A group of panelists discussed the faults of America’s current justice system in light of recent fatal conflicts between police officers and individuals in minority communities.
The event, titled “Divided We Fall: When Police and Communities Collide,” featured representatives from the police and the media, as well as policymaker and an activist at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum on Tuesday.
Garry McCarthy, a former superintendent of the Chicago Police Department who lost his job following Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke’s shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014, spoke at the event. Van Dyke was caught on camera shooting McDonald 16 times.
"The answer is I had nothing to do with it,” McCarthy said. "If I was asked, I would have recommended that we don’t release it [the video] until the investigation has been concluded.”
McCarthy argued that, contrary to popular perception, modern police departments are in fact run more like corporations, with police shootings subject to civilian oversight and reviews by independent organizations.
Brittany N. Packnett, co-founder of Campaign Zero, an activist group that seeks to end police violence in America, argued that police departments are failing to provide justice to minority communities.
"We’re talking about entire systems that were set up to control marginalized people as property,” Packnett said. "Too often we do not treat the lived experience of marginalized people as real evidence.”
Tom Jackman, a reporter for The Washington Post, added that the department’s inability to craft an appropriate response caused part of the public backlash following McDonald’s death and other similar incidents.
"I don’t think the police do a great job of putting their side of the story out," he said.
Annise D. Parker, a former mayor of Houston, said the current justice system has much area for improvement and city officials should increase the racial diversity of their respective police forces.
"In the best of all possible worlds, you want a police department that looks like the community it polices,” Parker said. "Public safety is equally about the absence of crime as it is about the presence of justice."
China B. Terrell, a student at the Kennedy School who was in the audience, said people with different views must negotiate policy proposals together in order to successfully reform the justice system.
“We can waste our lives drawing lines, or we can live our lives crossing them,” she said.
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