06/03/20 Beto O'Rourke
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Beto O'Rourke joins us to discuss the murder of George Floyd, the protests, the bigotry of centuries and how it is escalated thru drug war tacts +++ Norm Stamper former Police Chief of Seattle gives his perspectives on the never ending series of cop on black murders.
DEAN BECKER: This is Dean Becker. And this is Cultural Baggage. We've got a great show today in this time of pandemic and protest. Let's get going. Today's guest is a beloved Son of Texas who sought the Democratic nomination for president of these United States. I want to welcome us congressmen retired temporarily from El Paso, Texas Beto O'Rourke. Hello Beto
BETO O’ROURKE: Dean it's really good to be with you. Thanks for having me on again.
DEAN BECKER: I you know, I want to talk about this covid pandemic but but first up there's something that's really anxious that's rotten. It's evil and it keeps rearing its ugly head here in the United States racism and its main maintained I think through the bigoted way. The drug war has been waged your Tweet yesterday stated quote. You deserved your breath your dignity your life.
DEAN BECKER: Now I never saw a man hanging from a tree but thanks to video phones. I see black men gunned down quite often and now I witness a man smothered in slow motion for not showing enough respect to the man. If I dare call him that with his knee pressing down on his neck slowly crushing his life your response Beto.
BETO O’ROURKE: The next president of the United States needs to use the full force and authority and power of the federal governments to reform wholesale policing in the United States and part of that reform should include something that you have long been a champion for which is an end to the War on Drugs, which has become a war on people which is essentially been a war specifically on black and brown people.
In the United States of America these no-knock warrants these presumptions of guilt of black people that cause as you may have seen the video this morning Dean police in Midland, Texas to draw guns on a young black man whose only perceived crime was not coming to a full stop at an intersection it is it is criminalized functionally an entire part of America, and it is produced the largest prison population on the face of the planet one disproportionately comprised of African Americans and Latin X communities across the country and unless the next president does that the racism that you mentioned that has been a fundamental part of the American Experience for last 400 years will continue indefinitely and and I sure hope to see the presumptive Democratic Nominee, Joe Biden make that Central to his plans for his administration.
DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, I was a big fan of yours. I was pulling for you during the run-up to the selection. I guess you'd call it and then it was Bernie, but I'll tell you what, I'm sure going to vote for Joe because the alternative is horrible to think about now in the past month the global Commission on drug policy released a major report.
DEAN BECKER: The report itself is massive. The video is impressive and I think their stances the only thing that will work to legalize drugs and starve a terrorist to Cripple the cartels to eliminate the gangs and the street corner vendors to save lives Futures and to save Nations themselves, and I want to ask you this and I is present, you know, facetious but why do we insist that criminals worldwide making easy 500 billion dollars a year seems pretty ludicrous to me. Your thoughts there Beto?
BETO O’ROURKE: It really does and you know that they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I have to think that despite so many of the racist results so much of the counter intuitive or counter intended outcomes the intention in trying to stop the sale of illegal drugs was
You know was well-intentioned. However, you've got to look at the facts and the truth and be governed by the science. And when you see as you just pointed out that criminals are making a windfall and and they're using that not only to continue to procure and distribute illegal drugs, but they're using it to kidnap and to terrorize and to subvert Justice and a purchase wholesale the police force.
Is in communities like see that what is which is my sister city to the south in Chihuahua Mexico. The pernicious results have to call our attention shock our conscience and and force us to do something far different and far better than we have already. And so, you know again ending the war on drugs ending the incarceration of any Americans simply for the crime of possession.
Breaking up these criminal networks and addressing some of the core fundamental problems that we have in America that will not be met by over policing or incarceration or the lockdown that we see of communities of color in this country. That's that's really the path forward. So I'm glad that this evidence has come out. I hope that it finds a home in the consciousness of the American public and their representatives in Congress and again.
BETO: I have High hopes for the next president of the United States and that key will be governed by science and facts and truth and not the paranoia and hypocrisy of the drug war
DEAN BECKER: very well said sir Beto. Once again, I want to talk about the global Commission on drug policy and they summarize their report with five main points and I think their first choice is just so spot-on. I don't want to read from it here. The number one summary states must acknowledge the negative consequences of repressive law enforcement approaches to drug policies and recognize that prohibition forges and strengthens criminal organizations. They go on to say sharing such conclusions with the public must then feed National debates to support drug policy reform and I would add this thought that sharing such conclusions is exactly what I have been doing for the last 20 years this global commission is number one concern for good reason, right?
BETO O’ROURKE: Absolutely, you know when we were riding Susie bird and I were writing this book dealing death and drugs that looked at the War on Drugs specifically marijuana from the perspective of the U.S. Mexico border. We were trying to find some kind of analog or parallel in American history to describe the insanity that we are living through right now and the best was the Prohibition on alcohol again, very well-intentioned at least in in some corners.
BETO O’ROURKE: The effects that It produced The Cure in other words was much worse than the symptoms that it sought to treat you embolden gangsters and criminal networks. You subverted rule of law. You had police forces and even judges and members of Congress bought and paid for by these criminal syndicates and alcohol as you well know was in many ways just as available as it was before.
Only there was no control over its Purity or anything to prevent it from being marketed alongside poison that would and did kill people who consumed it. And so at some point the American public and their representatives in Congress and the president of the United states came to their senses and into the prohibition on alcohol and and acknowledge. Look. Hey, we're not going to say that alcohol is not without problems.
Hundreds of thousands of people die every year from drunk driving accidents from alcohol abuse from cirrhosis of the liver, etc. Etc. Etc. But trying to ban it outright only creates more criminals and does nothing to reduce the demand and consumption of alcohol. And I think we're coming to a collective understanding of some of those same Dynamics when it comes to the War on Drugs. Look we should acknowledge that there are dangers, very serious dangers with with some drugs but the way that we are treating them which is essentially an interdiction and incarceration problem instead of a public health opportunity as made what was already a challenge a much worse problem. So really grateful that you pointed this out and Dean, I got to I got to say this, you know, I told you this before you and others like you who have been at this for years and some cases decades were totally Living in the wilderness in obscurity fighting a very lonely battle for a very long time.
But if you had not done that, I don't know that others myself included would have woken up to the real challenge in crisis that we face and and I think you have helped to produce an understanding that this country desperately needed and as we know it is produced some good. We now have a majority of states in this country who have in some former other legalized marijuana you now have the top presidential contenders at least in the Democratic party openly talking about decriminalization, reducing the use of incarceration for any drug possession crime. So we're making progress. We're not there yet, but it is these kinds of dialogues the kinds of questions that you posed and the kind of leadership that you've shown that has has helped to get us this far.
DEAN BECKER: Thank you for that. Beto, and you bring up something there that I try like heck to get the US attorney general to get the the State Attorney General to get some Top Dog somebody who proclaims the drug war to be necessary who thinks it needs to last forever to come on this show and tell us why and they absolutely refused for the same 18 going on 20 years. They absolutely refuse to do so, because it cannot be done and This Global commission report features the roof Drive.
This former president of Switzerland another former High Commissioner on human rights former president of Colombia president and a prime minister of New Zealand. These people have stature standing. They should be respected and their words heeded posthaste. Your thoughts are.
BETO O’ROURKE: I agree with you. There's so much for us to learn and what may have been a lonely battle at the edges of this conversation 20 30 40 years ago has now become center stage with world leaders that you just reference stepping up and demanding that you know, their colleagues and peers around the globe pay attention to this issue and take action and also remind us that this is all connected, right?
What happens in one country is going to affect the dynamic in another country and that is nowhere more true than it is in the United States, which is four percent of the globe's population, but consumes 25% of the illegal drugs that are produced on this planet. So the United States really has a unique singular role to play in this policy and it's about time that we take that lead to
DEAN BECKER: thank you sir. Now again folks were speaking with Beto O’Roark former US Congressman gentleman who ran for the Democratic candidacy for US president. Beto as a politician. I know you can may have to tread lightly here, but I admit to being shocked Beyond Compare baffled by one Donald J Trump his words and actions seem designed to destroy laws morals patriotism truth reality our nation itself. He jumps a new shark everyday and isn't it?
And his dismissal of the Watchdogs of late concerns me a lot the inspectors generally in Moss. He's done this and now installed his lackeys and that situation along with the new interpretations of Attorney General bar. Often seem like a Mel Brooks movie your thoughts there sir.
BETO O’ROURKE: yeah, you know I hope that in future Generations people will find it funny the way maybe we find a Mel Brooks movie funny today because by the time those future Generations are reading our history. They will see that we were able to stop Donald Trump in to feed him in this November's election because the alternative is is really terrifying and well very sad chapter for those future generations to read if we were unable to stop the most Lawless president in the history of this country one who wantonly undermined the Constitution and defied the understanding that no one is above the law by himself being treated differently under the law in part. Thanks to his attorney general who has become essentially his personal is personal lawyer. You know that that outcome really is up to us and I'm doing everything within my power through an organization that I started called powered by people to make sure that we stop Donald Trump and trumpism in America because we know it's not limited to just one person or individual. It's really a much larger disease and sickness in this country.
And unless it is at unless it is stopped at all levels from the presidency to the Statehouse to the city council chambers, it will end this country as we know it and our hope of persisting as the you know, greatest democracy in the history of this world will come to an end and and that's on us at The Ballot Box and organizing before we get to The Ballot Box and organizing means getting folks registered to vote and there are more than a million known Democrats just in the state of Texas who have yet to register update their voter registration in this state. It means turning people out to vote once they are registered. So, you know, it's good to vote but it is even more important to get our friends and family members and colleagues and classmates and neighbors out to the polls as well.
And then in Texas Dean as you know, this you've got a republican leadership that is Fighting tooth and nail to keep people especially Democrats from going to The Ballot Box and whether its voter ID laws or whether it's denying the ability to vote by mail in the midst of the deadliest pandemic of the last century. They're going to do everything they can to thwart a true Democratic small D response to this threat and and our challenge is to transcend and overcome that and I'm confident that we'll be able to do that.
Now. I know our time is limited. May I get one last question? I want to focus on the pandemic and I'm getting cabin fever but at my age I'm going to sit tight for a while and I would hope that you and Amy and the kids are pretty much sitting tight as well. A hundred thousand Americans are dead. I do not think that many tens of those thousands had to Die the clues were there the warnings were there the guidebook was there and to close us out the covid virus runs wild and nursing homes, dormitories, cruise ships and prisons and jails and closing nursing homes is still difficult but manageable closing dormitories and cruise ships is logical but insofar as prisons and jails, it runs the gamut from nobody gets out unless they're rich folks like Trump's buddy manafort and and there are New Perspectives growing though from this pandemic. We're managing to provide forbidden drugs like Suboxone. Tobacco alcohol and marijuana to those in quarantine and to even stop arresting for low-level drug crimes in some areas, which begs the
questions. Why don't we change that perspective all the time your thought there Beto?
BETO O’ROURKE: Yeah, you know Dean some people have referred to this pandemic as the great revealer because it is laying there so many of the divisions that have defined American life for as long as there's been an America, you know to look at Chicago for example and know that African Americans represent roughly 30% of the population in that City but comprise seventy percent of the deaths from covid-19 to see similar numbers in the state of Louisiana is to show us that black Americans don't have access to health care in the way that white Americans do black Americans don't have access to the opportunities that so many white Americans have taken for granted and not only is it immoral and unjust it is literally Really deadly and causing the deaths of people who otherwise would be with us today. And when we see these reports that prisons and jails are Rife with covid cases and and deaths from covid because we pack more people in them than does any other country the highest levels of incarceration on planet Earth right here in the United States of of America.
It perhaps should show Is that what we are doing Beyond again being immoral and unjust is just downright deadly and and maybe we shouldn't be locking people up for possession of controlled substance. Maybe we shouldn't be throwing the book at them for the third strike and maybe we shouldn't have these mandatory minimums that Define life behind bars for so many of our fellow human beings. And so I hope Dean that after what has been revealed.
BETOIn this pandemic we change in a fundamental way as a society. We've talked about some of the changes in The Superficial ones like will we speak will we keep shaking hands and we'll We Gather in the way that we have in the past when we spend more time with their family and at home, I mean all those things are perhaps important on a different level but the fundamental important profound truths in the way that we treat one another and the way in which some based on the color of their skin are denied equal.
Access to opportunity and to health and advancement and to freedom and Justice. I mean, those are the things I really do think need to change if we are going to meet our potential in our promise to ourselves and to the rest of the world and who we say that we are and I'm going to fight like hell to make sure that we do. I know you are you always have been and I think if we hold out hope based on the action that we are taking. Then then we got something to fight for and I think we should we should definitely hold on to that.
DEAN BECKER: All right. Well as we're wrapping up here, I want to just say this when I speak at Rice University or other venues, I don't draw crowds like Alex Jones or have tens of millions of fans like Hannity. I don't sensationalize myself. I don't talk of gay frogs or Benghazi, Benghazi. My main fans are law enforcement doctors and ministers and a few good politicians like you my friend Beto O’Rourke. I consider myself lucky. Thank you Beto.
BETO O’ROURKE: Thank you so much. I consider myself lucky as well. Keep it up man. Adios
DEAN BECKER: Adios
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DEAN BECKER: friends. There's a lot of I'll just be honest about it a lot of Mayhem going on around this country. There's a lot of people that are in the streets rising up to protest the death of a gentleman in Minneapolis. And then there are a lot of other folks that are criminals that are taking advantage of this situation and doing harm and here to talk about it as a gentleman a former Chief of Police of Seattle who has known in part for his During the their protest back in 1999. He's one of my Band of Brothers in law enforcement Action Partnership former police chief Norm Stamper. Hello Norm.
NORM STAMPER: Hello being good to be with you.
DEAN BECKER: Well Norm, I appreciate you taking the time for this. You know, some folks say that that I don't know that situation in Seattle was your fault and that it didn't have to go down that way but what's going on around the country doesn't have to go down this way either does it?
NORM: well, I guess my most muster up all the honesty I possibly can and tell you that I think it was predictable and inevitable so I would have to say that yeah what we are seeing had to go down because we haven't really done anything to formed the way police and Community interact at times of Crisis. It is still the police calling the shots. There is a fundamental lack of an authentic partnership between community and police and as long as you know, I'm put it this way as long as the molecules remain organized the way they are in other words, as long as the structure is paramilitary and bureaucratic and as long as the police are Basically conveying a message of where the cops and you're not and we will decide what we're going to do here. We will three years from now three months from now.
NORM STAMPER: I'll be back talking about the same issues. So if that sounds like I'm a little bit pessimistic maybe it's a function of this being Monday could be a function of the number of interviews that I've done over the years addressing the issue of the community police relationship. So I am what I'm sensing is that we're very very slow Learners as an institution. There are wonderful people in police departments across the country. There are very fine Mayors and other Executives appointed and elected all of whom who care, you know, all of them care deeply about Community Police relations and never ever want to see anything like we saw.
A week ago in Minneapolis where a police officer murdered an unarmed citizen. It's reached a point I think working for saying well, we need reform we need training. We need this we need that all of which I would not contest but we're not addressing the most basic need and that is radical restructuring of American law enforcement.
DEAN BECKER: And I would have to agree with you sir. I the I don't know and seeing that film where George Floyd was slowly killed it. It seemed to me the cop knew what he was doing. He did they were protesting to him, please you're killing this man and he just persisted. I don't know that we can you know claim or describe intent. I Don’t know how to say this exactly but it just seemed like it was a done on purpose. I don't know how else to put it and and that had think has resonated or that Vision has bounced around in people's minds all across this country. What we can be proud of I think is that there are police Chiefs. There are police officers around the country who are seeing this perhaps in a new light who are standing with and marching with those protesting these deaths that is a very good sign is it not?
NORM STAMPER: I could not agree more Dean. I think I frankly I'll have to admit to my own surprise and not shocked but definitely surprised that we've had so many police trees and so many police officers including those who represent unions Saying for the first time in my history involved in this institution that what happened in Minneapolis that we could go today was in fact murder and that police officer had no right to due to his fellow citizen what he did and so it's it's it is gratifying once again, I would I would caution that if we think good intentions are enough.
They're not we need to do the extremely difficult work of reconstituting this the system itself. And when you consider all the forces aligned against that it becomes very daunting, but I like you was very encouraged by the reaction of so many police officers across the country calling this to what it was cold-blooded murder.
DEAN BECKER: Well my friends once again, we've been speaking with former police chief of Seattle? Mr. Norm Stamper Norm we have as I mentioned earlier Band of Brothers in law enforcement Action Partnership. We try to educate and you know motivate folks around the country. It's time for a change it certainly is your closing thoughts, Norm.
NORM STAMPER: Well, I think if I don't want to turn all abstract or intellectual here, but what I would say is unless we attack the structure of policing the culture will not change what we know about structures and this case a paramilitary bureaucratic top-down command and control structure is hostile to the whole concept.
In the community police partnership and yet we continue to talk about improving community relations in improving the escalation training improving the technical skills of our officers. All of which once again is it makes perfect sense, but not unless we are willing to do the very hard work of restructuring the institution, will we see change of the type that will prevent these kinds of horrific actions in the future.
DEAN BECKER: I’m too old go to these protests. I just don't I don't want to die. But the fact of the matter is back in the day in the 60s and 70s. I was there for many anti-war protests and and that's what these new protests are really about. I once again remind you because of prohibition. You don't know what's in that bag. Please be Careful.