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Civil rights activist Connie Rice reacts to Chauvin verdict

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Los Angeles attorney and civil rights activist Connie Rice says there is still much work to be done to reform policing in this country after the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

Video Transcript

- And we continue to follow our live team coverage following the guilty verdicts in the Derek Chauvin murder trial.

- So joining us now is civil rights attorney and activist Connie Rice. She is also the co-founder and co-director of the Advancement Project in Los Angeles. Thank you so much for joining us today. So much to talk about. First of all, how do we go forward right now taking this verdict and making our country better? How do you propose that we do that.

CONNIE RICE: Well, David and Colleen, thank you for having me. I think it's a very important day. The verdict does give a little bit of accountability. But it really isn't going to change the physics of American policing in our inner cities. Just-- just three weeks after George Floyd was murdered, Dallas police officers sat on the back and neck of a man for 14 minutes and killed him. They were given qualified immunity. This system of policing in cities is broken.

And while there's relief for the country and we're grateful that we're not going to have to face what would have happened had the verdicts not come in, this was a unique case, and I don't think we'll see another case like it. So it's a mixed reaction on my part. I do-- when the president said he thought that we were on the road to justice, we're not going to get there unless you change the mission of policing, you reposition the police to do a different kind of job, you promote them for actually keeping poor communities safe, rather than targeting them for mass incarceration and mass arrests, mass stops.

That alienating kind of policing has to end. But we have to-- it's not just the police that have to change. County governments, city governments have to send out first responders so that the police don't respond to these traffic calls, these mental health calls that end in unarmed, unthreatening people being killed. There is a whole system that has to be changed. We have to stop mass incarceration. We have to stop this business of having prosecutors sending people away poor for long periods of time for non-violent crimes.

We have to get away from that system of enforcement, mass incarceration enforcement, and move to safety. So there's a long road to go. One verdict is not going to change all of that. But one verdict can bring a very, very wounded, hurting family a little bit of accountability. But justice is still a long, long way away.

- Well, let's talk about that also, Connie. It's the cell phone. We're talking about that video. Do you think that verdict would have been possible without the video?

CONNIE RICE: Not-- Colleen, not even possible. It's not just the video. We had a video in the Rodney King tape. And those officers were acquitted of the criminal charges. They put Rodney King on trial. They said he wasn't lying still. Every time we hit him, he flinched. He wasn't obeying us. A jury bought it.

This time, the jury didn't allow them to blame George Floyd for his own death. That didn't work this time. So that, at least, was an improvement. But Colleen, it was also the fact that it was a pandemic. Because there are many, many videos. There are videos of African-Americans-- unarmed, unthreatening African-Americans being shot in the back as they flee. People-- African-Americans completely complying with officer commands, they get shot.

So we've had video after video. And some of those officers don't even get charged, never mind convicted. So it was the pandemic plus the extreme, slow, excruciating murder that we saw on tape. You just couldn't shut your eyes to this one. And everybody was stuck in front of their TVs, because nobody could get outside because of the COVID pandemic.

So I think those two things together. And the third thing is that the Black Lives Matter movement had sparked a consciousness in white America that regular cases and other kinds of events did not. So I think those three factors made this unique.

- I'd like to bring our conversation home now. We saw in George Floyd. You mentioned Dallas, Texas as well. Are these things happening here, are there George Floyd cases in Los Angeles and southern California? And if so, what do we need to do about it?

CONNIE RICE: Yes, there are. There are. Not as many as there used to be, but there are. There are groups of officers that are practicing a policing that is guardianship policing. They're community safety partnership officers. But there are regular patrol officers in poor areas-- I'm talking about the policing in poor areas. And I'm talking about the policing that engages with non-violent folks, folks just walking down the street in Watts, for example.

If you're a Black man and you live in the Nickerson Gardens housing project, every time you step out of your unit, you face a 45% chance of going to jail. That's what mass incarceration policing looks like. The cops think that they're just protecting a community, but they're really destroying a community with mass incarceration, too many people being sent to prison for nonviolent crimes. It destroys the families. They come out of prison. They can't get jobs.

We have devastated poor urban areas. And so I say refund the community. Reform the police. Let's invest. We didn't do it with Rebuild LA after the '92 riots. We're still not doing it We see the devastation of the pandemic in poor Latinx LA, in poor Black LA, in poor Hmong LA, Asian-American-- Pacific-American LA. Poor people in this region are suffering, and the policing we give them makes their desperation even worse.

So yes, there are unwarranted beatings, unwarranted stops, unwarranted detaining, constraints used all of the time. And what we saw in the protests last summer was an overreaction of policing to the Black Lives Matter protests, 96% of which were studied and found to be nonviolent. But a complete under-reaction of policing to the MAGA insurrection that resulted in death.

So we have a fundamental problem with the physics of urban policing and the mentality of urban policing. That's not to say there aren't a lot of officers who do a lot of good work under very dangerous conditions. I know those officers. I work with them every day. I'm talking about the state of American policing, and it is in crisis, and it is broken.

- Well, we certainly appreciate you joining us. Again-- David said it earlier-- there are so many things to talk to you about. Of course we're running out of time, but again, we hope to continue to keep this conversation going. Again, Connie Rice, co-founder and co-director of the Advancement Project here in Los Angeles. Again, thank you for joining us.