tv Democratic Attorneys General Discuss Racial Inequity CSPAN August 13, 2020 2:04pm-2:44pm EDT
our people are waiting for help. republicans have been at the table for weeks and we just need seriousness on the other side. american families and livelihoods are at stake in american lives are at stake and democrats must rerun their political calculation and finally let congress act. >> c-span2 takes you live to a event where general attorneys from several states are discussing racial inequities. we join us live in progress. >> you are an inspiration and i love it and being a daughter of immigrants so let's show it to the midwest, ag ellison. >> i want everyone to know that the presumptive ice democratic nominee is a former state
attorney general and just let's keep that in mind that when ever you see her on the judiciary committee seriously challenging those witnesses and the skills she honed during what we do every day. i was honored to serve with general becerra for 20 years in congress and he was my mentor and still is but i just want to say that our philosophy here is to help people afford their lives and liberties in respect. that means prosperity that every america should be expected and it is our job to make sure that they have that chance fighting economic and fighting abuse of people with human rights and honored to be with you guys and i have been to that station many times and want to say net roots nation is tailor-made for online advocacy and we have been doing it it was cool.
not to be insensitive. i know it is not cool but we've been doing it and you've been doing this and we ready for the moment is what i am trying to say. thank you and i am glad to be here. >> thank you. let's send it over to ag. >> hello, sarah. great to be with you. great to be with my colleagues and great to be [inaudible]. i'm attorney general of massachusetts they grew up in new hampshire but found my way down here for college and ultimately law school and never left. i found my calling and home in the attorney general's office when i left practice back many years ago and became head of the civil rights division in the office. i saw what it was like to work with kamala harris and tank on
big predatory lenders, not only consumer protection suit but a civil rights suit against those lenders whose practices have such a disparate impact on the brown and black community. i later was counsel only brought a challenge that sued president obama and did not sue him that often but we did and ultimately that case went all the way up to the supreme court and the law of the land changed forever with marriage equality. those are my experiences as a lawyer in the office and what led me to run back in 2014 i one in what ended up being a landslide even though it was an unknown candidate to never run for office and was up against a political establishment votes but the reason why i love being with you there today it's because it's all about grassroots and a pocket of people working with people and being out there and just engaging in that is what makes you all this for so powerful and
i think as we have seen all the norms of the democracy and an attempt to be belittled away this is how we build and i don't even want to talk about rebuilding and i don't want to even use that language but talk about building because for the first time in 450 years we have the opportunity to build this in new ways into it ourselves of systemic racism and inequality. we will talk about that today and it cannot be more proud of the fact that we are state attorney general and we have been on the front lines and we have been the line and holding the trump administration accountable and trying to stop as much constitutional stuff happening and it was for us to see our former colleagues, kamala harris take the stage yesterday so great to be with
you and it is great to be with you at grassroots nation. >> as we said this is the best of the party and you are looking at it and it's really exciting to see what happens this week as a former democratic attorney general who can move on and go and do bigger and larger things and so it really starts here. let's just jump into it. lots of topics to cover. what is important here and why we love coming is to understand the variety of issues and the span of topics that ag's can cover and do in their states, not only individually but to the coalition. following the recent political movements and demonstrations in communities across america are democratic attorneys general are taking action to address the
rising concerns of police communities of color as proposing police and criminal justice reform. attorney generals are people's warriors in their states and reflecting the same diversity themselves. today we have 25 democratic '80s in the country who are present the most diverse group of az's in history and that includes five black '80s, six women 80s, two asian american americans, two latinos, two lgbtq, one muslim and one is seek. it's diverse. how's democratic '80s address current events and protect vulnerable committees within each state. let's talk about some of these issues to find out what democratic '80s are doing as the people's lawyers, as we like to call it. let's start with ag weiser since we all wish we were in colorado and could travel but he's building racial equity. democratic '80s are on the
frontline so how are ag on the frontline when so many committees of color are feeling marginalized and what are some steps we're taking in their role as ag of colorado? >> thank you for that lead in and my colleagues and i are part of a team and i'm honored to serve with them and i went and want to emphasize we are focused on these issues before [inaudible]. what we are now in a moment and opportunity to build, to build toward justice. it will take three different parts of the answer. we need to build an office in colorado that looks like the people of colorado. we need a diverse and inclusive team at the attorney general's office. i set up a position for the first time deputy attorney general for diversity equity and inclusion we are committed to hiring, mentoring and supporting a diverse talent pool, not just to be in office but to become
judges and leaders in our state. some i've hired and her office help people of color and we need to do our part to build a more diverse and inclusive, not just attorney general's office but in the legal profession and leadership. number two, criminal justice reform. when we see our criminal justice system and the level of incarceration mostly people of color we have to see an opportunity to do that. that goes across the spectrum from ending cash bail which is a big reason why a lot of people are in jail because they can't afford a veil and that is wrong and doesn't support private safety and it's unfair and we got to fix it and we have some great pilot programs and we want to learn from california on a statewide basis. we've got to do better on reentry so people don't just leave prison then end up back in prison. we got to end the school to prison pipeline which they get people even as teenagers of bad
pass we are working on all those and finally accountability reform. i'm proud of the law we passed in colorado, a national model and we need to build trust in law enforcement make sure we trained law enforcement so we de-escalate situations and don't have strategies like we saw with george floyd. we've got work to do and proud of the work were doing and colorado. >> that's great. you testified as to how the cash system is fundamentally flawed on many different levels so can you share your thoughts more on the inequities of cash bail system. what are the far-reaching consequences of a cash bail system for the individual and society at large and how can we address these inequities and overhaul the system? >> i want people to understand and this is super important and this has been studied that when
you keep someone in jail, let's say 48, 72 hours, the chances they commit a crime later go up because when you separate someone from their family they lose their job and that is a destabilizing event in their lives. the goal of pretrial attention should only be to protect public safety and not, that only happens when someone is a risk to society but if someone is not a risk you want to let them out of jail as soon as possible and you should not be charging a bit weird many fees that are getting built into our system that is hurting poor people who can't pay them, keeping them in jail and in some cases taking away their driver's license. we have to take down these barriers and we have to ask ourselves are what we are doing here, public safety is because it's always been this way and we don't have the courage and ability to change this, cash bail is crying out for reform doesn't serve public safety doesn't help people and costs money.
what california has done on this is a model and we will fight hard to get it done in colorado. >> that's great. either way, see lots of questions in the chat and shout outs from people who are in states where people are in new york and la and from denver so they are giving you all shout outs right now. they're giving you lots of love. i completely agree with you there that if you can't, there are so many barriers at being a leader and showing up is part of the most or what is important here. ag ellison, with everything going on right now we want to talk about george floyd. what happened to george floyd, breonna taylor and too many others are most painful examples of how far we still need to go as a country but we have as a country what have we as a
country learn from these painful incidences and how can we protect and support our black communities and what can 80s, like yourself, address that hurt and pain and express across the country we will start with you ag ellison. >> let me card pricing the attorney general office can convene, no matter what happens or what your jurisdiction may be, you can pull people together and lose your bully probably to shine a light like cash bail or juvenile the tension, domestic violence or a range of things, you can do including this issue of police accountability. my office is going down to pull together this document and this is our working group on police involved deadly encounters which we did in 2019 as everyone on the panel said we did not just start working on this issue but we have been working on this and so we've been trying to deal
with the issue of police account ability, police brutality all along. we engage law-enforcement and community to have a real conversation came up with a number of recommendations, several of which were just passed in the last legislative session and now i say this folks out there listening because where you are from if you engage your attorney general to convene people around these accountability and the second thing we can do is we convene, many of us because jurisdictions are not all the same that many of us could bring practice, lawsuits, civil claims where we might be able to say look, you have a police department which finds all the black votes and gives them exorbitant amounts oe u.s. attorney general eric holder did this investigation regarding ferguson and found out there was oppressive systems in place and state attorney general has the same and we can do that
where we have the jurisdiction to do so but we impress you and right now i'm prosecuting a group of police officers and can't go into the case and i don't want to impact the jury pool so i will not talk about that but i will say we do have jurisdiction in certain situations that vary from state to state and people who prosecute the law even if they are police officers and we should do so and should not not let some people be above the law or beneath the law but this is critically important to prosecute violations of lot no matter who it is. then we can advocate legislatively and very impressed with the work that is still done and javier in california and those guys have done more on use of force and the four of us is just a slice of the talent and we are just four out of 25.
everybody is doing awesome things. we can advocate legislatively in nevada there doing great stuff. in illinois, james in new york right on the forefront of these issues and we have weighed in on a group waving as a group to say this is what police accountability looks like this are a few ideas but you need to look at this ag as a source of movement and as a source of change and engaging and get them on the phone and get on the room and the zoom and give your ideas on what you would expect to see them do and i will hand over but those are just a few ideas. >> the movement. [audio difficulties]
why don't we throw this to ag becerra so why is the role of the ag so critical for these issues. >> attorney general most states is the only law enforcement official, only people's lawyer that covers, not just the city, not just the county but the entire state and so when the people are looking for protection and defense the one office that can do that for everyone and not just for folks in the city or county is the attorney general. it is critical that we are involved and that is why it is so important we have statewide policies that let us get into these issues and as my colleagues have mentioned the account ability is so important and the transparency, more and more so we are realizing we do have transparency. transparency needs to be in policing and the way public safety is conducted and i would say that what i have found in terms of reform you can't add reform unless you get down to the roots in the way policing is
done. that is what is so important. in california we do practice investigations. in 2018 we did counselor practice investigation or excuse me, we were lucky and were invited by the chief of police in sacramento to review a shooting that had occurred of a young man named stefan clark and 2018 and we did not have to go in and do a pattern of practice which is a more independent activity because we were invited or he was a new chief of police, first african-american of chief police in sacramento. we did a wholesale review of the sacramento police department and also, by the way, were asked to do an independent investigation on the commonality of the shooting on top of it, two separate activities but what i think keith mentioned which is so important is rather than look at one incident and try to get to the bottom of the truth and the justice you need to do a wholesale review and start down at the roots. we came out with a report which
was directed at sacramento city police department but ended up becoming the basis of legislation in california which is not a law which requires every police department to undertake new reforms and those are starting to take form. we are engaged in a pattern and of practice investigation with bakersfield and police department and the kern county commissioner's department and we are right now in charge of the reform oversight for the san francisco police departments. we just got involved in doing the same thing for the small town north of san francisco which just had a number of police shootings but really the fruits of much of what came from a lot of what we found out in sacramento and it's informed much of what has been done but we have a lot in cap format that allows us to track every single stock by a lawn from an officer so we could find out if there profiling by race or by transgender status.
that data now informs us so it is no longer anecdotal but now empirical evidence that will drive our policies so you do have to get down to the roots and that is where being a statewide official and in office is here to protect the people statewide and it helps to have ag's involved. >> not only helps to have ag involved but a democratic and this is why we will talk about elections later in the conversation and voting for and electing democrats ag. if you care about these issues should be electing democratic ag's. i want to make sure we get to you as well. what is your perspective on this and how can ag's address it in the state of massachusetts. >> to come to this summary who is formally a head of the formal rights division and the chief law enforcement officer for our state and i think my colleagues
said so right on. it's about tracing, training and unconscious bias and better police practices and about officer standards and training for use of force and de-escalation and all of that is important but here in massachusetts we currently are working on new legislation that was statewide ban the use of chokehold and create duties to intervene when an officer oversees another officer and encouraging law enforcement use of body worn cameras and the like but all of that it seems to me doesn't get you where you need to go unless there is a true accountability and that is one thing that we have partnered with our chief on because the ability to identify those who engage in bad action are held accountable and it becomes important. those are something that we as the democratic ag's have been supporting. we have also been supporting efforts to make sure our resources are being used appropriately.
we have been on the front lines of ag's fighting the opiate crisis and going after major pharmaceutical companies for their abuses which has translated to drug activity onto the streets and one of the things we see is that fortunately we have please who may be trained in many coming from battlefields oversees and may be who have not been given the training around how to deal with substance abuse disorder or mental health issues and the like so let's make sure we not only demilitarized our police and take away some of the unnecessary fear that studies show just are not conducive and helpful to public safety but let's also make sure we are supplying whether through realigning resources within municipalities and the right kind of resources on the streets unique to meet the public health residents and safety. bottom line, a lot of conversations and you got to bring stakeholders to the table but you got to find a point of
commonality. it is clear in this moment in time we as chief law-enforcement officers have every obligation to act and to rid the system of systemic disparities that we have seen. >> do want to say on that topic for a little bit now that you mentioned it. ag's effect change so whether it is through lawsuits or ledges that a process or through a platform, you crated a hate crimes hotline dedicated to receiving crimes directed towards racial, ethnic and minorities and so how has this affected and impacted those communities that you have been able to see by enforcing and putting or implementing these in your office? >> this is one of the great things about being an attorney general. you can really act in the number of dirt ways and bring cases in
investigations and issue reports and can have pro legislation and policies. so, we set up a hate crimes hotline immediately after trauma selection because we saw the rise in reports of activity and then we recently were out there again because as his rhetoric has continued more and more people have marginalized and we want to be sure after george floyd murder that people in the public had a place to go. i think it has been well received. it is important not only so that we are able to take and reports from the public and make sure those reports are followed up on and addressed but it is important that as a government agency we send that message to the public that that stuff will not be tolerated. we will not allow for it. here is the hotline and call it out. if you see it, say something and
call it out. that messaging is from a mantle like ours becomes important. seeing how important it becomes in another context when it comes to mistreatment and abuse, denigration by the trump administration of our immigrant communities. many of us work within our offices to set up for example regular councils that meet. i've won on race and equity with stakeholder members of black and brown communities regularly coming to my office to engage with me and my team on issues and same with immigrant communities, same with labor and members of disability community. i think that engagement is important and some of this is possible through offices like ours. >> exactly bird and powers vary from state to state as well. i want to talk to you, ag becerra, your office has recommended nine use of force
reform and called out those -- how are you specifically working with legislators and policymakers to affect change? >> right now the legislator is working on a number of reforms to our laws preferred samba, we are moving towards trying to decertify officers who have engaged in criminal activity or activity that is contrary to their policies. we are also looking at how we want to deal with the investigation of use of force by an officer that led to the death of an individual and a number of policies don't need a law, state legislative bill to become enacted. we are working, i worked with the chiefs and the sheriff's in california to try to implement policy that we put out a platform of reform over a month ago that really is, as i said, built on much of what we put out
in 2018 on the sacramento incident that we investigated. what we are trying to do is get agencies to use best practices. everyone understands that that you can avoid these shootings if you use de-escalation tactics that have been proven successf successful. we understand that it is dangerous, not just use the chokehold but we are calling that we've got to reform the calls for agencies to stop using any type of hold that constricts or restrains the flow of blood or oxygen to an individual. you can go further. even the simple stuff. use of k-9. write out the policy could be almost anything which it includes using them as weapons but we believe it k-9 should be used, not as a weapon but as a means to deter, escape of an individual and not to use the k-9 so it's very simple things and expensive things but what we
do know is if there are practices out there we can use to help us move towards safe policing where we become a partner in the community and not just perceived as agents who go after criminals. >> and glad we are all saying the names of those who unfortunately have lost their lives. let's continue to say their names out loud. they're not said often enough. there is a lot of discussion about race when it comes to this police in america but racial inequality appears in all almost all facets of their lives. can we talk about other areas were focusing on to improve racial equality? >> let me mention three areas and the digital divide. we hear about this and it affects rural, americans as well as those in inner cities. it's a thing i've worked on for
20 years now. think about the following. school is not in person. rich white people generally could be putting their kids in a pod in hiring private tutors. the poor people of color may not even have access to these online educational that the school district is offering. that is disparity and it threatens to exacerbate the existing disparity. in the world i want to live and we all send our kids and it doesn't matter whether you're rich, poor, black or white to schools that are good schools for everyone. that is the america i believe in. unfortunately, that is not the america we all live in right now and one of the issues we need to address desperately is access to both broadband and devices where you can participate in the modern digital economy which is more important now than ever which is why 39 agee's have led a coalition to help congress that we've got to respond right now during this pandemic. and one of those responses is
report for black actors. number two, health care disparities. nursing is in the pandemic and it's not new. if you are an african american woman giving birth to a child the chances are far more likely that you die in childbirth. what is going on there is a cry for help, addressing issues that come up in justice by unconscious bias and comes up in various ways with third as i mentioned is the school to prison pipeline. improving the educational system. depending on your skin color you're more likely to be suspended, expelled or have criminal citations against you. all of this work calls out for engagement and calls out for credo strategies because we've got to do better. right now we are living in the moment where the commitment and support towards racial justice is at a level that before he passed, john lewis noted, gave him real [inaudible] is not just about terminal justice in healthcare but we've got to work
on all those fronts. >> you mentioned the pandemic and of course we will talk about that in just a second but i do want to make sure that ag ellison you are a champion on these issues as well and you have been for so long and so can you also talk about areas that you have been focusing on to improve racial equity? >> first of all, every issue has racial equity. there's no issue were racial equity equity is not a thing. it every single thing. i will subjectively pluck out to because i think they need a little focus. housing. look, as attorney general our bread and butter is consumers protection. tenants are consumers. so are people who buy homes and loans and mortgages. right now this is particularly critical because unappointed is at depression levels and people
are being laid off and unemployed and literally over 1 million violence for one appointment that translates directly into rent, mortgage payments and things like that. the cares act was beneficial in that if you had a federally subsidized rent or mortgage payment in some way you could be, there was a moratorium on eviction foreclosure. when that runs out there will be a wave that we need to be ready to respond to and i want to commend nearly all our states, josh shapiro, i want to give him credit who helped spearhead this. he wasn't the only one but he was there who brought all the other non- cares act lenders to say cares act loans and runs have been stopped or moratorium on those so what about the rest and in minnesota we got over 30
lenders together to say we will forestall or forbear on foreclosure because we fear that this wave of foreclosure and eviction is right in front of us which would set off a lot of problems, not only the people who would be at home but that then big, monopolistic companies like invitation homes move into the neighborhood and buy up all these residential properties which crates another problem and i want to make sure that everybody understands that monopoly in highly concentrated markets have serious racial implications. if monopolies make it hard for small businesses to thrive, think about how monopolies make it hard for black, brown and women owned businesses to thrive. if white owned small businesses have a tough time, the other ones have an enormous barrier
could imagine, fleet street minneapolis is a part of her town where a lot of folks, emigrated from mexico, and they revitalize that street. you can go to lake street and you can get wonderful food and wonderful everything all with the latin american labor right there in minneapolis and those folks can get pushed out by some chain that masquerades as offering latin american foods there but there is -- as they get bigger and larger and they squeeze out the competition those small business people are being pushed out and that is racial inequity right there. that leads to housing and i want to mention monopoly because i believe that routes nation that we have not paid enough attention to monopoly [inaudible] it is through of so many problems in our society and one person who ran for attorney
general in new york just released a book called [inaudible] and i would commend people to read her book because we as ag's have an authority and we all do antitrust cases and it's a fertile ground for social justice for those of you who want to delve into that. those are two things and i could've mentioned 25 more. >> i just want to say amen. thank you for making sure that people of color and we don't care about two issues and we care about all the issues. the ag healy i want to make sure we get time to you and then we will jump into covid and the potomac and how protecting the community but what other areas are you focusing on to improve racial equity? >> everything. i basically charge my office every civil division whether you
are working in utilities or telecommunications or consumer work or workers civil rights but everybody has two see their work within equity lines as we as an agency will defend a permit that has been made to accompany an environmental justice affinity it will forever exacerbate poor health outcomes for black and brown communities and we will look at that through an equity lens in deciding how we could support or not support that and whether we defend challenges to the way our education is funded when we think see real disparity in massachusetts which we, as a nation in education however we got serious disparities exist within our state. i think having that mindset and having that mentality that after 450 years of systemic racism that has bled across every sector from transportation, employment, education, health
this is not the edge if we have the mindset and consciousness there in the intentionality around it and i think we do have an opportunity to build our way through and out of some of these disparities in my colleague and their teams do it every single day. a lot of what we see is economic justice but, as you know, whether were talking climate justice or economic justice it is communities, black and brown, that are as proportionally hurt first and worst by some of the practices that my colleagues are talking about. >> yeah, i totally agree. i'm on mute but the whole time i'm saying yes to everything and agreeing with you. ag becerra. you are on mute. not user error. your fine. [laughter] >> i apologize.
i associate with everything that my colleagues that sets slumming point to a few things. as we try to do these reforms you have to remember that i believe it is going to the root so recently we took an action in stockton, california, smaller town, south of sacramento that we got reports that students mostly of color were being treated too quickly by law enforcement in school. we all hear about this and there's a lot of complaint about this but when you start seeing kids being addressed, not by teachers or a counselor but by police you know what the next step will be and so we went in to take a look at some practices at the unified dual district using their police and we found. disturbing things. we were able to reach an agreement rather than take them to court so now they are reforming the way they handle issues involving some of their students rather than directing
them quickly to the youth authority they will now try to address these things in schools so these kids stay in school and get the teaching they need to. one other quick example. it was 50 years ago we had the last desegregation case in the state of california until last year when we took on the school district and if anyone knows california and you know marine county is very wealthy suburb area of san francisco. we found a school district that was essentially segregating mostly black lids, black and latino kids but mostly black kids into one school as opposed to the school where most of the white kids were being sent and so we took an action and again we were able to get a consent to agree to go to court action. we will integrate those schools so there isn't one school for the minority kids and one school for the white kids. but 50 years we're still having
to do without because at the root of things the systems are not equal and not just. you got to go down to the basics. if i could close with one last thing on what he said because it's so important. so much of this happens because the power is consolidated in a few hands. we talk about that let me address that. i'm trying to get a bill passed through our legislator that lets us review the consolidation in the healthcare market because more and more they hospitals and now more and more wall street hedge funds and private equity firms are buying up mid size community hospitals, clinics and gobbling up and they are predators and getting so big. we are trying to have a bill passed that would give the department of justice the authority to review cases of consolidation and to make sure it's not just profitable for the predator but there is a value that goes into that -- >> we leave this live event to take you back to the senate floor.