Return to Transcripts main page
New Video of Deadly Police Encounter with African-American Man Released; Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo Interviewed on Policing Reform; Analysts Examine Possible for Current Protests to Lead to Policing Reform; 7.1 Million Confirmed Cases Worldwide, Nearly 407,000 Deaths; Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) is Interviewed About the Dems' Sweeping Police Reform Legislation. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired June 9, 2020 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Members of Congress will attend Floyd's funeral as well as boxing great Floyd Mayweather, who reportedly is paying for the service.
This morning, the attorney for one of the officers accused in Floyd's death is offering up jaw-dropping defense.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So as George Floyd is laid to rest, another video of a deadly police encounter is just now coming to light. Video has just been released of an incident from Austin, Texas, in March of 2019. Bodycam video shows a black man being tasered while being restrained, and the man can be heard saying, "I can't breathe" twice. He later died. This case just adds to the nationwide conversation about police tactics as cities big and small are taking action to reform their police departments.
CAMEROTA: All right, John, joining us now is Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. Chief, thank you very much. I know it's a very busy day for you in Houston, and we really appreciate your time. So tell us what you expect to happen there in Houston today.
CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: We expect a continuation of what we saw yesterday in Houston where the public will probably be lining the route to the church. And you're going to see a celebration of life and a celebration of a movement that has been born by the death of George Floyd for systemic change in the way law enforcement agencies do business, and with the way we talk about the challenges in society here in the United States.
CAMEROTA: As you know, at the same time that there are all these protests and that people are mourning today, the case continues against the four officers who are charged in George Floyd's death. And I don't know if you had a chance to tune in to CNN last night, but one of the attorneys for one of the officers, not the officer Chauvin with his knee on the neck of George Floyd, but another one of the officers came on CNN and basically made the argument that if any members of the public had a problem with what they were witnessing, they should have intervened. Let me just play that moment for you. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EARL GRAY, ATTORNEY FOR FORMER MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICER: If all of these people say why didn't my client intercede, well, if the public is there and they're so in an uproar about this, they didn't intercede either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Chief, do you want to see the public intervene when they see something that your officers are doing that they don't like?
ACEVEDO: No, I have been asked that question by a lot of young people in Houston during the marches, and what I've told them is the best thing to do is actually make sure that you record what's going on and very loudly protest and have someone call 911 and say you need a supervisor here now, this is what's happening. We're recording it, we need you here now.
And so I think it's a little disingenuous. The public isn't trained to get involved in these types of situations. Those officers were trained. Those officers had a duty to intervene. And I'm glad that here in Houston we've had that policy and we've had a policy against manipulating the neck for many years, and let's hope that moving forward those policies are nationwide, not just in some departments.
CAMEROTA: OK, let's talk about that, because yesterday the Congressional Black Caucus put out their ideas for reform, for what they would like to see nationwide. Here are some of the bullet points of that. The ban on chokeholds, as you have just been describing, a national police misconduct registry, incentives for states to mandate racial bias training, restrictions on transfer of military grade equipment, requirement of federal uniformed police officers to wear bodycams, and some anti-lynching legislation. Is there anything that you see there, chief, that you feel or your officers feel would handcuff them from being able to do their jobs effectively?
ACEVEDO: We're going to support and advocate for a lot of those positions. I have been working with Sheila Jackson Lee here locally. But the militarization piece, we've got to slow down one second, because it's not about the equipment. It's about proper training, proper policy, proper oversight, proper supervision, because imagine this country we live in where we have the active shooters that go out, look at Dayton, Ohio, that wasn't -- that suspect was about to enter a very crowded nightclub with 100 drum magazine, with 100 round drum magazine. And an officer with the patrol rifle which some people would consider a military type weapon was able to stop him, take him down before he killed many others.
So we need to just slow down. Let's have a conversation, those big old MRAPs that people say we should have them. This is Texas. We have a lot of natural disasters. And during hurricane Harvey it was those vehicles that we used to rescue people from high water.
[08:05:00] So let's please, I urge this country, let's not be kneejerk. Let's be thoughtful, because at the end of the day we need to do things to keep the public safe. And that starts with having the policies that are critical policies be adopted nationwide across all 18,000 police departments, and not just progressive ones.
CAMEROTA: Chief Art Acevedo, we really appreciate getting your perspective on this. Obviously, we'll be watching Houston today.
ACEVEDO: Thank you.
BERMAN: All right, joining us now, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip. Also with us, CNN political commentator Charles Blow. He's a columnist at "The New York Times." And Abby, I want to start with you, because something you said to me earlier this morning has stuck with me, which is that one of the major changes is that the default position in the country now seems to be for reform. You were speaking specifically of policing, but you can extend that. The default position in this country seems to be for change, which brings me to some major new reporting from Barbara Starr overnight at the Pentagon, reporting that the Secretary of the Army and the Defense Secretary are said to be open to holding bipartisan discussions to change the name of major military bases that are named after Confederate generals and Confederate leaders. I'm talking about Fort Benning, I'm talking about Fort Bragg, talking about major bases.
And this morning we just got ahold of an op-ed written by retired General David Petraeus who say, yes, that's a good idea. He says we do not live in a country to which Braxton Bragg, Henry Benning, or Robert E. Lee can serve as an inspiration. Acknowledging this fact is imperative. Should it fail to do so, the Army, which prides itself on leading the way in perilous times, will be left to fight a rearguard action against a more inclusive American future, one that fulfills the nation's founding promise." That is from David Petraeus who led the U.S. military effort in Iraq at the end there. That's extraordinary, to see the discussion move so far in that direction.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is extraordinary. And I think that often it's really, people are hesitant to assume that there is more change happening until it happens, but I think we need to look at what evidence we actually have of where public sentiment is, what is happening at the ground level. And I think what we see is that public sentiment is starting to shift in a very clear and dramatic fashion.
In about five years, public opinion has shifted about 20 to 25 points on the question of whether there is a systematic problem with the racial disparity in policing. That public opinion has shifted in our recent CNN poll out yesterday. Race relations was up there with health care and the economy as a top issue for Americans.
And I don't have the answers about why. I don't know why this George Floyd moment has pushed us to this point. But it's clear that the American public believes there's a problem that needs to be resolved. They are willing for the first time in a majority fashion to recognize that there are underlying racial disparities in terms of policing.
And when we look at some of these issues, like whether we are naming military installations after Confederate generals, whether we are erecting or tearing down Confederate statues, we have to remember and keep in mind these are neo-Confederate memorials to the Confederacy that popped up during the Civil Rights movement as a way to push back against giving added equal rights to black Americans in this country. And the fact that they are being rethought and, in some cases, brought down is a testament to the fact finally, perhaps, we're at a point where we are ready to let go of some of those things that bring out the darkest parts of our past.
CAMEROTA: Charles, can you hear me?
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I can.
CAMEROTA: Oh, good. So your thoughts on everything that has come to the fore over these past two weeks?
BLOW: Well, that's a big question, Alisyn. I'm very encouraged by the protests. I'm encouraged by the magnitude of them. I'm encouraged by the -- it goes back to the scope of them, that they're international. I'm encouraged by the -- by the racial mix of them, that some of the protests are majority white, actually, in some places. I'm encouraged by the fact that they're so young. But at the same time, I'm waiting to see how power structures respond to them. The power structure in this country is still majority white.
Some of the things that we're talking about are kind of symbolic things that don't cost anything. Taking down a Confederate statue doesn't cost anything. Changing the name of a military base doesn't cost anything. It makes us feel good. It is a change. But it doesn't disrupt power structures at all. The reason that black people are disadvantaged in this country is because power structures have ensured that that will be the case. Locking up black people was both about controlling bodies but also about money. Police aggressively policing black neighborhoods was about controlling black bodies, but it was also about money. If you look at a city budget, they are banking on those interactions to produce money from fines and penalties.
Political access, influence, also costs. And so that's a power structure issue. The reason that you have all these cops in these black neighborhoods is always about money and power. And so until we get to the point we can talk about those things, I'm not sure how -- what the moment means. Only history will tell us that.
BERMAN: And also, Charles, and you have written about this, how long this moment will last. It's been two weeks or so since the death of George Floyd, and people want to see change right now, but you remind us look the Montgomery Bus Boycott was more than 300 days. This needs to be a sustained push.
BLOW: Right. Montgomery Bus Boycott was 382 days, and they were not going to stop. They didn't run out of steam on 382 days. The Supreme Court ruled those laws of segregation on those buses should be unconstitutional, and then they stopped. I'm not -- I'm not always sure in our new movements whether or people have that kind of stamina. They didn't have it in Occupy Wall Street. The Women's March didn't have it in a sustained way. They had it -- it was a great moment to see it, but didn't have it in that way. Ferguson didn't have it in that way.
And there are a lot of things pushing against it in modern culture, which is that narratives can change very quickly. We have social media, and we are very distracted in a way. So I'm waiting to see. I hope that this movement lasts, but I cannot be sure of that.
CAMEROTA: Well, often to your point, after a funeral, sometimes that feels like a resolution, Abby, and sometimes people feel as though they move on. But on the flip side, there continues to be what feels like, in the morning, at least, an endless stream of the bodycam videos that show people of color, men, saying I can't breathe. I mean, we have another one coming up right after this of a family where a bodycam video from police -- actually, a cell cam video from a witness has captured yet another case that feels a lot like George Floyd. And so it doesn't feel like the movement will end right at this funeral.
PHILLIP: Yes. I think that's a really important point. "The Washington Post" has been tracking the police killings over the years, basically since Ferguson, and they've found that after years and years of all of these different videos coming out, it hasn't stopped or slowed the pace of people being killed in interactions with police officers. And so I do think that even while there's so much more attention being brought to these issues, it hasn't actually stopped the problem from happening.
And I also think that realistically we have to contemplate the possibility that even if there are these changes that activists are pushing for, it may not also resolve the issue that we're having. I was struck by what the Police Chief Art Acevedo said earlier in your program, and he said basically that he believes that this has to be nationwide, a blanket change, because there are 18,000 police districts in this country that all have different rules that they abide by. And I do think that there's a growing realization that these kinds of piecemeal changes, one district here, one district there, is not going to do it.
And to Charles' point, the underlying structure that holds up policing is going to be very difficult to change. We 'e talking police unions, we're talking cities that are cash strapped, that rely on funds that come from, essentially, interactions between the police and people.
So, it's going to be tough but it might also have to be nationwide and that kind of push is going to be really quite difficult.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Abby, Charles, thank you very much.
We heard Alisyn talking about this a second ago. New video in a case from Tacoma, Washington, that has parallels to George Floyd's death, including these three words -- I can't breathe. That's next.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, a major milestone in the coronavirus pandemic. Globally, cases have topped 7 million, with more than 400,000 deaths.
And this morning, Israel has slammed the brakes on reopening after a spike in new cases there.
CNN has reporters all around the world to bring you the latest developments.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem, where Israel has stopped its planned reopening, already at this point, schools are back in session, malls are open and restaurants are reopening. But now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he's hitting the emergency brake on reopening after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
As of about two weeks ago, there were only 22 new infections a day or so. On Monday, there were 174 new infections according to the government, the highest number in at least a month. And it's because of that sharp rise that the next phase of reopening, which would have been the resumption of train service, as well as the reopening of music halls and cultural venues, that is now on hold for at least a week.
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Shasta Darlington in Sao Paulo.
Over the weekend, President Jair Bolsonaro was accused of trying to hide the severity of the coronavirus pandemic after the health ministry stopped reporting cumulative figures for both deaths and cases. Well, faced with widespread backlash, on Monday, they reverted to providing comprehensive figures, more than 15,000 new infections, bringing the total to over 700,000.
This comes after Bolsonaro threatened to withdraw Brazil from the World Health Organization over what he called political and ideological bias.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matthew Chance, and this morning, Russia is lifting some of its tough pandemic restrictions, abandoning measures to electronically monitor residents in Moscow, allowing some businesses to reopen, and easing border controls. But it's doing this despite coronavirus infections remaining stubbornly high. Latest official figures show more than 8,500 new infections recorded in the past 24 hours alone. Russian authorities are declaring victory against the virus, but critics say the Kremlin is trying to bolster its popularity ahead of a public vote next month on extending Vladimir Putin's rule. IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ivan Watson
in Hong Kong.
New Zealand is celebrating. They have detected no active cases of coronavirus for the first time since the end of February. So, all of the restrictions have been lifted on schools, workplaces, social gatherings with the exception of international travel. Noncitizens are really allowed in, except for some notable exemptions for, for example, James Cameron, the director, who's been allowed into the island nation to film the sequel of the "Avatar" blockbuster movie.
CAMEROTA: Our thanks to our correspondents for all of that.
So, the plan outlined by House Democrats to crack down on police excessive force does not include anything about defunding police. The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus explains their plan, next.
BERMAN: A private funeral for George Floyd begins in hours in Houston. Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass will be there. She is the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Congresswoman, thank you very much for being with us.
I know this funeral will be an emotional moment for many Americans. It's also in some ways the impetus for this extensive new police reform package that you're a big part of putting on the floor in the House of Representatives.
Just so people can see what's in it. It calls for a ban on chokeholds, national police misconduct registry, incentives for states to mandate racial bias training, restrictions on transfer of military grade equipment and it goes on and on.
Not on this list is what I think is the most significant things here which is lowering the bar for the standards at which police can be prosecuted for things, changing the standard from a willful violation of a suspect's right to a reckless disregard.
Why is that important?
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Well, because right now it's very, very difficult for people who have been injured to sue the department. Just like it's difficult to prosecute, it's difficult to fire a police officer.
And one of the things that we're calling for overall in the bill that you didn't mention is really raising the level of policing in the United States. Having police officers certified, having national standards, why is it that a chokehold is OK in one city and not another? Having police officers having -- continuing education and getting recertified, like many, many professors -- many, many professions. You can be a doctor, a lawyer, a beautician. A lot of people have to go through certification.
So, raising the standard. And I think that will be -- that will make a huge difference.
One of the things that we're really trying to address is police culture. I don't believe that any police chief wants to hire somebody that has been accused of abuse or inappropriate behavior from another department. But right now, that's the way it is.
So, we believe that there should be a national registry. Tamir Rice would have graduated high school this month. He was killed when he was 12 years old by an officer that had been fired from another department and he lied on his application.
And so, raising the standards, looking at policing in general in the United States, and lifting up the level.
BERMAN: I've read through the legislation. I did not see any calls to defund the police or dismantle the police. Why isn't that in there?
BASS: Well, because I don't think that that's the appropriate thing to do.
But one of the things that is in the bill that I think speaks to that is grants that would be given to community-based organizations so they could come up with innovative solutions to address problems in the community. And I also believe that this helps police officers.
For example, you often hear from police officers, they're not social workers. Why should they have to deal with an issue related to homelessness or mental illness? We have a jail in Los Angeles that the majority of the people inside the jail actually are mentally ill.
And so, maybe there is an opportunity now to look at what looks goes on in the different communities and maybe there are different solutions, rather than policing. And so, the opportunity to have the grants to community-based organizations is a good start.
I think the other thing that activists are getting at is the balance of budgets in cities. And so, why is so much money spent on law enforcement? Well, maybe if we addressed some of the social and economic issues, we wouldn't have to spend so much money.
And so, the call to reinvest, that certainly happened in my own city, where the mayor has cut the budget, but he's going to reinvest it in other problems and solving issues in the community, rather than looking at the police to solve every problem. You hear police officers complain about that all the time.
BERMAN: The president hasn't commented on your extensive proposals. Instead, he's seizing on what you're hearing from some in the grassroots, the calls to defund and dismantle. He says the radical left Democrats have gone crazy.