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NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea is Interviewed about NYC Violence; Rose Parade Canceled; South Carolina Governor Wants In- Person Learning Options; United Shades of America Returns. Aired 9:30- 10a

Aired July 16, 2020 - 09:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Brooklyn Bridge Wednesday. That is their most senior uniformed officer.

This follows an alarming wave of violent crime across the city. There were more than 50 shootings this past weekend alone compared to last year. Shootings were up a staggering 60 percent. The total number of murders and burglaries also rising in the city.

Joining me now to discuss this and other issues is the commissioner of the NYPD, Dermot Shea.

Commissioner, thanks for taking the time this morning.

COMMISSIONER DERMOT SHEA, NYPD: Hey, Jim, good morning. Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: So these numbers, just alarming. 634 shootings in New York this year compared to 394 this time last year, a 60 percent increase as we noted. Burglaries and murders also up sharply.

In your best judgment, what is behind these increases?

SHEA: Jim, there's a lot of things going on. There's a perfect storm, if you will. But here's the facts, and there's a lot of agendas and there's a lot of politics involved and people distorting things. Here's some facts that are indisputable.

There's a massive decarceration that has occurred recently, for a number of factors, whether it's laws, whether it's Covid, that is a fact. And individuals that used to be incarcerated, for a number of those reasons, are out on the street.

At the same exact time, we have the courts, despite what anyone says, believe me, they are shut down effectively. We have new arraignments happening. We have preliminary hearings happening. But we don't have grand juries. And we need them. We need them. That can have a significant impact.

So when you put those two factors together, and now you add in an anti-police sentiment and laws that certainly do not help the police, it is a toxic, toxic environment. We're not putting our hands up, Jim.


SHEA: You just mentioned the incident on the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday. I just left a COM -- I just left a COM STAT meeting downstairs where the chief and the lieutenant, two of the four injured --


SHEA: Are sitting downstairs talking about shootings in Brooklyn and how do we get dangerous people off the street. Back to work. It's inspiring. It really is.

SCIUTTO: I don't doubt -- no, and I don't doubt their commitment. But as you mentioned, you mentioned him, Chief Terence Monahan, who was one of those injured. He told WINS that officers feel fearful if they take proactive steps to arrest, that they might be charged. He used the term, they feel handcuffed. I wonder if you agree. Do officers under your command feel handcuffed now?

SHEA: I think they absolutely do. And if somebody thinks that's not the case, I think their head is in the sand.

SCIUTTO: So what's behind that feeling of being handcuffed? I mean is it -- is it concerns about being caught on video? We've also heard that they feel that political leaders are not backing them.

SHEA: I think it's all of the above, Jim. I think, listen, you have to recognize what's going on. The best police department in the world, as recently as a year ago, we were being heralded for how we kept this city safe. And now you throw in some -- some terrible incidents, you throw in a lot of agendas, stoking fires. There's some truth, too. But we all have to come together here and decipher the truth from the agendas and figure a way out of this and not compete --

SCIUTTO: Well, give me an example of what you're talking about there in terms of agendas, because you know that you have -- listen, you have nationwide protests about police using excessive force when it comes to -- when it comes particularly to black Americans. So what's true and what's not true in your view is my question?

SHEA: Well, here's what I think, that there is absolutely valid causes about what came out of Minneapolis. And I think we all have to recognize this. And I think we are.

But I think that people are using that just cause to advance agendas. And agendas that existed long before the incident in Minneapolis. And we have to do things and we have to do things -- look, examine things and how we police across this country, but you also have to listen to law enforcement and you have to do it safe. And you can't have a 1 percent driving agendas that has a negative impact on the 99 percent, particularly on people of color in inner cities. And that's what's happening right now.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about a particular step that you took. You disbanded the anti-crime unit which is plainclothes officers and their focus on getting illegal guns off the streets. You now have some black leaders in the city saying, they actually want that unit back. Is -- is that something you're considering?

SHEA: You know, listen, I consider anything, Jim, to keep New Yorkers safe. But that's a talking point that people are throwing out. The anti-crime unit was in uniform for a month before I did that press conference because of the protests that were going on. People -- people don't even realize that.

We have to police differently in this city, using evidence, using the community with us, building trust.


I think all of that is very important. And we have to get guns off the street. And we can do it. And we can absolutely do it. Those officers, the majority of them, are still in the exact same commands, driving around, patrolling the streets, trying to keep people safe. But it goes, Jim, much beyond the anti-crime teams. And that's what many people don't want to recognize and don't want to talk about.

SCIUTTO: So tell me --

SHEA: When you take about -- well, you mentioned it, there are laws that are handcuffing the police, Jim. And the police need to support --

SCIUTTO: But what about laws -- as you know, there's debate still ongoing on Capitol Hill, no agreement, sadly, on police reform. There's also debate about laws needing to protect -- protect citizens, right, from the excessive use of force. What do you see that needs to be changed in terms of police practices and what's gone too far?

SHEA: Well, Jim, I think that if you examine New York City, there has been a chipping away of tools that the police department uses. And I think those discussions are good. I think they're helpful. But I think you have to examine each one and what's the impact on public safety.

And I think that we have gone too far. I think we've crossed a tipping point on many levels in terms of taking tools away from the police. And, I mean, that these last two months are just a completely different situation where it's -- it's a toxic environment.

But you also have, Jim, last week we had a federal lawsuit filed, I believe, by legal aid to stop the courts from holding hearings in person. But people need to step up now.


SHEA: This is impacting public safety. We have many, and I won't give you a number. Believe me, we have many violent people that we could get off the streets as soon as we start convening grand juries. They stopped (INAUDIBLE) --

SCIUTTO: The president specifically has blamed Democrat run cities for an increase in violence. What's your response?

SHEA: Jim, I'm not even -- I'm not -- listen, I think that people -- let's move from the left, let's move from the right. Let's come to the middle where the sane people are at this point and let's forget politics and keep people safe. And that's what everyone should be concentrating on.

SCIUTTO: Well, Commissioner Dermot Shea, we appreciate the work you're doing there. We know you've got a lot on your plate. Thanks for joining the broadcast this morning.

SHEA: (INAUDIBLE) always, always thank you for having me on.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Such a good -- such an important interview.

All right, the annual Rose Parade in California is canceled and this hasn't happened really since World War II. This as the state sees its highest -- second highest single day spike in new cases. We'll take you there for a live report, next.



HARLOW: Welcome back.

The coronavirus pandemic is once again forcing the cancellation of a beloved event. This time it is California's 2021 Rose Parade. It won't happen for the first time since World War II.

SCIUTTO: So many stories like this around the country.

This news as California's rate of spread shows no signs of slowing down.

CNN's Stephanie Elam, she is in Los Angeles with more.

And, again, it's remarkable to watch California. They had it under control it seemed, began to reopen, and now we're seeing this.

So what is it being blamed on?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, when you look at the numbers overall, our positivity rate here in California is still just around 7 percent. And if you look at other states, that's not as high as it could be.

But, still, when you look that we had the second highest number of new cases announced in a day yesterday, over 11,000, the deaths also going up as well, overall, confirmed cases, more than 437 thousand cases here in California. All-time highs in hospitalizations and ICU admissions as well. The death number is more than 7,200.

Now, keep in mind, nearly half of those are from residents of skilled nursing homes and also keep in mind that the vast majority of this number is coming from Los Angeles County here where the death toll is at just above 3,900. Officials here are saying that it is possible that this county could go back into the stay at home order unless we get these numbers under control.

This as they're saying that they had the highest number of new Covid hospitalizations ever during this time. The cases announced yesterday, 2,700, more than 2,700 here. So when you look at these numbers, things are going in the wrong way and health officials making it very clear we could be locked back down if necessary.

Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Remarkable.

Stephanie Elam, good to have you on the story, thank you.

South Carolina's governor is asking schools to submit plans for reopening this fall.

HARLOW: Let's go to our Natasha Chen. She's following the latest there and the governor is pressing schools to at least have an option for everyone, for in-person learning, is that right?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy and Jim, the governor said yesterday that what he wants is for parents to have the option to send their kids back into the classroom with confidence if that's something they wanted to do. This has garnered some criticism across the education community in the state, including from a group called SC for ED.

Let me read you part of their statement that they issued yesterday. They said the governor is also stripping the authority from local elected officials while hypocritically refusing to mandate masks, closures or other measures that would achieve the only scenario for reopening schools safely, drastically reduce disease activity across the state.

I also just talked to someone from this organization, SC for ED, who told me that there are some bigger school districts in the state who were considering virtual learning already because of the Covid situation where they are. So we'll be checking in with them to see what their plans are now.


I also just got a text with a statement from Representative Joe Cunningham, who said that we should not overrule teachers and health professionals in this situation. So a lot of mixed emotions about this situation.

Let's look at the case numbers to explain why they're in this situation. The state's department of health and environmental control reported more than 1,800 new cases yesterday. And if you look at the 14-day trend of where they are, this average may be a little bit better than the couple of days before, but, still, much higher than South Carolina was a month ago and not too much better than they were two weeks ago. Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: And what you want and need is for those cases to go down for 14 days. Those are the CDC's own guidelines for reopening.

Natasha Chen, thanks very much.

As the nation finds itself in the grip of a racial crisis, CNN's original series "United Shades of America" will be back this Sunday looking at how white supremacy is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to institutional racism. We're going to have a preview of that coming up next.



SCIUTTO: As protests continue in many parts of the nation, demanding an end to racial injustice, CNN's W. Kamau Bell is kicking off the fifth season of "United Shades of America" this Sunday with a look at white supremacy and institutional racism in America.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not upon you to finish the task, but you're not absolved from trying. So you may not get to that pot of the rainbow --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that doesn't mean we're letting you off the hook from trying.

BELL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least making a few steps of more progress.

BELL: To get a little MLK on it, no matter what our race, creed or religion, if we all do that every day, to work to make the world a little bit better, it gets better.


BELL: Yes. I can't help but think of my mom in moments like this of like hearing her talk to her friends about racism and activism. She was playing Martin Luther King records in the house and at the time I was like, why do I have to -- can't we put some Temptations on or something, you know?


BELL: And to stand here and realize that's what she was building the bridge for me to be here right now talking to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you honor your mother by doing the same thing to your kids? BELL: Yes.


HARLOW: Well, that's just a clip of what you will see on Sunday night.

Joining us now is the host of "United Shades of America," W. Kamau Bell.

Good for you for doing this and thank you for doing this.

You explored white supremacy in your visit with the KKK in the very first episode five seasons ago. Now you have come back to this. But you filmed this before, you know, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis and everything that ensued.

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA": Yes, we finished filming this in February, before Covid was really a big story. Maybe it should have been. But, yes, and we sort of filmed it and we thought we had a great, relevant episode and then the world did everything it could to make it even more relevant is how it turned out.


CAMEROTA: A big thrust of the episode is that white supremacy, as we think of it, folks in the KKK, hats, et cetera, is really just the tip of the iceberg because there's a more insidious layer, a more widespread layer of racism. Tell us how you get at that here and the importance of that today, particularly as we speak of the president's messaging to some of these groups.

BELL: I mean, I think we -- you know the great thing about "United Shades," is because I'm a comedian, despite what people on Twitter say, we can use humor to get the message across.

So we had the graphics team at "United Shades" created this incredible iceberg graphic so you can literally see that above the water is the stuff that most of us agree is white supremacy, which is like neo- Nazis and the KKK. And -- but then below the water is the stuff that most black people and people of color deal with, which is like mass incarceration and police brutality.

And then all the way at the bottom of the water is my least favorite, but my family didn't own slaves, which is like the lowest level of like the racism that black people have to deal with in this country. But there's just a multiple level is what we're trying to say. And most of black folks deal with it not the top end. Most of us don't have to worry about the neo-Nazis and the KKK.


HARLOW: Yes, there's so much to it. I mean all the way down to, you know, resumes and how people reject resumes because of the sound of someone's name, and that can change the whole trajectory of their -- their career.

We just saw an image, I think is this you and your mom, on the beach there, Kamau, talking? We --

BELL: Yes, that's me and my mom, yes, yes.

HARLOW: Well, she's very -- she's very beautiful. That aside, it's the end of the episode, right, that people are going to see on Sunday night. Can you talk about that conversation because I believe she's told you, you know, I've lived every part of racism except slavery.

BELL: Yes. Actually, I told her that. I'm the one who broke that news to her.


BELL: But, yes, I mean this episode in many ways was sort of a -- sort of a quote/unquote sequel to our first episode of "United Shades" where I went and talked to the Klan. I was a very different person then. This country felt very different. Barack Obama was the president. And as we decided to check back in, I also wanted to go with like, how did I end up doing this work? I was a kid who wanted to be a comedian because of Eddie Murphy on "SNL."

And so the big reason I ended up doing this work is my mom and the kind of conversations we had and the kind of way in which she brought me up. And I don't think she was intending for me to do this, but it was just the wallpaper in our house. And so, you know, if -- if I'm going to do this work and do this show, I felt like it was time to talk to my mom about it.

SCIUTTO: Yes, what would we do without the inspiration our moms gave us?

HARLOW: For sure.

SCIUTTO: W. Kamau Bell, thanks so much.

And, folks, it's -- it's really worth watching.


An all-new season of "United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell" starts this Sunday night, 10:00 Eastern Time, only here on CNN.

HARLOW: Well, as new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to surge in some states, others need to bring in refrigerated trucks as their morgues are getting overwhelmed.


SCIUTTO: Good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

One month to the day after Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. was winning the fight against coronavirus and there was no second wave, but here are the facts. The nation is set to surpass 3.5 million Covid cases, more than 137,000 people have died from it in this country. Thirty-nine states are seeing a spike. Miami-Dade County in Florida completely, this morning, out of ICU beds.


Refrigerator trucks are heading into Arizona and Texas as morgues are filling up.