In This Episode
- Derek Chauvin has been found guilty, but it’s painfully obvious that the issue of police brutality is bigger than the conviction of one officer for murder. For example, today is the funeral for Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old Black man who was killed by police during a traffic stop near Minneapolis. Plus details are still coming out in Columbus, Ohio, about the police killing of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who was shot just minutes after the Chauvin verdict was announced. To discuss the trial in the context of a greater effort to make police accountable, or rethink the role of policy in society altogether, we spoke with the Marshall Project’s Jamiles Lartey.
- And in headlines: widespread protest in Russia against Putin and for Alexei Navalny, Manhattan’s DA will no longer prosecute prostitution, and a time off for vaccination tax credit.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Thursday, April 22nd. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, where we are wishing a happy Earth Day to those who celebrate.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, you don’t have to celebrate the Earth, but we recommend you do.
Gideon Resnick: Today, I’m actually going to celebrate Saturn.
Akilah Hughes: I think that that’s really not right. On today’s show, the latest is all about what’s next. The guilty verdicts for Derek Chauvin do not mean that America is closer to making the country safer for people who are Black, brown, trans, undocumented—whatever identity that makes them who they are. But it did mean that this one police officer will face punishment for his crimes.
Gideon Resnick: And the news caused a wave of political tremors, though. For example, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced yesterday that the federal government will look into Chauvin former employer, the Minneapolis Police Department.
[clip of Merrick Garland] Today, I am announcing that the Justice Department has opened a civil investigation to determine whether the Minneapolis police department engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and it’s possible that out of that investigation, the Minneapolis police department could settle with the feds, or enter into what is known as a quote unquote “consent decree” that forces the department to make strong changes in its use-of-force policies. And that is on top of the DOJ current investigation into whether Chauvin violated George Floyd’s civil rights.
Akilah Hughes: But for people just trying to exist in their own neighborhoods, there’s still a lot of mourning and sadness. Today is the funeral for Daunte Wright, the 20-year old black man who was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. Then over in Columbus, Ohio, details are still coming out about what happened on Tuesday in the police killing of 16-year old Ma’Khia Bryant just minutes before the Chauvin verdict was announced. Bryant’s mother said that her daughter was the one who called 911 for help. And yesterday, police released the body cam footage of the events as they unfolded. In reaction, hundreds of people staged a sit-in at the Ohio State University, so we’ll continue to follow that story.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it is painfully obvious the issue of police brutality is bigger than the conviction of one officer for murder. So to talk about the Chauvin trial in the context of the greater effort to make police accountable, or rethink the role of police in society altogether, we have with us Jamiles Lartey. He’s a staff writer at the Marshall Project and has been reporting about policing for years, and following the trial since day one. Jamiles, Welcome back to the show.
Jamiles Lartey Yeah, thanks for having me back.
Gideon Resnick: So, you’ve obviously been following the trial and the jury came back pretty quickly after just 10 hours of deliberation. So, what did you think when you heard their guilty verdicts?
Jamiles Lartey Um, broadly speaking, I mean I can’t say I was surprised. I thought the prosecution did a, you know, they dropped truckloads of context and experts. You know, and I think, they had what some legal scholars and some commentators have called, you know, the mother of all evidence on their side—which was that video of of George Floyd’s death. And, you know, I think maybe that was, you know, a little bit hyperbolic, but at the end of the day, you know, when you look at their closing arguments, their closing arguments wasn’t: think about this expert that we showed you, think about that expert, think about this law that we read to you in great detail. Right? Their argument was: trust your eyes, trust your gut.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Jamiles Lartey It looked bad because it was bad. It looked like a crime because it was a crime.
Gideon Resnick: So how uncommon is a conviction like this? And you obviously mentioned the fact that there was video evidence that the world had seen. So did it have to do with the attention on the case over all, the evidence, the prosecution, or basically a combination of all of that?
Jamiles Lartey That’s a good question. It’s pretty uncommon for use of force, for an intentional use of force on the job. I don’t have that number in front of me. I apologize. But I believe it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of six or seven officers dating back about 10 years, maybe 15 years, actually—I think that number goes back to 2005. So. Right. It’s extremely uncommon. Generally speaking, when police are prosecuted, it is for, disproportionately it is for traffic accidents, believe it or not, where they were doing something irresponsible while driving or, you know, sometimes police are convicted of crimes that maybe it happened with their service weapon, but they weren’t acting as a police officer at that time, you know. So there’s a handful of convictions in those cases. But it’s exceedingly and vanishingly difficult to convict a police officer for an intentional use of force while on the job of doing, of being a police officer.
Gideon Resnick: And people were celebrating around the country after the verdict. But, you know, we should check that emotion, because when we last talked in early March, you said if Chauvin was convicted, that doesn’t mean justice. Let’s take a listen.
[clip of Jamiles Lartey] A single police officer being convicted of a police killing doesn’t really set, like it’s happened before. It happened in the Walter Scott case. The officer, Michael Slager, was convicted by, or well he accepted a plea deal on federal charges. It didn’t change the landscape. It’s happened before in other cases, it didn’t change the landscape. Like the overwhelming fact remains that the system, as it’s currently designed, is not designed to hold police criminally accountable for killing people while on duty.
Gideon Resnick: So, Jamiles, what then would it take for the landscape to change here?
Jamiles Lartey So I would say, it depends what you’re what you’re looking for. I mean, what we can say is that outside of the specific context of this trial, if we think about this as a post-George Floyd moment—you know, over 30 states have passed more than 140 new police oversight and reform laws, according to an analysis at The New York Times did over the weekend. So, you know, 16 of those were bills that explicitly ban the kind of hold that Derek Chauvin had George Floyd in. I leave it, I leave it to the listener, and I leave it to citizens and people who are paying attention to this, to decide whether or not that’s enough.
Gideon Resnick: Right, right. And on the federal level, the US Justice Department announced it is launching this broad investigation into Minneapolis PD, including the policies and tactics that it uses. That’s on top of the current DOJ investigation into whether Derek Chauvin violated George Floyd’s civil rights. What does this news signal to you about how the White House is taking this issue of police accountability here?
Jamiles Lartey Yeah, and not to be cynical, it doesn’t signal a ton to me. Or in the context of, if you think about the Biden administration or the Biden Justice Department as somewhat of a continuation of the Obama-era Justice Department, if you look at the work they did in Ferguson with the Ferguson report, the work they did on other patterns and practices investigations into other police departments, I would say it’s sort of roughly par for the course. Right? This is what a Democratic-led Department of Justice has done in response to high-profile police violence since at least 2014. Right? Since, since Ferguson.
Gideon Resnick: And then sort of going beyond this trial, a number of communities around the nation have tried making various steps. You were sort of alluding to this, you know, that try to rein-in police powers or at least make them more accountable. We were mentioning, you know, language in Minnesota law. We were mentioning some of those other specific reform efforts around chokeholds. But can you tell us about some of the more ambitious efforts that we’ve seen here?
Jamiles Lartey Yeah, I mean, I think some of the more ambitious efforts, you know you look to a place like Colorado where they’ve taken on this question. What they did is they made it possible for citizens to sue an individual police officer for violating their civil rights under state law. You know, a lot of city councils have tried things that are ambitious or have endeavored to try things that are ambitious, which is to say they’ve passed things, they’ve started things, they’ve had the conversation. And we have yet to see the, you know, reap the fruit from the sewing of those seeds. So I, I think the jury kind of remains out. Like we don’t know what the net impact of all of these cities, for example, that are committing money to have civilian responders or civilian co-responders go to certain mental health calls, or certain calls of people facing un-housed people. You know, different efforts like that I think are ambitious. And we just have to see where they wind up. Right? I mean, the Minneapolis City Council was very ambitious in essentially declaring it was going to dissolve its police department, and that ambition was for naught. So I think we have to, we have to keep watching before we can make conclusions about what all of that ambition will get us.
Gideon Resnick: One other sort of important lesson among many in all of this is sort of the role of bystanders, particularly in actually monitoring police. I don’t think that we would be in this situation if then 17-year old Darnella Frazier didn’t film Floyd’s death, share it with the world, correct the narrative first told by police—actually erased that narrative and replaced it, because that initial statement didn’t tell us anything about what actually happened. So how important is it that bystanders keep records on police that go beyond their own reports and even their own body cameras?
Jamiles Lartey Yeah, it’s obviously invaluable in this case, and has been invaluable in other cases, again, not always in securing a criminal conviction, but even in cases where that didn’t happen—obviously, we didn’t have video of of Michael Brown, but think about all of the cases in the aftermath of Ferguson as this movement was reborn and revitalized over and over again. Revitalized feels like a, such an unfortunate term to use when what we’re talking about is, you know, Black death, but . . . So many of these moments that captured national attention, that galvanized people, that pulled people off of the sidelines and pulled them into this conversation, whether we’re talking about Philando Castile or Eric Garner or—I mean, there’s so, you know, Walter Scott. The list goes on and on. It’s hard to, I’m trying to like do the counterfactual exercise in my head of thinking if there had been videos of none of these, how much of all of this would have happened and not happened? How much of this conversation would still have taken place, and would not have taken place. And it’s hard to imagine the world looking the way that it does now without the, either the emotional resonance of people just seeing things and sort of living in that moment, living in that experience for themselves, or just having it as an evidentiary, right, as just a strictly clinical matter to rebut the narratives of law enforcement, you know. Between the value of those two, I think it’s almost impossible to overstate.
Gideon Resnick: Well, Jamiles, thank you so much again for taking the time and being so generous with it. We always appreciate talking to you. Thank you.
Jamiles Lartey Yeah, it’s a, it’s been a privilege. Thanks for having me.
Akilah Hughes: That was Jamiles Lartey of the Marshall Project talking about the Derek Chauvin trial and what’s next for American policing. And that’s the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Thursday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re going twice as high as a butterfly in the sky: Reading Rainbow’s own LeVar Burton has been announced as a guest host on this season of Jeopardy after hundreds of thousands of fans signed a petition calling on the show’s producers to hand him the reins. Burton also starred in Roots as Kunta Kinte and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He won 13 Emmys and just seems like the perfect guy to ask high-pressure questions about ancient Mesopotamia. There’s still no word on who will host permanently when the show begins its next season. So Giddy, what’s your reaction to Burton on Jeopardy?
Gideon Resnick: What is: this is amazing. Very, very corny. I promise not to do it again.
Akilah Hughes: I appreciate it.
Gideon Resnick: I think it’s great. I mean, for one thing, great petition, actually, like a useful use of the Internet for once.
Akilah Hughes: Totally.
Gideon Resnick: And Burton is like, yeah, I mean, synonymous sort of with like when we grew up and in a way like Jeopardy also was too, and I think it’s a perfect fit. And I really do think of the people that they’ve had so far. He will almost certainly be like most deserving of taking it over a full time. Like who else is a person that is like a purveyor of knowledge, if not the host of Reading Rainbow? It seems perfect.
Akilah Hughes: Right, exactly. I mean, you know, A-Rod, the other A-Rod, Aaron Rodgers was fine. You know, he was fine. But that’s not what the job is. You know, you got to read with a certain level of condescension while also like having a bit of gravitas yourself. And I feel like, you know, Alex Trebek had that. The continuing tradition would dictate that it’s got to be LeVar.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So you’re feeling good about this? You like this?
Akilah Hughes: Totally. I think that LeVar Burton has done so much for every culture. He’s the best. [laughs] I don’t know if you’ve seen him on Community, but he’s great as himself, accidentally terrorizing Donald Glover’s character, Troy. It’s a very, very funny episode. But I just I love him. I think he’s so wonderful. And I think that, you know, the fans are right. The hundreds of thousands of people who came out of the woodwork to be like: let us have a better Jeopardy. I think they did the right thing.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s going to be awesome. I mean, we were joking about ancient Mesopotamia, but honestly, who better to put you at some sort of ease than LeVar Burton? He’s great. He is, he is a great presence, and he’s just a common guy. He’s just seems like a beautiful soul.
Akilah Hughes: Absolutely. You know, since we were children, he’s been there for us. And I think that we should be there for him now, and watch him on Jeopardy.
Akilah Hughes: I agree.
Gideon Resnick: So everybody tune in. But just like that, we have checked our temps. Stay safe, go twice as high, you know, be like that butterfly in the sky. And we’ll be back after Samar’s.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Thousands of people across Russia came out yesterday to demonstrate against the Kremlin, and for the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. At least 1,500 people across the country were arrested. And the protests coincided with President Vladimir Putin’s annual State of the Nation speech, in which he said countries that threaten Russia’s security will, quote “regret their deeds.” Yikes. He notably did not mention anything about Russia’s increased military presence at the Ukrainian border—but that’s a headline for another day. Navalny is currently on a hunger strike, and was recently transferred to a prison hospital as his physical condition continues to decline. Human rights experts at the UN are calling for his immediate medical evacuation from jail.
Akilah Hughes: Manhattan will no longer prosecute prostitution and unlicensed massage cases. District Attorney Cyrus Vance made the announcement yesterday, while also dismissing thousands of prostitution and sex work-related cases dating back to the ’70s. Manhattan joins a tide of cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia, aiming to change the criminal justice systems approach to sex work, which is disproportionately criminalized LGBTQ people of color. Advocates for sex workers say the decision is a step in the right direction, but also point out that the DA’s office will continue to prosecute customers of prostitution. They argue that this will continue to push sex work and sex workers underground into less safe environments, as compared with true decriminalization, which would make things safer for everyone involved.
Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. Biden wants us all to do a Pfizer skip day: he announced the tax credit yesterday that will let small businesses and nonprofits fully offset costs they incur by giving employees paid time off to get vaccinated. The tax credit covers time off between April 1st and September 30th. Employers will be able to claim up to $500 per day per employee, including days needed to recover from vaccine side effects. So if your reaction to Moderna is a medical-grade desire to ditch work and go surfing, feel free to follow that instinct my friends. Also in Biden news today: he’s expected to announce the US’s intention to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. This pledge will coincide with a virtual climate summit he’s hosting with 40 other world leaders, which is seen as the country’s chance to finally reassert itself as being anti-burnt planet.
Akilah Hughes: Yes, brave, very brave of us, to assert that. [laughs] This week, Apple shocked the world by inventing Tile but Apple: their device AirTag debuted on Tuesday and it’s essentially a tracker that can be attached to wallets, keys and boyfriend’s cars so their locations can be viewed on Apple devices. I’m going to put it on any man who will then be my boyfriend. Tile has been making the same kind of products since 2012, and it published a statement that accused Apple of using anti-competitive tactics. Specifically, Tile said Apple gave itself an unfair advantage by integrating the AirTag functionality into the “Find My” app, which is preinstalled on Apple devices. Tile testified to Congress about Apple and Google yesterday, along with representatives for apps like Spotify and Tinder. The hearings focused on the control that Apple and Google exert over developers through their app stores, and the commissions they charge for app downloads. A reminder that you can boycott technology by listening to WAD on an old seashell
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And look freaking awesome while doing it.
Akilah Hughes: That’s right. No one’s got that cool new phone. That’s you out here with the seashell. And those are the headlines.
Akilah Hughes: One more thing before we go. In case you missed it, Pod Save the People co-host, Kaya Henderson sat down with Oscar-nominated director Shaka King to talk about his film, “Judas in the Black Messiah.” To listen, check out the episode “Pat Yourself on the Back” in the Pod Save the People feed on Apple podcasts, or your favorite podcast app.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, love earth, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just the history of ancient Mesopotamia like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And have fun hugging trees today!
Akilah Hughes: You know, hugs are back, but mostly for trees.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we’re going slowly here. You know, take your time.
Akilah Hughes: Work your way up.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.