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Minneapolis City Council Vows To Dismantle Police Department; Effort To Defund Police Departments Gains Momentum; Trump And D.C. Mayor Intensify Feud Over Protests. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 8, 2020 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: It cannot be reformed.

[07:00:1]

Lawmakers are promising to create a new system of public safety, but we don't know exactly what that looks like.

And in other cities, there's a growing push to defund police departments. Today, Democrats in Congress are expected to release a sweeping reform package designed to stop excessive force.

And in just hours, the fired police officer who kneeled on George Floyd's neck will make his first court appearance on murder and manslaughter charges. There will also be a public viewing for George Floyd in Houston, where he grew up.

And CNN has learned that former Vice President Joe Biden will meet with Floyd's family today ahead of tomorrow's funeral.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: And new this morning, hot off the presses, a brand-new CNN poll shows the public reaction to the president and an element of frankly public disgust over the president's behavior following the death of George Floyd. His approval rating has plummeted in the last month.

And at this moment, Joe Biden has a 14-point lead over President Trump. Obviously, this is a snapshot in time. Behind those numbers, our poll shows an overwhelming majority of Americans support peaceful protests that we have seen.

Large marches were held across the country over the weekend, including New York, where a curfew was lifted one day early. And today, New York City begins to reopen in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people will be able to return to work today.

We're going to speak with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, coming up.

CAMEROTA: Okay, John. Joining us now is Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender. Ms. Bender, we're so happy to have you this morning, because the move by the city council certainly got a lot of people's attention last night and we're so happy to have you clarify this. So what are you trying to do? Are you hoping by dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department that you will be getting rid of the police department?

LISA BENDER, PRESIDENT MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL: I think in Minneapolis, watching George Floyd's death, and the four -- the actions of the four police officers that were involved has been a huge wake-up call for so many in Minneapolis to see what many already knew, which is that our police department is not keeping every member of our community safe.

And so I think step one for us is to tell the truth. Nine council members from communities all across the city of all different backgrounds, standing together to tell the truth and say, 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. And now the hard work begins for us to rebuild systems that really work to keep all of our communities safe.

CAMEROTA: But to be clear, you're not talking about reform. The word, dismantle, is intentionally different than reform. This is more than reform. This is dismantling. I mean, activists who support this are calling this a police-free future.

BENDER: Yes. And, you know, a lot of us were asked if we could imagine a future without police back in 2017, when we were running for office. And I answered yes to that question. To me, that future is a long way away and it would take an enormous amount of investment in things that we know work to keep people safe.

I mean, for a lot of folks in our community, stable housing is a safety issue. Having access to healthcare is a safety issue. And so, having -- you know, I think one thing folks are asking is to stop investing so much money in this militarized police force and instead invest in the things that our community really needs.

So, you know, I know the statement was bold and I stand by that bold statement, but the work ahead of us will be long, it will include every member of our community. It has to. And, you know, I think we have very immediate things, we have a state action against our police department, which gives us legal mechanisms in the very short-term.

You know, there are lessons from all over the country, all over the world that we're looking to take immediate steps while we work toward building the systems that we would need to imagine that future.

CAMEROTA: Do you understand that the word, dismantle, or police-free also makes some people nervous, for instance? What if in the middle of night, my home is broken into? Who do I call?

BENDER: Yes, I mean, hear that loud and clear from a lot of my neighbors. And I know -- and myself, too, and I know that that comes from a place of privilege. Because for those of us for whom the system is working, I think we need to step back and imagine what it would feel like to already live in that reality where calling the police may mean more harm is done.

[07:05:01]

And so in the very immediate, we have to lean in to whatever changes we can make in our existing police department. You know, I think we look to cities like Camden, New Jersey, that completely restructured their department, as we build up systems.

And we've already done that. We are not starting from scratch. We have invested in community-based safety strategies. We have knowledge in our community across the city. We've done an analysis of all the reasons people call 911 and have looked up ways we can shift the response away from our armed police officers into a more appropriate response for mental health calls, for some domestic violence calls, for health-related issues.

And so the groundwork is laid already in Minneapolis for us to build on that, to learn from folks around the world, but really also to listen to our community and put those community voices front and center, as we build up those systems even further.

CAMEROTA: On a political point, as a Democrat, are you worried that you have just handed President Trump a great talking point or slogan or battle cry for his re-election to be able to say, see, Democrats want to get rid of your police? First, they come to take away your guns, as he says. Now, they're taking away your police officers. Does that concern you?

BENDER: You know, that's why I said at the beginning that it starts with telling the truth. And I think we've been afraid of a lot of things, of those political dynamics of what would happen in our city, you know, to have our police force hearing these kinds of words. And that fear is what we have to really work through, because, again, that's the fear that so many in our community are facing. That's the fear that we see, you know, from George Floyd's family, or the family of Jamar Clark or Justine Damon, who were also killed by Minneapolis Police, who have told us, we never want to see this happen again.

And so the efforts we have taken so far to stop this, to make sure no one is killed in this way have not worked. So our statement is to try something new.

CAMEROTA: City Council President Lisa Bender in Minneapolis, we reallyappreciate you coming on to help explain and clarify all of this. We will speak again, I am sure.

BENDER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. John?

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, CNN Political Commentator Karen Finney, and Astead Herndon, National Politics Reporter for The New York Times.

And, Astead, I think it's important that Lisa Bender, who we just heard from the Minneapolis City Council, seemed to be saying a few different things at once there. Because when you refer to what happened in Camden, New Jersey, what happened there, was that they closed the city police department and the county took over. But there was still law enforcement there.

At the same time, Astead, she also said, she can envision some future without policing, which is very different than what happened in Camden, New Jersey.

I guess what's underlying it though is this new discussion that policing has to fundamentally change.

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think there's some kind of macro point that they're trying to make and there's certainly clarity in the specifics. In the bigger framing, they are rejecting the kind of incremental reforms that we have seen, specifically from Democrats for a long time now. We have seen Democratic politicians embrace the words of acknowledging systemic racism, but not necessarily the actions or solutions that will give systemic results and change things on a larger level.

This is the Minneapolis City Council trying to say they're doing so. But when you obviously -- when you ask those more specific questions of what does that look like, how is that implemented, they have not gotten that far.

And so there is a lot of functions that the police do that are outside of kind of investigation or prevention of violent crime. It seems as if they're trying to say that they want to find new ways to do those public safety aspects that are outside of the department, to shrink the department. But the kind of police-free future that she's isolating is not something they have clearly worked out and not something that seems to be imminent.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Karen, on the political side, the polls are not turning in President Trump's favor at the moment. The latest CNN poll just out an hour ago shows that a majority of -- well, basically, let's start with Joe Biden approval is up 14 points above President Trump's at the moment. This is the choice for president, 55 percent of respondents want Joe Biden, 41 percent want President Trump. And then in terms of his -- President Trump's own approval ratings or disapproval, the disapproval of how he has handled all of the unrest has also gone up.

And so, I have the same question for you that I just asked -- okay. So here's President Trump's response to the protest has been harmful, 65 percent of respondents, helpful, 26 percent of respondents. And so do you worry, Karen, that all this talk of police-free future will help President Trump turn those numbers around?

[07:10:04]

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. I have two concerns. As a citizen, I worry that if we -- if there aren't clear details about what Democrats are trying to do or what these proposals would do, we could end up with a situation where we have vigilante groups, and that's not good for anybody. And let's remember, you know, black people want to feel safe too.

So, yes, the concern that I have is that it does give Trump potentially a rallying cry, not just for his base, because they're always with him, but also for those moderate, particularly white voters, who have been leaning away from him increasingly. We've seen this particularly with suburban white women. If they now believe and he is able to convince them that Democrats don't care about keeping them safe, and I'm not saying that that's what the proposal says, I'm saying, that's how he could spin it, that's very problematic.

So I think it's really important that Minneapolis and the other cities around this country are very clear about what they're trying to do and I'm hoping that the legislation that the CDC proposes today will help us to be able to drive the conversation, envisioning what reform really looks like, so that we turn this moment into a real movement.

BERMAN: Right. And the congressional black caucus, the legislation there putting forward does not call for dismantling police departments. Joe Biden is not calling for dismantling police departments. That is not the language that's being discussed at the national level in the Democratic Party.

Astead, when you dig into this poll, it's fascinating. I know the 14- point Joe Biden lead will get the headlines there. The real interesting stuff though is underneath. When you look at how the public is reacting to the way the president has responded to the death of George Floyd, right now, race. When you talk about, what is the number-one issue facing the country right now, race relations is actually leading. That is not something you normally see. It's ahead of the economy. You see coronavirus at 31 percent.

And specifically on the handling of things in the last week, approval/disapproval, the president's approval rating on his handling of the George Floyd crisis or the aftermath is terrible. Across the races, it's just terrible.

So when he has tried to lean into the issue of law and order, when he had the peaceful demonstrators of the White House they'd pushed away so we could walk across the street for a photo-op, the public reaction has been very clear here, they do not like what they're seeing.

HERNDON: Yes, and I think that's important. And that's one of the reasons why it's so critical to separate the president's base and his hardcore supporters versus electorate or larger, even the community that helped elect him to president. Those are not all synonymous things. And his response to both the virus and to the protests has not been universally liked by any of those groups, besides his base.

I was in Georgia earlier last week, in kind of the most conservative county in the state. And you could talk to people even there who are hardcore Trump supporters. And they would start off by saying that what happened to George Floyd was a tragedy and I wish he would lay off the tweets a little much.

I would say here that over and over and over again, even from people who were supporting him and supporting him and plan to support him in November. I think that you cannot underestimate the gradations we see along the electorate with that line. When you go to moderate or folks who are more reluctantly backing him in 2016, that exhaustion with the president's conduct has often led to backing some midterm -- backing some Democrats in the midterms and some curiosity about Joe Biden. The president had a chance to reset on this point and he didn't take it.

BERMAN: Mitt Romney marched in a Black Lives Matter parade yesterday in Washington, 2020 Republican nominee, if you want to talk about significant symbolic moments. Astead Herndon, Karen Finney, great to have you with us this morning. Thank you very much.

The discussion about defunding police, again, what does it mean and how will powerful police unions respond? That's next.

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[07:15:00]

CAMEROTA: This morning, the congressional black caucus will unveil a new bill aimed at reforming law enforcement. It comes as the Minneapolis City Council proposes a plan to dismantle their police department.

Joining us now is Cheryl Dorsey, she's a retired LAPD Police Sergeant. We also have Sean Smoot, he is the Director of the Police Benevolent and Protective Association in Illinois. He's also a former member of the Obama administration's Of Obama's task force on 21st century policing. Great to have both of you and both of your different perspectives.

Ms. Dorsey, I want to start with you. When you hear about what the Minneapolis City Council is proposing, dismantling, I mean, it is more than reform. This is not just another word for reform. It is dismantling their police department. What are your thoughts?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: Well, listen, this isn't the first time that a police department has been dismantled. That happened over in the Ferguson, Missouri, before Ferguson, it was another police department. And so if you have officers who are inclined to misbehave and you have a police chief who coddles, shelters and condones it, then it's time for a move in a different direction.

CAMEROTA: And, Ms. Dorsey, before I let you go, what does that mean? What would dismantling a city police force mean? How could they continue to protect the public?

DORSEY: Well, it could mean a couple of things. It could mean giving jurisdiction to a neighboring county, sheriff's, certainly, that's happened in Los Angeles. There are parts of Los Angeles that are carved up and are serviced by L.A. County Sheriff's Department. So I would imagine that something like that could happen. I mean, you're not going to just dismantle it without having something to put in place immediately, so why not put something that already exists and is working efficiently.

[07:20:02]

CAMEROTA: So, Mr. Smoot, is that how you interpret this also?

SEAN SMOOT, DIRECTOR, POLICE BENEVOLENT AND PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION OF ILLINOIS: Somewhat. I mean, I think when people talk about dismantling and use that term, it's a bit of a misnomer. I think what they're really talking about is reorganization and re-envisioning the way public safety services are provided.

I will tell you that there are a lot of things that police are asked to do that they weren't asked to do 15 or 20 years ago. For instance, specifically, and this is a big issue in policing, is responding to people who are suffering from mental illness. And when that occurs, police officers would much rather have a community-based resource that could go respond to folks who are having a mental health crisis or are suffering from an addiction issue.

It's really about adopting more of a revision of differential response and responding with the resources that can be best utilized to keep people safe, including the community members and police officers.

CAMEROTA: That's a really good point. I mean, that is what they're talking about. That if they redirect funds to mental health professionals, away from police, then some of these issues could be resolved by the people who are steeped in the expertise rather than, as they say, strangers with guns showing up in the community.

But, Ms. Dorsey, let's get to a dicier, an even dicier subject, if possible, particularly given you both here, and that's the role of police unions. From where you sit, do you believe that police unions have been an impediment to reform?

DORSEY: From where I sit, as I talk to those in my community and folks on the police department who look like me, absolutely. Listen, we've seen time and time again, presidents of the Fraternal Order Police, Officers Association, as well as of my own, Los Angeles Police Protective League, who seemingly have not seen the murder of a black man or woman that doesn't excite them.

Police unions are lobbying arms of the police department and they put up great resistance. Whenever the community members along with legislators try to put forth anything that would curtail, rein in, or create accountability. And that's at the end of the day what folks want, accountability, officers to be held accountable when they violate policy or commit crimes.

And, listen, I'm saying that's a small minority, but let's call a thing a thing.

CAMEROTA: Mr. Smoot?

SMOOTH: Well, I think, certainly, some unions have. There are other unions that have actually been proponents of reform efforts, if you look at laws that were passed in 2015, both in Wisconsin and Illinois, for instance, requiring the independent investigation of an officer- involved death.

In Illinois, we passed a tremendous reform package bill that included changes in training, requiring changing on things like implicit bias and cultural competence, dealing with people with mental illness and addiction issues. Those are things that were never in place before, and it was actually my organization and the Fraternal Order of Police in Illinois that drafted the legislation and lobbied to move it through Illinois' general assembly.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, that's good to hear -- I mean, I hear that you're saying, obviously, I can't paint with a -- no one can paint with a broad brush stroke, but then when you hear this leaked email from the president of the Union -- the union president in Minneapolis, who is referring to the protesters as a terrorist movement, what do you say to those presidents of unions?

SMOOT: Well, I would say that members of the police department in Minneapolis probably elected the wrong person to be their representative and their president. And I think what we're going to see as a result of that is some pretty severe reactions by the city, some of which one of your previous guests just talked about.

I think, you know, leadership is an important thing, whether you're an elected union leader or whether you're a chief of police or an elected official. And leadership comes with responsibility and a responsibility is to do -- to -- in policing in particular, is to do what's best for your members and what's best for ultimately what their mission is, which is serving and protecting the community.

CAMEROTA: Sean Smoot, Sheryl Dorsey, we really appreciate both of your perspectives on this. Thank you for being here.

SMOOT: Thank you.

DORSEY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: John?

BERMAN: All right. A remarkable moment in Washington, D.C. Former Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney marched in this Black Lives Matter protest. The National Guard is withdrawing from the nation's capital this morning, as the mayor of D.C. and the president intensify their feud.

[07:25:02]

CNN's Boris Sanchez joins us now live from what is now Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. And we are standing on the mural that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser commissioned by artists, clearly sending a message to President Trump, Black Lives Matter, right in front of the White House. But perhaps nothing speaks to their feud better than the barrier that's been erected around the White House complex. On one side, we've seen military police head-to-toe in riot gear. Our president tweeting that police should get tougher. On the other hand, we're seeing protesters use that barrier effectively as a canvas for their protest signs and a mayor who's willing to take their message directly to the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Protesters flooding Washington, D.C. again this weekend, marching on the newly named Black Lives Matter Plaza, right across from the White House. Large yellow letters painted on the street reading Black Lives Matter, art commissioned by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, after days of feuding with President Trump.

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D-DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.): People from around the globe have called us and thanked us for acknowledging black humanity and black lives.

SANCHEZ: The feud erupting a week ago, on May 29th, after protesters clashed with law enforcement outside the White House. Mayor Bowser meeting with advisers the following morning and hosting a conference call with the police chief. Meantime, President Trump firing off a barrage of tweets, some directed at the mayor. One that particularly upset her, a tweet saying that if protesters breached the fence outside the White House, quote, they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs and most ominous weapons. The language, a reminder of police attacks against civil rights protesters in the 1960s.

The president also wrongly claimed that the mayor withheld D.C. police from assisting Secret Service. Bowser firing back with her own tweets, slamming Trump for hiding behind a fence in the White House.

On Monday, June 1st, after a night of some unrest in the city, the president wanted to deploy up to 10,000 active duty troops to American cities, including Washington, but defense officials objected, sources told CNN. Attorney General Bill Barr now denying that claim.

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: No, he did not demand that.

The decision was made to have at the ready and on hand in the vicinity, some regular troops.

SANCHEZ: Bowser declaring a 7:00 P.M. curfew for D.C. that day, but before the curfew, military police used chemical gas and rubber projectiles, pushing back protesters to allow Trump to take photos at the damaged St. John's Episcopal Church.

On Thursday, Mayor Bowser asked Trump to pull National Guard and unidentified federal law enforcement from D.C.

BOWSER: What we saw last week was basically an invasion of our city.

SANCHEZ: President Trump finally tweeting on Sunday he was ordering the National Guard to start withdrawing from the nation's capital, but only after calling Mayor Bowser grossly incompetent in an earlier tweet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Now, John, just two quick things I wanted to point out. This portion of the mural was not commissioned by the mayor. It says, defund the police. It was added over the weekend by some activists. She has been unclear about whether or not she's going to have this portion altered or removed.

And lastly, there was a very special visitor to the mural this weekend, Congressman John Lewis, who in December was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, came out here, the civil rights icon saying he wanted to see the mural himself, John?

BERMAN: Incredibly powerful to see the pictures of him, John Lewis, who has been through so much standing there. Boris, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

A protester shot in the face with a rubber bullet by police is now considering legal action. She tells us her story, next.

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[07:30:00]

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