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New York City Begins "Phase One" Reopening Today; Experts Worry Mass Protests Could Lead to a Spike in COVID-19 Cases; U.S. Cities Roll Out Plans to Reform and Regulate Police; Ex-Officer Charged with Murder in George Floyd's Death; George Floyd Memorial Today, Funeral Tomorrow in Houston; New York City Begins Phase One Reopening Today. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 8, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Just a few hours from now, the ex-Minneapolis police officer charged with second-degree murder in the killing of George Floyd will face a judge for the first time. This comes at the same time that a public memorial for Floyd is set to take place in his hometown of Houston. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is set to privately meet with Floyd's family just before that service.

In the two weeks since George Floyd's death, thousands across the country a march for justice in his name demanding significant police reform and overnight some results.

SCIUTTO: In an unprecedented move, the Minneapolis City Council has vowed to defund and go beyond that, dismantle the city's police department. They're promising to replace it with a new system of public safety. It's a remarkable move there, unclear how broad the support for that kind of change is. We're going to discuss what that means in moments.

In the wake of all of this, a brand new CNN poll shows troubling numbers for President Trump on his handling of Floyd's death as well as the coronavirus pandemic, as well as his head-to-head matchup with Joe Biden.

We're covering all the angles this morning. First let's get to Josh Campbell who is in Minneapolis.

Josh, so tell us, what are we expecting for the officer who kneeled on George Floyd's neck here in the hearing today? What progress today?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, this will be his first appearance, Jim. He will be appearing by video link to one of the courtrooms behind me, where a judge will hear from him and his defense counsel as well as prosecutors. Now we know that he's been charged with second-degree murder in the

killing of George Floyd. Prosecutors allege that he killed Floyd without intent but while committing a felony, that felony being assault. Of course we remember that dramatic cell phone video footage with Officer Chauvin's knee on George Floyd's neck.

And we expect to get a sense of what his defense strategy will be. We know that at the time, the Minneapolis Police Department allowed for the use of neck restraints if a subject is resisting. The question will be, was George Floyd resisting at the moment that happened? That will be the start. Of course we've also heard from the two officers, at least two of them blaming Chauvin and his seniority. We will wait and see what Chauvin's strategy will be. We hope to get more here in just a couple of hours.

HARLOW: And Josh, could you also speak to what happens next where you have nine of the 13 Minneapolis City councilmembers voting to not only, you know, defund but disband the police force entirely. Legally, can they do it? Are there any legal, you know, arguments against it? Where does it really go from here in actuality?

CAMPBELL: Well, a lot of questions are being raised. Now typically the police department is under the purview of the city's mayor but I spoke to the city council president here yesterday who said that because the police department is currently under investigation by the state's human rights commission, that that gives the city council more latitude in overseeing this police department.

Of course she told me that she now has a nine-person veto proof majority to work to in her words dismantle this police department. She also spoke today with CNN and she essentially said that the police department here is not effectively serving the public. Let's listen.


LISA BENDER, MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: This system isn't working for too many of our neighbors for too long. Our reform efforts have failed and we have done many, many attempts at reform and new leadership in the department and many things, and we still see this tragic death. And so I think the wake up of our community is what's driving the city council's announcement yesterday.


CAMPBELL: Now what this is, is an idea. We haven't seen a plan actually set forth, a lot of questions about, you know, who would patrol the community? Who would stop crime? A lot of questions raised by this plan. We're asking for not only additional details from the city council but also from the mayor's office, but again it's an idea we haven't seen before dismantling a police agency without answering the question what comes next -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Josh Campbell, appreciate the reporting. Thanks a lot.

Let's talk about all of this with Joey Jackson, criminal defense attorney and CNN legal analyst. Let's start with today in court. We're going to see ex-officer

Chauvin, Joey, for the first time. What's interesting is the three other officers here charged have given at least some of their defense through their attorneys. We have not heard any defense argument from Chauvin. Does that change today?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning, Poppy. It may very well not change today. I wouldn't look for a lot in that courtroom. Remember, it's a first appearance. There's no jury there. A judge will preside. There's no discovery exchange, meaning exchanging of documents as to police reports or anything else. It's an initial appearance to determine his custodial status. Is $1 million appropriate? Is it not? Does he have an attorney? Does he understand his rights moving forward? And so I don't anticipate that there would be a defense laid out.


It would certainly be earth-shattering news if there was. I think the defense strategy here, you know, revealing it this early could be problematic as well. I as a defense attorney am very interested in learning what that strategy will be.

HARLOW: So the attorneys of two of the officers, two of the other defendants, Thomas Lane and Alexander Kueng, who face aiding and abetting charges, blame Chauvin, right, and a lack of training, saying essentially they are rookies and this guy, you know, they knew a veteran, he carried it our anyways.

The attorney for them said that they told Chauvin, quote, "You shouldn't do this," and attorney for the other officer, Officer Ted Thao says he cooperated with investigators before the arrest of Chauvin. How uncommon is it to see a breaking of the ranks here among these officers in terms of basically saying look, it's not on us, it's on our fellow officer?

JACKSON: Yes, you know, Poppy, from an actual in court perspective, once you become a defendant, it is not uncommon at all for there to be finger-pointing. We can have the debate as to whether the blue wall of silence is broken.

HARLOW: Right.

JACKSON: As to whether the police (INAUDIBLE) together now has been moved and that's certainly is ripe for debate and as much as we know officers stay in rank and file and certainly support each other. That changes when you're facing 40 years in jail. That changes when you're facing a second-degree murder charge and so it's not uncommon in a courtroom to say hey, listen, I attempted to do something about it. I said, hey, turn him over. He wouldn't listen.

I said we shouldn't do this, he wouldn't listen. I was merely present, he is, that is David Chauvin is the bad actor, not me, and I would expect probably moving forward to hear a lot about that and certainly I think there'll be discussions with the other officers, you know, with regard to pointing fingers at him and trying to excuse their liability.

HARLOW: Joey, today in just a few minutes at 9:30 a.m. Eastern we will see if the Supreme Court takes up several key cases for their next term, among those they could decide to take up are ones on qualified immunity, that provides a lot of protection for police and makes it very hard to charge -- to convict police officers.

Justice Clarence Thomas on the right and Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the left have both said in recent years we the high court need to re- look at this issue. Do you think the court takes up at least one of these cases?

JACKSON: I certainly would hope so. So just as a matter of clarification, Poppy, when we're talking about qualified immunity, we're talking about protecting officers from civil lawsuits and monetary damages. Qualified immunity does not enter into the courtroom as it relates to pursuing a criminal case. So with regard to an officer's criminal actions, we know it's hard to prosecute, right, you look at Eric Gardner as it relates to Staten Island, I can't breathe, no indictment. You look at Philando Castile there in Minnesota, on a car stopped, he's shot. He is indicted but he's acquitted at trial.

Moving away from that, Poppy, though, is the doctrine you're speaking of, of qualified immunity. That relates to when you're suing officers. And what it essentially says is officers have a lot of discretionary functions, and the law will respect those discretionary functions unless you establish that the officer violated some very clear, right, clear statutory or constitutional right. You might think that's very simple to establish but it has been shown not to be.

The other thing I'll say, Poppy, this is a doctrine that's established by the court. If we really want to get a grapple on this, Congress can pass a law today, right, where it says that this doctrine is no longer applicable. In fact, I should say that there is a representative in Congress at this point.

HARLOW: Justin Amash.

JACKSON: Exactly. Yes.

HARLOW: Yes. All right, Joey, we appreciate your expertise. We'll see what happens in court today. Thanks a lot. Jim?

JACKSON: Thank you, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Well, around the same time that Derek Chauvin appears in court a public memorial for George Floyd will take place in Houston.

Joining us now on the phone is the police chief for the Houston Police Department, Art Acevedo.

Chief Acevedo, thanks very much for taking the time this morning. First, can you tell us what is planned this morning to honor George Floyd?

CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, good morning, thanks for having me on. We have all of our officers who are out and visible and making sure that we can move his body to and from the church, make sure we provide security for the family and make sure that their movements are safe. So we've got all hands on deck. We look forward to a really good day of honoring the family and supporting the family and -- but the one thing is it's very hot here today so we hope that people know that they need to have water with them and patience.

SCIUTTO: You've been a very public voice throughout both responding to anger, disappointment in police behavior, talking openly about change. You're aware now of a movement among some to defund police departments, take away, though, not as radical as what Minneapolis City Council is talking about to disband but take money away from police departments.

I wonder what your reaction is to that? Is that the right move now?


ACEVEDO: You know, look, I think that's a false equivalence being presented. You know, what we showed during COVID is this country has the ability to spend trillions of dollars when COVID was impacting the entire nation. Well, if it would spend that kind of money on dealing with the socioeconomics that end up with causing problems for a lot of our communities especially these communities of color we wouldn't need to defund.

I really believe that you start off by investing in these communities because unfortunately the 1.2 million calls that we had here in Houston last year, dynamic, challenging circumstances, disproportionately in communities of color. And I can tell you, that there will be a very loud backlash from the folks that live in the communities, want good policing in the communities and any effort to remove good police officers would be met with backlash in a lot of our neighborhoods.

SCIUTTO: Beyond funding, there's of course the discussion of legal changes. As you know, the Trump administration ended federal oversight of local police departments by things such as consent decrees, agreements between police and their communities. I wonder if from your perspective that should be reimplemented to have some federal oversight to prevent not all police forces but ones where it's identified that you have issues that there would be federal solutions to those problems.

ACEVEDO: Yes, I think from my lens, having gone through and led our department in Austin back in 2008-2009 with the Obama administration's review of our department, we have to be thoughtful even in that regard because what happens if it's not done right, you create a cottage industry of people making a lot of money as monitors, so I think it has to be done in a way where the government itself is the one -- are the ones monitoring and implementing the change across the nation, and beyond that, we need to have a conversation as to what are the critical policies, where it's use of force.

We have 2020 to think about still departments that allow manipulation of the neck. That really checking a lot of special presence profession. So we have a lot to do, but we want to be thoughtful. We need to take a deep breath and then put together good road map that is a win-win for the people we serve and our police departments.

SCIUTTO: Yes. One of the things contained in legislation today, a proposal from Hakim Jeffries, is a ban on the use of that chokehold.

Chief Art Acevedo, thanks so much for taking the time and we wish you good luck today in the city of Houston.

ACEVEDO: Thank you, have a great week.

HARLOW: New York City, of course it has been the epicenter really of the outbreak of the COVID pandemic in the United States. But today is a major day, we're entering phase one of the state and the city's reopening plan.

Let's go to my colleague Alexandra Field. She joins us right here in New York.

So how is today different than yesterday?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, it represents an achievement in what has been the epicenter of this pandemic here in the U.S. We are now seeing the lowest number of new cases and the lowest number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic and that means that people in this city can start to take some small steps to move forward, Poppy.

You're seeing some 400,000 people who can go back to work today. They work in construction jobs, they work in retail jobs. They work in manufacturing jobs. A lot of them will be riding the bus or the subway, where they're handing out some two million masks for people who can't do social distancing on those subway cars.

You're going to see some of these stores behind me opening up this morning. It won't be business as usual, not at all, but you can go in and do some in-store pickup and you can do some curbside pickup, so these are the first steps that hopefully we do more steps, Poppy.

HARLOW: You know, as we look at a reopening and hopefully things getting better here, I think we can't forget the data, Alex, one that shows us about the fact that communities of color, blacks and Latinos, in New York City died at double the rate of whites.

FIELD: Yes. Double the rate right here in New York City and you know, Poppy, for the course of this pandemic, we've been talking about the fact that it has disproportionately affected people of color throughout the country. Now you're seeing exactly how disproportionately it affected people here in New York City.

You can't ignore the backdrop that we're learning these numbers again, which is the fact that you've had thousands of people in the streets in the last week protesting racial inequality, protesting racism, protesting racial injustice in this country and in this city, and this all dovetails together because the fact that people are out protesting these inequalities is also causing some concern for officials because they fear that these good numbers that we're seeing in New York now could tick up. That's why they want to do a lot of testing and some close monitoring. They're offering some 35,000 tests a day. They want protesters and demonstrators to be the people who are in there getting the tests now so we can do the contact tracing and keep the numbers on the downward trajectory -- Poppy.


POPPY HARLOW, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: OK, Alexandra Field, thank you for the reporting. Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Still to come this hour, scenes like this one played out over the weekend as thousands gathered peacefully to protest. Question, could this lead to a spike in coronavirus infections?

HARLOW: And a new CNN poll this morning shows the president's approval rating has taken a hit amid the coronavirus pandemic and protest surrounding the death of George Floyd, all while Democratic contender Joe Biden adds to his lead.


HARLOW: Well, protests over police brutality continue as you saw this weekend, they continue nationwide. At the same time, there's now a new movement growing to defund police departments, some groups calling for that and calling for police departments to be totally disbanded, as you saw the Minneapolis City Council vote to do.


Others say it is best to move that funding, move some of it to community-based programs. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has now announced plans to shift some of the funding from the NYPD into youth and social services. Let's go to our colleague Brynn Gingras, she joins us in New York. Can you explain what this means, what de Blasio is saying, how much funding for how long and anything else he might be considering? OK --

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, you know, the mayor promising significant change over the next 18 months within the NYPD, essentially saying that the department's funds need to be shifted. Now, we've heard defunding chants all across this country and in some cities we're hearing that they're going to defund police departments.

But here in New York, they're essentially saying shifting funds from the NYPD to social services to youth services. The mayor not exactly outlining which services he specifically wants to send those monies to. However, this is the first time we're hearing about some real significant change within the police department, and there are several bullet points that he worked through.

But I want you to hear more from the mayor about how he described this on "NEW DAY".


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK STATE: We have a big, strong effective police force. We're going to be able to take money out of that police force, put it into youth programs and still of course keep New Yorkers safe. But this is preventative, this is proactive. Our Police Commissioner Dermot Shea spoken about this eloquently over the last year.

The NYPD needs to re-orient to young people and stop problems before they start, and actually be part of solving the problems in their lives. That's his aspirations for the NYPD.


GINGRAS: Yes, and the mayor essentially saying that the NYPD needs to re-orient themselves with the city's youth, saying the top brass of the NYPD agrees with this, including the police commissioner. Some of the other things that the mayor has lined out is basically setting up community leaders within high levels of the NYPD to have that dialogue between the community and the top brass.

But of course, as far as the shifting of monies, well, that has to be approved by the budget which is still weeks away. Poppy and Jim?

HARLOW: Brynn, thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: So what is the best answer for reforming police departments where necessary? Joining me now is Redditt Hudson; he's a former police officer and the co-founder of the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice Reform and Accountability. Good to have you on, Mr. Hudson. I wonder, you see there's a movement, some protesters calling for defunding the police, that would be taking some money away from them to go elsewhere.

Minneapolis City Council though wants to disband the police force. Do you support disbanding, and if so, who would then fill the gap?

REDDITT HUDSON, CO-FOUNDER, NATIONAL COALITION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS FOR JUSTICE REFORM & ACCOUNTABILITY: Well, what you just described is kind of a spectrum, a continuum from defunding to abolition of the police around the country. I'll tell you this, when I was on the street, we wound up doing referrals to agencies many times when we responded to calls.

The appropriate agency to help a person with every problem they had that called us out. So it makes sense to me to re-fund or reallocate funding that has been spent on police departments where traditional reform efforts have fallen absolutely short, and we know that systemically, the things that exist in many of our most impoverished communities are the kinds of things that also feed crime and violence.

So, if you start to address those proactively as I've heard a number of people say this morning, you will see I think a better overall relationship between police and communities that they serve because you won't have a need for police to be in those areas anyway. As far as abolition of police, I would have to see those models -- SCIUTTO: Well, but just to be clear -- sorry, go ahead because I was

-- are you saying, take some money away, but don't abolish --

HUDSON: I'm sorry -- I would have to see what those bottles look like because -- well, I'm getting ready to answer you. I would have to see what that model looks like because you have to have something in place to respond to serious incidents in a community. I'm not saying that it can't happen. I'm sure people have thought this out, and that there are models.

I have not studied it enough to be expert in a response on abolishing the police as an effective remedy. What we have we know has not worked. So, it is time for some significant radical movement away from the model that exists. And I'll tell you this, for those who advocate reforms still, the best reform that you can have is accountability. That's the thing that's been missing. Body cameras --


HUDSON: They produced what we thought they would produce, but the accountability on the back-end after seeing Eric Garner get murdered on camera. After seeing George Floyd get murdered on camera. Has to be punishment and accountability consistently for the law enforcement officers who violate --

SCIUTTO: Right --

HUDSON: The human rights, civil rights and civil liberties of the people that they've sworn to serve. That is the --

SCIUTTO: Can you have --

HUDSON: Remedy that's available.


SCIUTTO: Can you have accountability though without disbanding the police force, without disbanding them entirely? Because I mean, for instance, we just talked to the Police Chief of Houston, Art Acevedo who is -- who has been very forward-leaning in terms of reforming police activities, but makes the point that many Americans, many citizens, they would feel unsafe without any police force.

HUDSON: Again, and that's why I say I would have to see what those models look like because there can be effective community-led response in any number of situations. How that would look relative to a serious incident, say the murder of your neighbor or a very violent confrontation taking some place in your community. How that looks, I would have to see because I would think that you would have people in that situation who are trained to respond to something like that, and isn't that very similar to a police force?

So I need to see more on that, but I'm not discounting it. I do think that the thinking that we need radical shift in our criminal justice response model is absolutely on point. I don't think you can legitimately debate that at this point. After what we've seen for generations where police officers murdered with impunity, abuse rights with impunity, with a full expectation that not a damned thing is going to be done about it.

SCIUTTO: You've heard Trump administration officials including the National Security adviser asked if there is systemic racism in the police force and said no. What's your response to that?

HUDSON: That just is -- that is the most ignorant piece of denial that his administration could come up with. Of course, there's systemic racism. Let me give you an example. In St. Louis, we have two different police unions, and police unions are going to be your biggest adversaries to all of what we see as far as the work to remake and recreate and re-imagine our criminal justice response is.

But you have the ethical society which I belong to, predominantly black officers, although it's not exclusively available to black officers, and you have the St. Louis Police Officers Association, two different organizations within police departments, there is racism. We have had black officers beaten so badly by white officers when they were undercover that they've lost their careers.

And when it is out that, that was a police officer that you beat, the Police Officers Association, the white union does nothing to support the black officer. We've had black officers shot by fellow officers in St. Louis after having been identified as a police officer. There was an instance here where a black officer was off duty, he was assisting two white officers who were pursuing a suspect. They were involved --


HUDSON: In a foot pursuit, foot pursuit ends, a third white officer walks up and just shoots the black officer, and they have done nothing to support him. So there's real systemic racism in the police department as there is throughout every system in our country, because it was put in place at the founding of the nation -- man, and that's nobody's fault. Let me just say this real quick.

The way that you can make that discussion accessible for people who are so uncomfortable talking about American racism and its history is to say that the reality is that the conditions we're trying to address pre-exist all of us. You didn't create it, Jim, I didn't create it. We were born into this reality but our responsibility now is to fully address it and get the job done so that future generations are not plagued by the weight and the evils of white supremacy in America.

SCIUTTO: Redditt Johnson, it's a conversation we look forward to having, so many deep questions here, we appreciate you joining us this morning -- Redditt Hudson, sorry.

HUDSON: All right.

HARLOW: CNN's new national poll out this morning that finds President Trump's approval rating dropping, and the former Vice President Joe Biden expanding his national lead. We'll take you through the important numbers ahead.