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STATE OF THE UNION
Interview With Birmingham Mayor William Bell; Interview With Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen; Interview With Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Aired 9-10:00p ET
Aired May 3, 2015 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: The riots and a week of rage in Baltimore replaced today with calls for a day of prayer and peace. This is STATE OF THE UNION.
I'm Michael Smerconish live in Baltimore, where, this morning, the street corners are mostly quiet. That's different than what we saw yesterday in this city and across the nation, when thousands from coast to coast rallied in solidarity with Freddie Gray.
Joining me from Philadelphia, a city that saw some of the largest protests this past week, Mayor Michael Nutter, and from Birmingham, Alabama, Mayor William Bell. He's also the president of the African- American Mayors Association. And here with me in Baltimore, Democratic Congressman from Maryland and candidate for the United States Senate Chris Van Hollen.
Mayor Nutter, let me begin with you.
MICHAEL NUTTER (D), MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA: Sure.
SMERCONISH: I know that you just hosted 13 mayors in the city of Philadelphia. It occurs to me that the problems you all face are so complex, the question I want to ask, can government at any level reverse the trends that we're here to discuss? And, if the answer is yes, why hasn't that happened?
NUTTER: Well, Chris -- I am sorry -- that's the congressman.
My -- the short answer is yes, but it requires governments at all levels working together in concert, local, state and federal. Government can do a lot of things, partnered with people, and certainly our philanthropic and corporate communities. And that's part of what we were discussing -- Mayor Bell was there as well -- with our Cities United convening, the second of its kind.
We had not only the governments, mayors, city council members and representatives from 40 other cities, but we also had our philanthropic community and corporate partners there as well. So, local government certainly can't do it by itself. We can do a lot of things.
But what we are really talking about is long-term employment or underemployment, especially in communities of color, and especially African-American young men and boys. What we are talking about is lack of educational attainment, and really people having a sense of hope and a vision for the future.
And so what we are really seeing is folks in many instances saying, I am not seeing the kind of change that I want. I don't see the governments working in partnership and cooperation with each other, and, how do I make progress myself?
The issues of unemployment, especially in communities of color, the summer is coming, summer jobs are critically important, but year- round employment as well, investments in work force training and development programs, these are the issues that we really have to come to grips with, as well as the levels of crime and violence in many communities...
SMERCONISH: Mayor Bell -- Mayor Bell...
NUTTER: So, this is very, very complicated, but it requires all of us to work together.
SMERCONISH: Mayor Bell, so much of the conversation I have heard here in Baltimore the last couple of days -- in fact, the very speeches that were offered here yesterday in this public square in front of City Hall pertained to race.
And yet, unlike Ferguson, Missouri, this is a community that is governed by African-Americans. Indeed, three of the six police officers who were arrested and have been charged are black, which tells me it's about far more than race. Do you think that too much of the conversation has been racially focused?
WILLIAM BELL, MAYOR OF BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: Well, to a certain extent, it has been.
But what you have to understand, this is not an African-American problem, this is not a Baltimore problem; this is an American problem. And what we have got to do is come together at all levels of government to restore the social safety net that ensures that everybody will get a decent education. Once you get that education, you would have an opportunity to get a decent job, to build your neighborhoods and strengthen your communities.
That safety net is not there. And it's up to all of us at all different levels. We have had the last six or seven years of stagnation coming from the federal government. And at the local government level, we have had to come together and cobble ways to use the resources to strengthen our communities and neighborhoods.
So it's not just an African-American problem. It's an American problem. And we have all got to work to find those solutions and implement them.
SMERCONISH: Are the problems, Congressman, that we are here to discuss government-created? Is that why we are talking about government solutions?
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: I think there are a whole constellation of problems here, but there are some systematic underlying problems that should be addressed by government, both at the local level, the state level and the federal level.
Just last week, for example, we had a big debate in the Congress over a budget that came to the floor. And that budget, frankly, will make poverty worse in places like Baltimore. We have put together alternatives that would improve the situations for family in -- families in Baltimore and elsewhere, and we have not been able to move that agenda forward.
So, yes, it's time for people to come together. We need civic organizations. We need the private sector. Yes, we need government as well. And the debate that is going on right now in Washington, while it's often abstract in terms of numbers and documents, the real- world impact it can have will make a difference in people's lives.
And that's why, for example, the child tax credit, that helps millions of Americans. The proposal in Congress would scale back the child tax credit, would actually put millions of more Americans in poverty. We have got proposals to improve investments in child care, in early education, and also expand, for example, the Earned Income Tax Credit, something Republicans say they are for, but have not put the money into the budget to address.
SMERCONISH: Mayor Nutter, much of the conversation this week has been about the so-called 1.5 million missing African-American men, the fact that one of every six are missing because of either premature death or incarceration.
I'm wondering if, practically speaking, you are prepared to go in your case to Commissioner Ramsey -- you have got one of the best police chiefs, I think, in the nation -- and ask him not to enforce the low-level crime, so as to reduce the prison population? Or do you feel that in the neighborhoods, people would then see a spike in crime?
NUTTER: Well, citizens, black, white, Latino, Asian, anyone else, people want safe neighborhoods.
And as much as we focus obviously on violent crime in Philadelphia -- and we have certainly seen a reduction, 37 percent reduction of homicide over the last seven years, a 17 percent drop in violent crime -- people are not willing to put up with any level of crime.
And so we did decriminalize, not legalize, but decriminalize small...
NUTTER: Possessions of small amounts of marijuana. But if you break in somebody's car, I am not going to say to the
citizens, well, that's not a violent crime, so we are not going to try to do anything about it. I mean, that's insane. People want safe neighborhoods. The issue is, again, going back to what my colleague Mayor Bell and the congressman said, how do we get jobs on the table? How do we get employment on the table? How do we invest in communities with economic development?
And whether it's in Baltimore or Philly or Birmingham or the like, that's really what will lift everyone up. And the congressman lays out the case. I mean, the president has faced such fierce opposition from people in the majority in the House and the Senate, the Republican Party, to virtually anything that he is trying to do.
And so it's not about making the false choice between enforcing the law on violent crime vs. nonviolent crime. People want to be safe. They don't want people taking their stuff. What needs to happen is investments in education, employment and training programs.
And, again, I'm going to come back to, we are here at the beginning of May. Kids will be out of school soon all across America, and we need to stay focused on the issue of summer jobs and skills- building for these young people.
SMERCONISH: The mayor mentions Republican opposition. You mentioned Republican opposition.
The Republican response would be, wait a minute, the funding of the Great Society has been a failure. All of these programs have not generated the sort of jobs that are still needed. Maybe it's a time to go in a different direction. You would say what, Congressman?
VAN HOLLEN: Sure. Two things.
Yes, absolutely, we need to do a lot more, but it has not been a failure. According to the President's Council of Economic Advisers, if you did not have the Great Society war on poverty, 40 million more Americans would be in poverty, and many in deep poverty today. So, we have made gains. But we know from what is happening in Baltimore and around the country, we have got a long ways to go, which is we have put forward proposals to begin to address these kind of matters on an urgent basis.
Just last week, I did a conference with the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, G.K. Butterfield, Barbara Lee, who is a member of the Budget Committee working on these issues, and Bobby Scott, who is focused on lot on the criminal justice reform issues.
There are specific proposals right now in Congress that can make things better in places like Baltimore, around the country. And, instead, what we passed in Congress, the Republicans, a break -- $10 million estates get no estate tax, $10 million-plus.
SMERCONISH: Just making a point, though, when you view it in partisan terms, you have to acknowledge that the urban areas that are most afflicted by the problems we are all trying to solve are governed by Democratic leadership.
I want to ask Mayor Bell one final question. Before these cameras leave and before Americans begin to refocus elsewhere, not Baltimore, what should our agreement be, what should our resolve be about the lesson of Freddie Gray?
BELL: Well, the lesson of Freddie Gray is that you had a young man who had certain skill sets, but was unable to find a job.
Therefore, he hung out on the streets with other individuals who were in a similar situation. There were no role models, no efforts to really bring substantial support for him to have a decent life. And we have got that problem all over this country.
And if we could go back to what we had with the WPA, that we rebuilt our infrastructure using labor and using individuals who were hopeless at the time, we could rebuild America. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build schools in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the Congress will not support building schools and building opportunities here in this country. We have got to do better than that. We are a better country than that.
SMERCONISH: Mayor Bell, Mayor Nutter, Broad Street -- Broad Street Run day, and Congressman Van Hollen, thank you, gentlemen.
SMERCONISH: I appreciate all your time. I wish we had more opportunity.
NUTTER: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come: For so long, some people here in Baltimore have feared the badge, but with calls to end an era of law and order, will crime in the inner cities spike?
SMERCONISH: Ask people who live in West Baltimore, and some of them will say that it's been shields vs. civilians well before our cameras got here.
Joining me from Detroit is Detroit Police Chief James Craig, and here with me in Baltimore is Former NYPD Police Chief Bernard Kerik.
Bernie, they are welcoming you with the sound of bells.
BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: I see that. I see that.
SMERCONISH: Is policing strategy about to change across the country? A lot of folks are saying we need to rethink broken windows, because that is what is responsible for 1.5 million African-American men being either being bars or dead prematurely.
KERIK: Well, I think they're going to have to be careful on how they restructure, if they do, because it's also responsible for an 85 percent reduction in violent crime in New York City.
SMERCONISH: Do you still believe in it?
KERIK: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
SMERCONISH: Chief Craig, do you feel any pressure in the aftermath of an incident like Freddie Gray to change your policing strategy with an eye towards so many individuals being incarcerated?
JAMES CRAIG, DETROIT, MICHIGAN, POLICE CHIEF: You know, I will tell you that I think, in Detroit, we are doing a great job.
And I think the real key, you know, has been talked about over and over again. What do communities want? I know, here in Detroit, one of the things I heard 21 months ago, when I arrived here, was gas stations and the kind of activity that went on in and around gas stations. I am talking about those low level offenses.
The community wanted change. And so we respond to that. But in addition to taking care of these low-level crimes, we can see and realize a reduction in violent crime. So, we just can't ignore it. And it's the community that is driving it. They want that change and that response.
SMERCONISH: I mean, if you don't -- if you don't enforce those lower-level crimes, you are going to hear about it from your constituency is what you are saying. People want law enforcement to come out and enforce those crimes.
CRAIG: They absolutely want law enforcement to come out, no doubt about that. They want us to respond.
I mean, you talk about a city like Detroit that has historically high violence, but what I hear about is the lower-level offenses. And so people expect it. And we are going to continue to support the community. They ask for change, and we are going to give that to them.
SMERCONISH: Bernie, in this particular case, the Freddie Gray case, the prosecutor is saying that there never should have been an arrest to begin with.
But, thereafter, this is a case about what the police didn't do. They didn't belt him in. They did not render first aid when he called for it. How unusual to see a prosecution like this premised upon inaction by law enforcement?
KERIK: Well, it's not the norm. And I think there is still a lot of information that we don't have.
When I listened to the charges, personally, I think -- I don't think her charges meets what I have seen, but...
SMERCONISH: You don't think so?
KERIK: I don't think so.
SMERCONISH: Why not?
KERIK: Well, a murder charge? Where is -- there has to be intent. I just don't see it.
And the strapping them in, were the cops aware of the order? Were the cops given training on the order? There is a whole bunch of stuff that has to happen when an order like that goes out, number one. Number two, calling for medical service, if he was asking for medical assistance, medical assistance should have been called.
SMERCONISH: There's a reference in "The Baltimore Sun" today. And "The Sun" had this inside look at the police investigation into what went wrong here.
And there is a reference to jailitis. They say that their interpretation of what was going on in the back of that van is that this was guy with jail -- he was making it up. Do many of them make it up? Is that common?
KERIK: Well, this is a couple things. One, they fall, they go limp, so you can let them up, you can let them loose. Then they run. They are calling for, they can't breathe. The whole "I can't breathe" thing, 50, 60, 70 percent of the time, "I can't breathe," you let them loose, they bolt.
And I am sure, you know, these cops -- and I am not saying that's the case, but that happens. It does happen all the time. And the cops are used to it.
SMERCONISH: Chief Craig, what surprised you about the allegations made about the six who were arrested here in Baltimore?
CRAIG: Well, you know, the seriousness of the allegations, certainly. And I think Bernie hit on something key.
I mean, what were the rules in place at the time? Certainly, if the prisoner is not properly situated in a van where he can cause harm or what occurred prior to that, but I don't know all the facts, and so I am not so quick to judge why so many were charged and how they were charged. Just what really took place?
I mean, the real key is this. People want to know that the system is working. And when you look at what we are doing here in Detroit, we had an officer-involved shooting incident this past week that, potentially, there could have been an unrest situation. But I like to just point out that capital, that trust capital that, as police chiefs, as police departments, that we must maintain in advance, not react to a situation, but be proactive about those relationships. And it goes a long way in instilling peace.
SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, there's a whole conversation now playing itself out about incarceration levels.
Bernie, you are uniquely qualified, as the title of your book stated, "From Jailer to Jailed." You were in charge of the New York City Corrections Department. You then spent time in a federal gated community yourself.
What did you learn on the inside that you didn't know when you were in charge of the prison system?
KERIK: Mike, one second.
I just want to touch on something. I want to give my thoughts and prayers to Brian Moore, the cop in New York City last night...
SMERCONISH: Was shot last night in the face.
KERIK: Was shot in the face, I think shot in the chest. He's in stable condition. I want to send my thoughts and prayers to him and his family.
I went to federal prison, and I realized we are putting thousands upon thousands of people in prison for first-time nonviolent offenses. And I think it's destroying communities, it's destroying families. People have to be held accountable for their actions, but I think there's plenty of ways to do that without creating a permanent underclass of society.
And that's -- in many cases, that's what we're doing.
SMERCONISH: You came out with a changed perspective. You believe that there are now thousands, tens of thousands of individuals who are incarcerated who don't deserve to be there?
KERIK: Well, a lot -- and a lot of it, you could -- you could relay it to some of the things that go on in Baltimore and other cities around the country.
Take Detroit or take Baltimore, state charges, first-time, low- level, minor drug offense, somebody may -- it may be a misdemeanor. It may be a community service or probation, or give them a second chance. In the federal system, that kid gets 10 years, 15 years. You monsterize them. You turn them into a thug.
SMERCONISH: And then they are unemployable once they get out.
KERIK: Forever, forever. SMERCONISH: Yes.
KERIK: For the rest of their life.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Chief Craig, quick final question, if I might.
Bernie makes reference to that officer who was shot in the face last night. Do you worry about the vulnerability of police in the aftermath of all of this attention, because perhaps they are now too timid in how they go about their jobs?
CRAIG: Well, you know, I am worried. I am always worried.
Certainly, we are in a heightened state at this point, more than I have seen in my 38 years in policing. But our police officers know, treat people with respect and dignity. And I do not want our cops laying back and saying, well, should I take action or should I not? And then we suffer a loss.
We constantly have these discussions. I think one thing that is very important, especially as chief executive, police chiefs across the country, is that we support our police officers. And when police officers know that the police chief and the ranking members of the organization support them, they are more apt to go out and do the job the way it needs to be done.
And that's not to say that we are not going to have mistakes. Mistakes are going to happen. And when they do happen, we will address it as such. And so that's very important. Setting the appropriate tone as the chief of police is critical.
SMERCONISH: Chief James Craig, Bernard Kerik, thank you both for being here. We appreciate you.
KERIK: Thank you.
CRAIG: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Next: a Friday morning bombshell, Marilyn Mosby announcing charges against six police officers. Was Freddie Gray's family attorney as shocked as everybody else?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARILYN MOSBY, BALTIMORE STATE'S ATTORNEY: Mr. Gray's death was a homicide. We have probable cause to file criminal charges, second- degree depraved heart murder. No one is above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SMERCONISH: Swift, decisive and nothing short of remarkable,
state's attorney Marilyn Mosby charging six Baltimore City cops in the death of Freddie Gray.
Yet, critics question if Mosby's move was more about cooling tempers than evidence.
Attorney for the Gray family joining me right now, Billy Murphy.
Thank you so much for being here.
BILLY MURPHY, ATTORNEY FOR GRAY FAMILY: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: You know, midweek last week, you were trying to lessen expectations, among many others. You were saying, you know, Friday, don't expect it to be a big day.
And yet here is the Saturday morning newspaper. How floored were you...
MURPHY: Oh, I was...
SMERCONISH: ... when she descended the stairs right over there and announced those charges?
MURPHY: I was stunned. I was stunned.
I know that they had been working feverishly around the clock, and that it had been a very closed circuit, where we could not get any information about the progress of the investigation anymore than anybody else could. And to see it happen and play out this quickly was both stunning and gratifying.
SMERCONISH: FOP says you gave her five grand. They also say you were on her transition committee, and, therefore, she should recuse herself. Your response is what?
MURPHY: They gave her three grand. And I didn't give her any money. My son gave her money. And so they have got it completely wrong.
Now, she -- what should the conflict be with them? I mean, this is politics. If you spend money so that you can get the right person in office, isn't that the American way?
SMERCONISH: When she descended those stairs, and she said -- and the words, I think, were, "To the people of Baltimore, I have heard your call of no justice, no peace," does that not sound like she is responding to the public cry, rather than to the evidence?
MURPHY: No, it sounds like that she is trying to reassure people that, in her administration, the system is going to work.
Remember, in other administrations, the system did not work. Police prosecutions were almost nonexistent. They were cover-ups that were generally believed by the top brass and covered over by a less- than-thorough investigation by the police of themselves. This was the routine practice.
However, we knew, from the number of settlements and verdicts and judgments that were going against the city, including one that I got for $44 million for a guy who got thrown head first into a brick wall by a police officer and was a paraplegic, that there was a serious problem in Baltimore. The whole community knew it.
And during one person's administration, there were all these street-sweeping operations, and people were arrested for nothing.
SMERCONISH: Who are we talking about?
MURPHY: Martin -- again -- then Mayor Martin O'Malley.
SMERCONISH: President Martin O'Malley, or so perhaps he thinks, in the future.
MURPHY: Well, you know, he has got to live with that, I mean, and this makes that relevant conduct.
SMERCONISH: In other words, you are -- let me just -- counsel, let me just be clear about what you're saying.
You are saying that Martin O'Malley, as mayor of this town, he took law enforcement too far, he had too much of a zero-tolerance policy?
MURPHY: We told him that at the time. I came out against his -- his governorship and supported Ehrlich because of that.
This was a street-sweeping operation like none other. I spoke to him privately about it. I said: "Martin, you know, why are you doing this? You have got to stop. I am going to break with you if you don't stop.
SMERCONISH: This gets into the conversation I was just having with the police chiefs about broken windows and whether that needs to be rethought.
You know, you've got Bill Bratton in New York City this week saying, hey, if I don't enforce the lower stuff, the lower stuff becomes the big stuff. They become violent criminals and that's why we are in this positions
MURPHY: That is such an improper calculus. A window breaker becomes a major criminal? No.
Most of the crime in this city and every other city is done by repeat offenders, who are career criminals, who have committed many, many, many offenses, and they make the regular citizenry look like angels in comparison.
SMERCONISH: What Bratton was referring to this week is a story -- and I hope I get the facts right, but it was a guy cited for riding a bike on a sidewalk, and you say, you know, what the hell. Are we going to start enforcing those sorts of things? But he had an illegal weapon on him and there was a warrant out for his arrest. And that's what Bratton's argument is that the little stuff is actually indicative of the bigger stuff. You get the final word.
MURPHY: But that has been discredited and this is the example of how that has been discredited. And the cities all over the country where this kind of police behavior in conjunction with the failed war on drugs, this is actually a war on black people with drugs. All of this comes together to show that this tactic is kind counterproductive in both the short term and the long term.
I agree with your last guests, we have over incarcerated millions of people who don't belong in jail, who belong in their homes so (ph) they can make these children ready to receive the kind of education instead of being AWOL. And making the mothers work two jobs and (INAUDIBLE) AWOL.
SMERCONISH: Is your gut about what went on here is, you know, you look at that headline, are you thinking bad cops or bad training?
MURPHY: I am thinking both. And I'm thinking the bad police culture.
A bad police culture that --
SMERCONISH: A racist police culture?
MURPHY: Well, it's not only racist -
SMERCONISH: Because I'm looking at three of the six faces are African-American.
MURPHY: Well, but that doesn't mean that it isn't inspired by racism.
You know, black people can carry out a script pre-written as well. And when you this horrible police culture that's really based on racism, where cops cover up other cops' bad conducts and good cops are afraid to come forward to testify or report bad cops, that's a prescription for what you just saw in Baltimore. We've got to stop it.
And I am confident that now that we have cell phone cameras where we don't have swearing contests...
MURPHY: ...like we used to, where the police always won those contests, we're going to get justice.
SMERCONISH: Because they got the benefit of the doubt. Billy Murphy, thank you for being here. Appreciate your time.
Coming up, one remarkable parent, but should even more parents have done exactly what she did?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[09:37:06] REP. BOBBY RUSH (D), ILLINOIS: The image of a strong black mother, giving her son what I would call a love whooping.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what mothers need to be doing. Your kids (INAUDIBLE) out on the street. It should -- it should have been a war between mothers and sons.
ROBERT VALENTINE, BALTIMORE CITIZEN: They need to have their butts at home. They need to be in their home units with their families studying and doing something with their life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Toya Graham recognized her son among the crowd on Monday clutching a brick and she felt compelled to do something.
CNN commentator Charles Blow is joining me. Media strategist Tara Wall is here, and D.J. Bryant, who grew up in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood the same neighborhood where Freddie Gray lived.
Can we go down right down the row and react to the parenting? Because that has caused so much of a reaction. When I first saw Toya Graham I was in the hell yes category. And then I read an essay that Stacey Patton wrote in the "Washington Post" where she said, wait a minute. Rethink this because you are putting a lot of emphasis now on the young African-American male and you're not focused on the drivers of the behavior.
Charles, you go first.
CHARLES BLOW, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, I don't necessarily criticize the mother. I think that she's reacting in the moment (INAUDIBLE) spontaneous. She's reacting probably out of love and fear and anger and not wanting to have her son involved in that.
I do believe, however, that we as a public and we as a media are poeticizing this violence on that kid, in that video and in that moment. And the constant replaying of that --
SMERCONISH: (INAUDIBLE) becomes the embodiment of everything.
BLOW: I think the -- I think the idea that we want to cheer the violence on that black body, but we can't cheer if somebody else does it, but we can't cheer that she does it. And there's something perverse -- there's something perverse about the way we are reacting to it. Not necessarily her reaction. Her reaction seems legitimate but I think our reaction to it is perverse.
TARA WALL, MEDIA AND POLITICS STRATEGIST: I mean, actually I agree.
I think that -- I mean, I certainly don't condone putting hands on children on a personal level, but, you know, like that would have been my mother or my father, frankly -- I mean, honestly, I think that you have to -- media in particular focuses sometimes on the wrong things.
I think, no one condones and probably looking back she may not have used as much force, perhaps. But you're missing the entire point of the narrative of what she is saying, this is my son. This is not going to happen to him. I taught him better. He knows better. He should be doing better. You know, this is -- that's the whole picture that needs to be painted or the story that needs to be told.
We can talk about all day about her tactics, but look at the intent behind it and the reason that she did it. My mother said to me yesterday, you know, she said, the scripture comes to me, you know, to take, you know, the righteous (inaudible) by force. That was kind of her motto as a parent.
You know right. You know to do right. If I have to go down there and take you by force, I will.
[09:39:56] SMERCONISH: D.J., my mother had a yardstick that she got at the, you know, the hardware store. My brother and I when we did something wrong we would hide it because we knew she'd go looking for it.
How did you react to that video?
D.J. BRYANT, BALTIMORE RAVENS: You know, I think, this is going back to, you know, the generations before. You know, growing up, now in this generation is more, you know, parents are really trying to be their child's best friend.
She really went old school and she showed him that, you know, you won't be out here defiant and disobeying law. You're going to be respectful and you're going to take - you know, you're going to do the right things as an American citizen.
You know, I applaud her, because a lot of parents nowadays wouldn't do that. There's a lot of kids raising their selves especially in the city of Baltimore. So, you know, just for her to step up in that way, you know, I take my hat off to her.
SMERCONISH: Charles, in your news paper this week Justin Wolfer is the economists and two colleagues printed some data that I think really sparked a national conversation about the 1.5 million missing African-American men. Missing why? Because death prematurely or because they're incarcerated. That's a positive outcome from all of this, right, to talk about where have all these individuals gone?
BLOW: I think, it's a positive outcome from all of this. I think - and even before they published that article "Forbes" did the same analysis about Ferguson. They found that of the marriage age young people, half of the young black men are missing from that community.
We had a long conversation about Ferguson before, and that informs all of our discussions in all of the intersectionalities of discussions about family structures. If you - if there are two women for every man, that informs a lot about why people are more likely to be - kids are more likely to be born without a parent at home. It informs how much economic influence is coming into the home. It influences a lot, this happening. And so we can't have these discussions as if they are discreet factors. They are in fact not discreet factors. All of these things overlap.
SMERCONISH: So, what to do about it?
WALL: And frankly, you know the impacts of what happens when parents are involved, right? We see the results of that.
We talk about the single mother, 55 (ph) percent of (INAUDIBLE) single mothers here in the Baltimore area. It's the number I saw. I also saw a story about a father who said, look, my kid, I told him not to do the same thing. I told him not to go out there. He went out there (INAUDIBLE) he got arrested. Never been (INAUDIBLE). Never been in law enforcement. The fathers are present. There are fathers who are present and for those who aren't, the mothers do step up and need to step up, but remember, it is -- there are fathers who are also speaking to their sons, who are getting involved, who are saying, this is not - this is not the norm, should not be the norm. There is a lesson to be learned in this and we need to start teaching them better and doing better.
SMERCONISH: If we alter policing strategies though as a result of this conversation, we decide, well, too many have been locked up therefore the minor crimes are not those that we're going to enforce. The communities that will most suffer are those affected by the very statistics that we're talking about.
BRYANT: You know, I don't necessarily think so. I think, the bigger picture to me is just -- we are getting away from the community raising kids. And, you know, as a society we've all turned our back when, you know, this generation I think what happened on Monday, was their outreach and their scream for help.
You know, there's a gap - there's a gap between law enforcement and the African-American community because these young kids are seeing cops take away their brothers and dads. So you know, I think, that also plays, you know, some role into it.
SMERCONISH: Charles, I would like to think that the community is quieting down here now, and that Baltimore has gotten through this and that the curfews will soon be raised.
I am troubled as an attorney as I now look at this legal case by its component parts, it's no slam dunk in my opinion and there is much more that we still need to learn about it. I worry about this community and other communities if there are not convictions in this particular case.
BLOW: Well, I think, we should worry about that and the mixed signals that we are sending to kids.
SMERCONISH: How so? BLOW: I think, that we keep saying that we want a restoration of
peace, we want a restoration of calm and yet it wasn't until there was violence in the streets that we show up, that all of these cameras around here show up, and it's not -- and that is what history teaches us across history is that it takes the drama of scale or it takes the drama of some sort of violence to make people focus attention. And I think that is a really - a real problematic message that we're sending to these children. And we are also sending the message to a lot of these children that property matters more than people. If you have bail set for a young man who destroys a cop car (INAUDIBLE) $500,000, and the bail for the people who are accused of killing Freddie Gray is set at a lower level, that is a very mixed signal.
WALL: I think part of it, too, the media has to also refocus some of these efforts.
I mean, we see the wall to wall coverage of the violence and all of that, and sometimes violence incites violence in some ways. I am not blaming the media, I think, that if we focus on the things like the process itself these - you know, these folks are still innocent until proven guilty as the mayor pointed out. These folks are still going through trial. And the parents themselves ask for the process to take hold. Not that these - not even that they get convictions, but they bet treated - that their son be treated -- his memory be treated fairly, that the judicial system works and the process works it out. And sometimes we get that mixed up and we get it backwards when we are doing this wall to wall coverage of outrage and peoples' passion. There is a place for that and there's a time for that, but we also have to educate the community about the local system, the federal system, the state system, how it works, how we can better communicate and work with the system from the local, state, and federal levels.
[09:45:23] SMERCONISH: I think you've said more clearly that I was able to say, I hope people will buy into, now, the system needs to work, unless something egregious should unfold and be reported on we need to trust in what's about to play itself out. Because these six are still innocent until proven guilty.
WALL: And not just pontificate and make assumptions and speculate.
Sometimes there is wall to wall speculation. We need more, you know, process and policy and facts than pure speculation.
BLOW: But the truth is that it is the system that is on trial as much as it is these six officers (INAUDIBLE).
WALL: And that's valid.
BLOW: And I think - I think that we are seeing a situation where we are having a whole generation of people losing faith in the system itself, that it may not work well for people who look like me, and that, I think, undercuts the very basis of our democracy. SMERCONISH: One final concern if I can just voice this. When
Marilyn Mosby came down the stairs right over there last Friday, and I am watching this in real time on CNN, I was floored by it. But when I heard her say, to those of you who say no justice, no peace, I hear you, as an attorney, an alarm bell went off in my head because to me it said she is responding to that crowd not necessarily to the evidence. And frankly that's going to give a skilled defense attorney some room in which to work.
Anyway, I appreciate very much all three of you being here for this conversation. Thank you so much.
Coming up, 2016 contenders on the spot because of Baltimore, and that's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[09:50:43] SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: It's sad. It's scary. I came through the train on Baltimore last night. I'm glad the train didn't stop.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I think my mom and the woman who was bringing her child back home have a lot in common, which I admire her a lot for doing what she did.
BEN CARSON, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL PEDIATRIC NEUROSURGERY DIRECTOR: It's such a wonderful example of parental responsibility.
MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), FORMER BALTIMORE MAYOR: The real issue here is about policing. It is about policing the police and it is about the state of justice and injustice in the United States of America.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These recent tragedies should galvanize us to come together as a nation to find our balance again.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: President Obama when he was elected, he could have been a unifying figure. He's made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: This week Baltimore pushed crime and punishment front and center. In the still young 2016 campaign.
CNN political commentators S.E. Cupp and Errol Louis join me now.
Allow me to read to you both from an essay published this week. "The current draconian mandatory minimum sentences sometimes result in sentencing outcomes that neither fit the crime nor the perpetrator's unique circumstances." the words of one Ted Cruz. The Brennan Center published these essays this week and it's hard to discern the Rs from the Ds. Here's my question. Is 2016 the year to run soft on crime?
S.E. CUPP. CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, all I've heard so far on the left and the right are platitudes and what people want to hear is policy.
And I think whether you're policy is left or right, people want to hear solutions to the problems that they see in places like Baltimore, in places like Ferguson. Whether that's law enforcement, police brutality, income inequality, they want to hear actual solutions. And I have seen a real failure, a real lack of leadership from all of the candidates when it comes to that.
Everyone comes out to condemn what they've seen. Everyone comes out to say it's sad and we need to have a national debate. But I have heard very few actual policy suggestions on the left or the right.
SMERCONISH: Errol, I think there's common denominator here that fewer need to be in the big house.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, that's exactly right. I mean -- and that is a long-term trend. I mean, where everybody is going to be unified is there's no excuse for rioting, attacking police in the streets to make a political point. Everyone understands that.
But what you mentioned before, I mean, what is tough on crime? Well, it's in the eyes of the beholder. Let's say you have someone who has assaulted someone, they have hurt somebody and robbed them. Do they get five years, 10 years, 20 years? Those distinctions really count for quite a lot in a system that has locked up far too many people. And I think there's a general understanding not just among the politicians -- we have gone overboard in sending people away for 20 years, 30 years, at immeasurable cost to society when we can do better.
SMERCONISH: S.E., when we start to look at what's going on out there through a political lens, I mean, one of the realities is that the most affected areas in the country by that which we're discussing are governed by Democrats, in many cases governed by African-American Democrats.
CUPP: Right. Right. So, you know, in a city like Baltimore that's had a Democratic mayor since 1967, it's almost impossible not to ask have liberal economic policies been working or failing the people of Baltimore? And the failure on the left that I have seen from people like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Martin O'Malley, people like Al Sharpton is a failure to acknowledge that reality and to provide an explanation of how liberal economic policies that have inarguably been failing should be voted in for a third term in the White House. Explain that to me.
There have been inadequacies on the right as well to discuss income inequality and what they would do about police brutality and prison reform. But on the left you have to start with those acknowledgements. You have to explain why liberal economic policies in a place like Baltimore should get another go around. SMERCONISH: Do you see it the same way?
LOUIS: Absolutely. But there's a little bit more to it though because the guy that we really need to hear from, more from, is Martin O'Malley, who was the mayor of the city who then became governor of the state.
Yes, there are economic policies, but he also was in charge of the police at a time when crime -- serious homicides, were number one in the whole country here in Baltimore.
[09:54:56] SMERCONISH: Billy Murphy was here. He's the attorney for the Gray family and he pointed out to me that O'Malley was the leader of a zero tolerance movement that Mr. Murphy now thinks had repercussions for the community as a result.
CUPP: Whether it's stop and frisk or the zero tolerance policies of Martin O'Malley, everyone should be looking at policing in a new way. But if Martin O'Malley had a shot at the presidency, I think it's severely handicapped.
SMERCONISH: But Errol, in your town this week, New York City, Bill Bratton stood up and he said, wait a minute. I am going to arrest the guy riding a bike on the sidewalk because guess what? He had a firearm and there was a warrant out for his arrest.
LOUIS: Well, that's right. I mean, we have learned so much since the 1990s when Baltimore was number one in crime and New York was, you know, sort of only a little bit behind. And we've learned a lot, we've turned the corner. There have been, you know, double digit decreases in crime really nationwide, an extraordinary kind of revolution. We have to sort of decide what we have learned from that and then try to put it in a political context. If they do it responsibly and don't sort of defer to these gimmicks like, let's put a body cam on everybody, then we really could learn something and it could be a great debate going into the 2016 campaign.
SMERCONISH: S.E., quick final question for you. Who among the Republican field stands perhaps to benefit from that in that very uber conservative field that's come together?
CUPP: Well, Rand Paul was out on this very early in terms of prison reform --
SMERCONISH: And said something stupid (ph) this week.
CUPP: Well, I mean, are you talking about the train thing?
CUPP: I mean, I think that's really us. He actually was one of the few candidates to come out with some policy suggestions and we're going to focus on the fact he said something about pulling into a train in Baltimore. I don't think that's the real substance of rand Paul's message.
So, he was out early on this. Now, whether you agree with him on prison reform, I think he will benefit from having acknowledged this as a problem early on.
SMERCONISH: S.E., Errol, thank you both so much for being here. Appreciate it.
I'm Michael Smerconish in Baltimore. You can follow me on Twitter @smerconish if you can spell it.
"Fareed Zakaria, GPS" is next.