At Saturday’s Republican debate, Donald Trump and Ohio Governor John Kasich offered competing visions for improving police relations in the wake of the police shootings in Ferguson and elsewhere. Trump said the police have been “absolutely mistreated and misunderstood,” while Kasich highlighted efforts in Ohio to bring community leaders and police together in dialogue. We speak with Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
AMY GOODMAN: During the Republican presidential debate, the last before the primary tomorrow, Donald Trump suggested police are unfairly targeted, while Ohio Governor John Kasich said there must be more collaboration between communities and police. Both candidates were responding to questions by debate moderator David Muir of ABC.
DAVID MUIR: Mr. Trump, there are many who argue cellphones and smartphones are just now exposing what’s been happening in this country for years: cases of excessive force against minorities. As you know, Mr. Trump, on the other side, the FBI director recently said there’s a chill wind blowing through law enforcement because of increased scrutiny. You have said police are the most mistreated people in America. As president, how do you bridge the divide?
DONALD TRUMP: Well, there is a divide, but I have to say that the police are absolutely mistreated and misunderstood. And if there is an incident, whether it’s a incident done purposely, which is a horror and you should really take very strong action, or if it’s a mistake, it’s on your newscasts all night, all week, all month, and it never ends. The police in this country have done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order. And they’re afraid for their jobs. They’re afraid of the mistreatment they get. And I’m telling you that—not only me speaking, minorities all over the country, they respect the police of this country, and we have to give them more respect. They can’t act. They can’t act. They’re afraid for losing their pension, their job. They don’t know what to do. And I deal with them all the time. We have to give great respect, far greater than we are right now, to our really fantastic police.
DAVID MUIR: Great. Mr. Trump, I did ask about bridging the divide, though, as president. So what would you say to the American families who say, “We have lived through this. We have seen excessive force”? What would you say to those people?
DONALD TRUMP: Well, they do. And, you know, they sue. Everybody sues. Right? They see stuff—I mean, they go out, they sue. We have so much litigation. I see the courts. I see what they’re doing. They sue. And you know what? We don’t want excessive force. But at what point? You know, either you’re going to have a police force that can do its job—I was just up in Manchester. I met with the police officers yesterday. Tremendous people. They love the area. They love the people. They love all the people. They want to do their job. And you’re going to have abuse, and you’re going to have problems. And you’ve got to solve the problems, and you have to weed out the problems. But the police in this country are absolutely amazing people.
DAVID MUIR: Mr. Trump, thank you.
GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH: David, David, I—
DAVID MUIR: I do want to ask—Governor Kasich?
GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH: I wanted to say, look, this—it can be a win-win here. I have formed a collaborative between police and community leaders, because people have to respect law enforcement. A family doesn’t want dad or mom going home in a box. And for our community leaders, many of them think the system not only works—not only doesn’t work for them, but it works against them. And I created a big collaborative in Ohio, made up of law enforcement, community leaders. The head of my public safety and a former Democrat liberal state senator, Nina Turner, run it. They got together. They made recommendations on recruiting, on hiring, on the use of deadly force. And what we’re about to do is to bring community and police together, so we can have a win-win. We need more win-wins in America, and we don’t have to pick one over another or divide. We love the police, but we’ve got to be responsive to the people in the communities. We have to do all of it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Ohio Governor John Kasich and, before that, Donald Trump.
Our guest is Vince Warren, who is executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Your response, first to Donald Trump?
VINCENT WARREN: The big problem here is that there—is that, of course you can sue. Of course you can sue when the police beat you, when they kill you. You can and you should sue. So I think any discussion about having lawsuits as a way of misrepresenting the police department or disrespecting law enforcement is nuts, because the only way that you get in that situation is if law enforcement has done something wrong to begin with. I also think that there’s a narrative that’s developing that is really problematic. It’s that—the idea is that the poor police department can’t do their jobs anymore because there are so many angry people around.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, didn’t the head of the FBI further that—
VINCENT WARREN: The head of the FBI—
AMY GOODMAN: —undermining President Obama in what he did?
VINCENT WARREN: Completely did, completely did. And it was really problematic. And it also happens not to be true. Law enforcement, even with all of the protests and even with the pushback that’s happening—and the rightful pushback—from communities, law enforcement is going on the offensive. Very far from being sort of helpless players in a dynamic, what’s happening now is law enforcement is going on the offensive. You actually see—as you mentioned earlier in your report, not only do victims of police brutality sue, but now police officers are suing the victims of their brutality, saying that it was their fault that the police had to do what they had to do. This is nuts.
AMY GOODMAN: The dead victim in the case in Chicago.
VINCENT WARREN: The dead victim. It was a 15-year-old kid who was shot. They filed a—the family filed a lawsuit against the police officer, roughly for $50,000. The police officer says, “Well, gosh, if your kid had been acting right, I wouldn’t have had to shoot him.”
AMY GOODMAN: But that’s why the dad called the police, is his son was mentally unbalanced at that point, and he asked for help.
VINCENT WARREN: Exactly. So, that whole discussion is really missing the point. And the real point is that law enforcement now is in a position—and we’re in a position as citizens—to get law enforcement to respect communities. And law enforcement is the only job where you can beat somebody, beat them up, kill them while you’re on the job—you don’t get fired, you get desk duty. What other job do you get desk duty for killing somebody? This is—there needs to be a big, fundamental change.
AMY GOODMAN: And Governor Kasich, what he said about bringing the community and police together?
VINCENT WARREN: Well, I think that discussion is a good one. And, in fact, that’s something that we’re doing here in New York City. So, in our stop-and-frisk case, when we won that case and found stop and frisk unconstitutional in 2013, we’re now in the process of a remedial process, where we’re working with community groups, with the police union, with the police brass, to create, essentially, a police department that is accountable to the community. That’s a very important piece. But we have to remember that these aren’t two polar opposites and that the whole reason why we’re in that position is because we sued them, and the community rose up against what the police were doing to begin with.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Vince Warren is executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. I want him to stay with us for our last segment.