Zoom Forum Debates ‘Crime, Race, Politics in Era of COVID-19’

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Jody Armour speaks in San Francisco in February

By Kalen Abe

Sitting in front of a poster of his book released last week, entitled N*gga Theory: Race, Language, Unequal Justice, and the Law, Jody David Armour said, “Whoever puts on that blue uniform is an adversary of Black interests.”

Armour, a law professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, spoke with three other experts to a Zoom audience of 400. Speakers included Richard Rosenfeld, a Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Pamela F. Rodriguez, President and CEO of TASC, Inc., and Ashley Nellis from The Sentencing Project, who moderated the discussion.

The discussion, titled “Crime, Race, and Politics in the Era of COVID-19,” came at a crucial time, as the U.S. struggles to reckon with centuries of unresolved racial tensions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

These experts discussed the highly-politicized increase in violent crime rates, answering questions that Nellis posed, such as, “How do we respond to both crimes and the narratives around crime?”

Armour responded, “How do we address violent crime while defunding the police? We must make clear that the police have not been defunded.”

Rodriguez stated that “defunding the police implies that the funding goes back to communities: without investment in communities, no necessary experiment is occurring, and money allocated is reinvested in the justice system.”

And Rosenfeld claimed that, according to his research, while there are concerns that police are “drawing back” in retaliation to protests against police brutality,  “police activity has in fact declined due to COVID-19.”

Following this question, referring to heavily-policed majority Black neighborhoods, Nellis asked, “What do these communities need?”

Rodriguez discussed the risk that Black and brown people take by reporting crime to the police, especially violent crime, explaining, “Say you have a two-year prosecution, can your safety be guaranteed during this time?” Noting Rodriguez’s point, Armour called for resources to be reallocated from “turnstile jumpers,” to “witness protection.”

Rosenfield called for “experimentation now,” at a federal level, though it wasn’t clear if the speakers agreed on what “experimentation” should look like. Afterwards, he stated that “because people join police departments to prevent and investigate crime,” he “believes there is common ground.”

Following Rosenfeld’s statements, Armour depicted the Los Angeles Police Department’s failure to solve homelessness with “therapeutic policing.” Rodriguez agreed, explaining that studies have shown “problems caused by disinvestment” were best addressed through affordable housing, engagement in school/jobs, and supporting families.

Highlighting how race and the criminal justice system are intertwined, Armour urged that “we must understand racial policing,” because everyday citizens “otherize black criminals, which affects our policing policies.”

Following Armour’s point, Rodriguez rhetorically pondered, “What would happen if we valued black lives?” Armour responded in agreement:  “When we put a black face on crime, it’s easier for people to demonize the criminal.”

Rosenfeld clarified that “some areas need no experimentation,” such as federal-level policies that provide jobs, maintain income, and improve education, and that “do not exclude anyone.”

Amour described the “bipartisan characterization of social systems as handouts to Black people.” He described how, while a greater number of whites utilized programs such as the AFDC, the program “was given a black face,” which allowed for the program’s termination.

Rodriguez underscored the fact that “the needy includes lots of whites.” She described how, in Illinois, social programs are being funded through taxes on legalized marijuana, a “revenue stream that doesn’t draw money away from the state.” She called upon the press to “call out the obvious race-baiting,” noting, “good reporting is an incredible tool.”

At this point, Nellis cited one of Trump’s recent statements, that “they want to destroy our suburbs,” where “they” was used as a euphemism for Black people.

With that, the speakers turned their attention to the upcoming November election.

Rosenfeld described Trump’s statement as “tone-deaf,” and stated that officers unfamiliar with local communities are ill-suited to serve them, adding that “we have to improve police-community relations, especially with communities of color, where both police violence and community violence tends to be concentrated.” He recommended that the police “get out of their vehicles, on the street, and knock on doors.”

“I don’t want police officers knocking on my front door,” Armour responded. “I’ve had police officers knocking on my front door and draw guns on me.” Advising against neighborhood check-ins by police, he stated, it’s up to the police to solve violent crime…and figure out what it’s gonna take to get there.”

In response to Armour, Rosenfeld posed, “How should the police build the trust and confidence necessary?”

Armour responded, “Stop getting caught on tape abusing people, stop getting caught on tape abusing protestors and ordinary citizens, stop getting officers caught on tape with all of their compromising situations.”

Here, Nellis steered the conversation to police unions. Rosenfeld said, “I’m a supporter of police unions. What I do not support is unions operated by older white police officers. He clarified his point by explaining that police unions should represent the communities they serve.

To this point, Armour said that “police unions are a special breed,” describing how three out of six of the officers that killed Freddie Gray were Black. “The split isn’t black and white when it comes to Black Lives Matter, but Black and blue.”

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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25 thoughts on “Zoom Forum Debates ‘Crime, Race, Politics in Era of COVID-19’”

  1. Keith Olsen

    At this point, Nellis cited one of Trump’s recent statements, that “they want to destroy our suburbs,” where “they” was used as a euphemism for Black people.

    Once again, projecting what Trump said to suit their agenda.

    The “they” Trump was referring to was the Democrats.

    1. David Greenwald

      Keith has done a good job of illustrating why it is advantageous to cloke racial pleas in more subtle code language – same benefit plus plausible deniability that allows supporters to make the arguments that Keith has done twice now.

      1. Keith Olsen

        President Trump has a message for suburban voters. And it’s not a subtle one.
        “They want to destroy our suburbs,” Trump recently warned in a call with supporters.
        “People have worked all their lives to get into a community, and now they’re going to watch it go to hell,” he said from the South Lawn of the White House.
        Trump has been issuing increasingly dire and outlandish warnings about what Democrats will do to the suburbs. 

        https://www.michiganradio.org/post/down-polls-trump-pitches-fear-they-want-destroy-our-suburbs

      2. Keith Olsen

        Obama’s radical AFFH regulation puts every part of progressives’ “abolish the suburbs” strategy into effect (as I explain in detail here). Once Biden starts to enforce AFFH the way Obama’s administration originally meant it to work, it will be as if America’s suburbs had been swallowed up by the cities they surround. They will lose control of their own zoning and development, they will be pressured into a kind of de facto regional-revenue redistribution, and they will even be forced to start building high-density low-income housing. The latter, of course, will require the elimination of single-family zoning. With that, the basic character of the suburbs will disappear. At the very moment when the pandemic has made people rethink the advantages of dense urban living, the choice of an alternative will be taken away.
        That’s all bad enough. But on top of AFFH, Biden now plans to use Cory Booker’s strategy for attacking suburban zoning. AFFH works by holding HUD’s Community Development Block Grants hostage to federal-planning demands. Suburbs won’t be able to get the millions of dollars they’re used to in HUD grants unless they eliminate single-family zoning and densify their business districts. AFFH also forces HUD-grant recipients to sign pledges to “affirmatively further fair housing.” Those pledges could get suburbs sued by civil-rights groups, or by the feds, if they don’t get rid of single-family zoning. The only defense suburbs have against this two-pronged attack is to refuse HUD grants. True, that will effectively redistribute huge amounts of suburban money to cities, but if they give up their HUD grants at least the suburbs will be free of federal control.
        The Booker approach — now endorsed by Biden — may block even this way out. Booker wants to hold suburban zoning hostage not only to HUD grants, but to the federal transportation grants used by states to build and repair highways. It may be next to impossible for suburbs to opt out of those state-run highway repairs. Otherwise, suburban roads will deteriorate and suburban access to major arteries will be blocked. AFFH plus the Booker plan will leave America’s suburbs with no alternative but to eliminate their single-family zoning and turn over their planning to the feds. Slowly but surely, suburbs will become helpless satellites of the cities they surround, exactly as progressive urbanists intend.

        https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/biden-and-dems-are-set-to-abolish-the-suburbs/

        1. Bill Marshall

          David, the context is (Keith’s cites) that some have interpreted AFFH to give more power to the cities, to control/direct, the suburbs… there is a kernel of truth in that, but I don’t buy into the basic concept…

      3. Alan Miller

        Keith has done a good job of illustrating why it is advantageous to cloke racial pleas in more subtle code language – same benefit plus plausible deniability that allows supporters to make the arguments that Keith has done twice now.

        Pure BS.  Not Trump’s M.O..  He does coddle racists to garner voters, which is abhorrent enough, but he doesn’t use ‘code language’ such as the word ‘they’ to mean ‘black people’. That’s not even a clever code.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Keith’s cites clearly show the ‘context’… it is Democrats, particularly anyone (Biden) who was a part of the Obama admin… as his own sister has attested, it’s all about him (POTUS)… and what is all about him is November… at this point…

          To think he cares about suburbs… yeah, he wants to gain votes there… by fomenting paranoia…

    2. Eric Gelber

      The “they” Trump was referring to was the Democrats.

      How naive. Aside from the absurdity of the claims he makes about the Democratic agenda, what exactly is it you believe he’s implying the Democrats will do to the suburbs? It’s urbanizing—that is, diversifying—them with an influx of Blacks, the poor, and other groups that will purportedly change the character of the suburbs. He’s stoking fears of his overwhelmingly white base.

      1. Bill Marshall

        How naive…

        POTUS is ‘stirring the pot’… whatever gives him an electoral college victory in November… whatever it takes in words and tweets… he cares little about race… except the one he faces…

      2. Keith Olsen

        Even NPR, hardly a conservative news org, writes that the “they” he’s referring to is the Democrats.  I guess NPR is naive too if we go by your curt comment.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Yeah, you’re correct… it has nothing to do with truth/facts, it’s got everything to do about November… POTUS needs to get re-elected (his goal) and have a Republican Senate… I hope he is denied both…

        2. David Greenwald

          The issue isn’t the “they” he’s referring to, the issue is what “abolish the suburbs” means in his context. You refused to answer that question.

          1. David Greenwald

            Here let me help you out.

            They (the Democrats) are trying to abolish the suburbs.

            How are they doing that?

            By urbanizing them.

            What does that mean?

            It means they are bringing in multiethnic people of color into whiteland.

            Please explain how that’s not the case?

        3. Keith Olsen

          It was perfectly explained here, you must not of read it:

          Obama’s radical AFFH regulation puts every part of progressives’ “abolish the suburbs” strategy into effect (as I explain in detail here). Once Biden starts to enforce AFFH the way Obama’s administration originally meant it to work, it will be as if America’s suburbs had been swallowed up by the cities they surround. They will lose control of their own zoning and development, they will be pressured into a kind of de facto regional-revenue redistribution, and they will even be forced to start building high-density low-income housing. The latter, of course, will require the elimination of single-family zoning. With that, the basic character of the suburbs will disappear. At the very moment when the pandemic has made people rethink the advantages of dense urban living, the choice of an alternative will be taken away.That’s all bad enough. But on top of AFFH, Biden now plans to use Cory Booker’s strategy for attacking suburban zoning. AFFH works by holding HUD’s Community Development Block Grants hostage to federal-planning demands. Suburbs won’t be able to get the millions of dollars they’re used to in HUD grants unless they eliminate single-family zoning and densify their business districts. AFFH also forces HUD-grant recipients to sign pledges to “affirmatively further fair housing.” Those pledges could get suburbs sued by civil-rights groups, or by the feds, if they don’t get rid of single-family zoning. The only defense suburbs have against this two-pronged attack is to refuse HUD grants. True, that will effectively redistribute huge amounts of suburban money to cities, but if they give up their HUD grants at least the suburbs will be free of federal control.The Booker approach — now endorsed by Biden — may block even this way out. Booker wants to hold suburban zoning hostage not only to HUD grants, but to the federal transportation grants used by states to build and repair highways. It may be next to impossible for suburbs to opt out of those state-run highway repairs. Otherwise, suburban roads will deteriorate and suburban access to major arteries will be blocked. AFFH plus the Booker plan will leave America’s suburbs with no alternative but to eliminate their single-family zoning and turn over their planning to the feds. Slowly but surely, suburbs will become helpless satellites of the cities they surround, exactly as progressive urbanists intend.

           

          1. David Greenwald

            You don’t seem to understand – I’m not interested in reading your quote again. I made my points, you didn’t respond to any of them.

        4. Keith Olsen

          The issue isn’t the “they” he’s referring to, the issue is what “abolish the suburbs” means in his context.

          You’ve argued for two days that the “they” is black people, code speak, dog whistle or something of the sort, and now you say that’s not the issue?

        5. Keith Olsen

          You don’t seem to understand – I’m not interested in reading your quote again. I made my points, you didn’t respond to any of them.

          No, it’s you that doesn’t understand, the “quote” as you call it explains how the Democrat’s plan will hurt (abolish if you please) the suburbs.

        6. Eric Gelber

          the “quote” as you call it explains how the Democrat’s plan will hurt (abolish if you please) the suburbs.

          “Abolish the suburbs,” is a hyperbolic mischaracterization of what’s been proposed by anyone. Extensive use of single family zoning is a predominantly American invention.  By way of example, zoning permitting only single family detached homes prevents homeowners from adding second units, prohibits more affordable types of housing (duplexes, multi-family housing), and encourages urban sprawl. It also limits affordable housing opportunities for lower income families currently living in urban areas.

          Integrating housing other than detached single family dwellings into what are now R1 zones will not “abolish the suburbs” unless, by abolish, you mean it will result in an invasion of undesirable urbanites, which is the scare tactic being used by Trump with his overwhelmingly white, suburban base.

        7. Eric Gelber

          Watch (at the 2:53 mark) Patricia McCloskey (St. Louis gun wielding homeowner) at the Republican national convention say that elimination of single family zoning “will bring crime, lawlessness, and low quality apartments to now thriving suburban neighborhoods.” What they fear is an influx of lower income, largely minority, urban residents to their suburban, predominately white, neighborhoods. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwifnoD2oLXrAhXQmq0KHYB_ANw4KBCjtAEwB3oECAEQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D8c4Vb8EDlMA&usg=AOvVaw25fAN5Acxk02CksnJ06ydn

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