explore your own relationship to feeling safe and living among your neighbors. Here are set of questions you can answer. What do you need to feel safe in your community? What makes you feel unsafe in your community? How do you get to know your neighbors? When was the last time you even made eye contact with a neighbor? Has a neighbor ever made you feel unsafe?
What happened and what would have made it better? Another option for internal actions, and we're channeling Dr. Phil Goff here. Don't look away. Get educated on how policing works where you live. Here's a set of things you should find out. How much of your city and county budget go to the police, what percentage of this would rank is this for all the spending? Who actually runs law enforcement in your area? Is it a commissioner or a chief, a sheriff who pays their bills?
What's your most local access to law enforcement? Do you even know where the closest precinct is and who's already working on addressing the challenges in this area where you live?
Identify who's responsible for and make public safety decisions where you live and find out which positions get voted on. Lastly, in this area, when is the next election for these positions in your community? Who's running? Who aligns with your values? And the final option on internal actions. This comes from Zach inspired by Zach. Good neighbors don't just call the cops, know who you can call instead of the police, create a resource, a list of numbers you can keep on hand or enter into your phone.
We have a great example in the show. Notes of this for non police resources to intervene in certain public safety challenges. As a bonus, you could create these alternative guides physically and digitally and share them with your neighbors, local businesses and even beyond. Now, for some external actions, we've got three groups that you can work with, take their lead and lend your assistance to their efforts to keep us safer. Dr. Phil Goff's Center for Policing Equity has published a roadmap for exploring new models of funding public safety.
It's been requested by over nine hundred fifty cities across the country. It's a great starting point. And his organization has high credibility with law enforcement and with community activists. So check that out and find out if your community is signed up. Lend your voice to Campaign zero, another effort to fix what's broken in policing in our country, support its nationwide campaign to end police violence. They have a tool right on their website where you can track legislation and see where your state sits in that progress bar.
In the last external group. Is what Zach mentioned, you can join or create an event as part of the night out for safety and liberation, that date is October 6th this year. And if you don't feel comfortable going out physically, there are online ways to also support this effort. There's even a discussion guide that you can run with your family, your community, your company about what safety means for your community. Lastly, there is an app and a tool built by the American Civil Liberties Union that encourages us to be supportive bystanders and report on police interactions.
The ACLU has made this easy with their mobile justice app. Justice seems to depend more and more on bystanders recording interactions. It's how we know so much of what is wrong. Again, check the show notes for all these details or you can scroll back and play this again. If you'd rather have me say it out loud to you, I could understand that. We are so grateful to Zach Norris and Dr. Phil Goff for helping us expand our definition of public safety, visit policing equity dot org to explore Phil's organization or at policing equity on social media.
And you can find him on Twitter at Dr. Phil Goff. That's to AIFS. For Zack's work, visit Ella Baker Center dot org or Ella Baker Center on social media. He's Zach Knauss, that's Zach GHW and is on Twitter and is at Zach Noris Dotcom. I also encourage you to read his book, We Keep US Safe and we even have an online bookshop where you can buy it and books by all of our guests. So again, check the show notes or our website at How to Citizen Dotcom, where we post the episodes, we post a transcript and all of these resources and more.
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Blood on the Tracks is a new podcast about legendary music producer Phil Spector in the murder of Lana Clarkson. This podcast is hosted by me, Jake Brenin, creator and host of the award winning music and true crime podcast Disgrace. Season one features 10 episodes told from the perspective of those who knew Phil Spector best, his so-called friends, just like Phil Spector. This podcast sounds like nothing you've heard before. Blood on the Tracks contains adult content and explicit language.
Listen to Blood on the Tracks and the I Heart Radio Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. If you crack open an American history book, it's sure to be filled with founding fathers, bloody wars and the inventions that brought this country to the industrial age. But there's a whole other world that waits for us in the shadows, tales of unlikely heroes, world changing tragedies and legends that are unique to this country's spirit. So join me, Lauren Belgacom, for a tour of American history, unlike any other through a new podcast from My Heart Radio and Aaron Monkies, grim and mild, get ready for American Shadows.
Listen to American Shadows on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.