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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
United Shades Of America: Protect and Serve
Aired May 15, 2016 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:17] WALTER KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: On this episode of "The United Shades of America", we're talking about the police.
One person, everybody else, nervous. It's weird, I feel like it's a weird thing to say out loud, but I've never been arrested. I feel like it's a weird, humble, braggy thing to say. I'm not bragging. I feel like you might say, I've never been arrested out loud. I suddenly saw like I'm running for the GOP nomination of the black guy, you know what I mean?
I've never been arrested, not like those other ones. Yehey, Herman Cain, yehey. I've also never heard of rap song. Oh, you're perfect. I've never even had sweet potato pie. It gets better and better.
My name is W. Kamau Bell. As a comedian, I've made a living by the humor in the parts of America I don't understand.
And now, I'm challenging myself to dig deeper. I'm on a mission to reach out and experience all the cultures and beliefs that add color to this crazy country. This is "The United Shades of America".
It seems like every time you turn on the news, you can see conflict between communities of color and the police. And this is causing many people to wonder, what has happened?
Well, I'll tell you. Nothing has happened, other than technology making it easier to document what has been going on for centuries.
It started when the first Puritan got off the Mayflower. And he told the first Native American he saw to keep it moving or he was going to get a ticket for loitering.
And now, thanks to the internet, communities of color are banding together to figure out ways to organize and let the cops know, we're not going to take it. Because a white guy who kills nine people gets arrested like this and a black guy who sells loose cigarettes gets arrested like this.
So this week, I'm headed to one of the cities most often cited when the subject turns to crime and policing, Camden, New Jersey.
But before I go there, I'm going to talk to the people across the river in Philadelphia to ask what they think about the way we're being policed. And I could start with this guy, or this guy, or even this guy. But then, you'd accuse me of being biased. So I think I'll just start with these nice young women here.
We're talking to people about policing in America. So how do you two feel about police?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the police are usually, like, there to protect you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've always been there to support us and on that weekend nice and stuff like that.
BELL: OK. So, if something bad happens, you feel like you can call the police and they'll show up and take care of you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BELL: That's great. Can I ask another question?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BELL: What's that like? Do you have black friends? You have friends that are black? OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I also have friends out there. Hey, Sasha (ph).
BELL: Do any of your black friends ever come to you and say, I'm worried about the police, I'm afraid of the police?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand as a white male, I'll never be in the same shoes as an African-American who just simply gets looked at a different way. And I understand that that it's just so sad. It's a sad truth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trust wise, I think we would trust the cops because we grew up in a white suburban neighborhood so I could see how people in an urban environment might think different.
BELL: Oh my god. Oh, come here. Bring it in, bring it in, bring it in. Oh my god. Do you understand that? Like that's a big thing. And I'll tell you if white people have that conversation with other people, then the world changes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED: Here's my black friend. Oh my god. Did you just see what the whole crowd did?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it's OK. It's all right. We're just friends.
BELL: It literally was a Spike Lee movie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is great, oh my god.
BELL: Can you confirm that you're his black friend? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I am.
BELL: OK, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in, baby.
BELL: He's great. He's turning redder than you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes, right.
BELL: So, if (inaudible) get bad, you can call the cops?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like I can. If you go five blocks that way, you're going to get a completely different perspective.
BELL: Actually, I didn't have to walk anywhere. Do you feel like when (inaudible) hits the fan, you can call the cops?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't call them. No, because when I ride (inaudible) they just say, "Oh, get your hands out of your pockets." And I'm like, "I'm not bad, I just called you for help."
BELL: Oh man. Have you had experience with the police that were not awesome, that were not 5-Star Yelp reviews?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have enough figures, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really.
BELL: Kind of what the national crisis that Americans in right now. I mean, I call it crisis, where many communities, most -- I would say communities of color, especially, just feel like we're not being policed appropriately.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The police should feel like you're a neighbor. They should feel like you're a family. I think they still have to go back to the basics. This is the community you protect and serve.
BELL: Yes, back to the basics. I hear people talk about those basics, when cops rescue cats out of trees and told little bud to go home and do his homework.
[22:05:05] But those basics weren't in any neighborhood I grew up in. And I can't imagine that happening in the neighborhoods on the front lines of this conflict today.
But according to national news, they're doing it exactly that way here in Camden. They're trying a method called community policing, where the police walk the beat and get to know the citizens personally, instead of just showing up when bad things happen.
The Camden Police Department thinks this can work. And they're getting so much good press that even President Obama showed up to check it out. BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: I've come here to Camden to hold you up as a symbol of promise for the nation.
BELL: Do I think it could work? I have no idea. But I'm going to spend the week with the Camden City Police Department and hopefully find out.
RALPH THORNTON, CAMDEN CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT SERGEANT: From every day you put on this uniform, you bridge the gap between law enforcement and the civilian population.
BELL: Sergeant Ralph Thornton is one of the people responsible for carrying out this community policing agenda. And he's also one of those black people that you can't exactly tell how old he is, 25, 45, 120.
THORNTON: I like to tell my cops, "When you go to work, that particular area is your castle. You are the knight of that area. When enemies are at your gate, you protect it."
BELL: The thing that sort of comes up for me is I fell like some police see it like it is their area but they own the area. You know what I'm saying? I'm not the knight, I'm a king.
THORNTON: Got you. I do understand that. Well, I use the word castle but our officers are only as good as the report that they have with the people in their area.
BELL: Brushing aside the fact that his analogy means that we all go back to medieval times, I think the only way for me to really learn how they do it here is to see it up close.
THORNTON: Officer Jeffries, all right, come out.
CHRISTIAN JEFFRIES, CAMDEN CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: Officer Jeffries, Christian. How are you doing?
THORNTON: He's a very good officer. You're in good hands.
BELL: That's good. I appreciate that. It's not often that I say that when one cop hands me over to another cop. Thank you for putting me in good hands.
But, just so you know, Officer Jeffries, this is actually my first time ever in a police car in any capacity.
JEFFRIES: All right, good, good.
BELL: That's right, folks. I'm going where no other civilian black man had ever gone before, to the front seat of a police car. Momma, I made it.
Camden's got a reputation of being a rough area. So this is the district you patrol?
JEFFRIES: This is the district I patrol. The majority of the times, this is the area. This street, right here, is very heavily trafficked for drug activity.
BELL: I mean, this seems like a pretty, I would say, frothy area. There's a lot ...
BELL: I mean, it's like, it's clearly a city that is having some urban blight. And there's a lot of buildings that are empty so people used to live in there and do businesses there and those businesses left. So, what's surprises you most about the job?
JEFFRIES: To hear what Camden once was, this is where you wanted to go, you know, if you wanted to go to vacation in Camden.
BELL: Yes, Camden was once a vacation and shopping destination for tourists and locals alike. In the 1950s, industry was booming. Jobs were plenty.
And Camden's also got culture. It was the home of Walt Whitman and it's the place where a young Lafayette Ronald Hubbard said, "I think I'll call it scientology."
But late in the 1960s, economic conditions caused many businesses to leave. And like what often happens in these situations, no jobs means poverty, poverty leads some people to crime and drugs. And in 2012, Camden was given that most dubious of titles, the most dangerous city in the U.S. Congrats?
And Camden's only 10 miles wide and has a population of just 76,000 people, which means, most likely, everyone in the city has been touched by crime.
Do you know what those crosses represent?
JEFFRIES: 2012 was the worst year for Camden. This is -- All the homicides and murders that were committed in Camden there's a cross for every victim that it occurred to.
Yes, it was a very, very violent year.
BELL: Officer Jeffries is going to take me to the most notorious corner in the city.
This is clearly a very active corner. I guess, of course, how safe do you feel walking around Camden, the streets of Camden?
JEFFRIES: There are some places that, depending on the call or at night time, late at night, when, you know, visibility is bad, I wouldn't necessarily want to walk by myself.
BELL: And one of us just got the finger. How does it feel knowing that that just happened?
JEFFRIES: Not everyone's going to be happy. That's how I look at it. Just like anything in life, not everyone's going to be happy with what you're doing. BELL: And honestly, it could be that he's not a fan of my comedy. I mean, I'm not going to put it all on you.
JEFFRIES: Maybe, maybe.
BELL: Honestly, Officer Jeffries seems a little bit stiff to me. I think I'm going to have to try to help him out with this whole community policing thing.
Now, you're walking to my beat.
JEFFRIES: Go ahead, lead the way.
BELL: So, can we talk to you for a few minutes?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BELL: Just be mellow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
BELL: You be whatever you want to. We just want to -- Officer Jeffries ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you doing Officer Jeffries?
JEFFRIES: How are you doing?
BELL: So how long do you live in Camden? Or do you live in Camden?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I do, all my life.
BELL: All your life. So, have you seen the city change in your lifetime?
[22:10:06] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's getting a little better. I mean, we've got a lot of work to do, so.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a lot.
BELL: And what work do they have to do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like get these people off the corners. Some people park on the side of my house using drugs all the time. And I called last week.
BELL: Then now, when you called the police, do you feel like they respond quickly?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They didn't -- no, they did not respond quick enough.
BELL: That's the Camden Police?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.
BELL: That's his people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes (inaudible) to respond.
BELL: Could you talk to him? Pleas talk to him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They didn't respond fast enough. Matter of fact, I had to stop to car and told them where the car was.
JEFFRIES: OK, people down there in the morning or late at night?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even in the afternoons.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All daylight. And I did let them know about the loitering and the drug use. And when I came back, the people were still there, so.
BELL: Why do you think that happened? I mean ...
JEFFFRIES: It all depends on the time of day, I mean, however many officers are present, the priority of the call. You know, that could have went out the same time as a higher priority call.
BELL: I'm sure you understand that she doesn't what the priority is.
JEFFRIES: Yes, sometimes ...
BELL: Nobody tells her, there was a gunshot over here so we can't come to you right away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You all can make it better? All you have to do is be on top of everybody.
BELL: All you're going to do is be on top of everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have to get a relationship with people, but speaking to him you know, "Everything's OK," you know?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Instead of saying, "Shut up, I'm in control."
JEFFRIES: I hear you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, it's not their job to punish you.
JEFFRIES: Oh, I agree with him. You know what I mean? We always want to use, if it came down to the amount of force, but that's needed and nothing more.
BELL: The media often does a serious disservice to communities of color by acting as if citizens in these neighborhoods don't want to be policed. But it's just the opposite. We want cops in our neighborhood, we just want the good ones.
[22:15:17] BELL: I have a thing that natural fear of police that I think black people have instilled in them like the same way I have a natural fear like mountain lions, you know what I mean? It's just that I don't have to call a mountain lion if I'm in trouble. You know what I'm saying?
I do have to call a cop and it's weird, but I feel like I'm totally like, yeah, there's a bad thing happening at my house, could you send a wild mountain lion over here just to see if it can help? I know that sounds crazy, but that's how I feel about calling the cops.
I'm in Camden, New Jersey, hanging out with cops to see if a comedian can solve the country's police brutality problem or something like that. And I'm here to talk to Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson, who's been in charge since 2008, and is the man responsible for implementing all the new changes in the force.
BELL: Where are we? It feels like I'm in the bat cave.
SCOTT THOMSON, CAMDEN POLICE CHIEF: So this is the central nervous system for operation. It's our real time tactical operations intelligence center. The ideology that (inaudible) everything we do here is to prevent crime from occurring in the first place.
BELL: You must be also watching the officers, too. I mean if you can see everybody in Camden, you can also see your police force. Is that helpful too?
THOMSON: No, absolutely. I mean that's one of the biggest problems we have right now in American policing ...
THOMSON: ... is the issue of trust and legitimacy.
BELL: As a black man in America, I know that by many people in American and some of the cops unperceived as a future criminal. It feels like police have to help for change on perception.
THOMSON: The burden is on us, not sit back and keep doing, expect the public can change on its own. I think it will -- here's what we can't deny is that there are -- we all have biases, right? And there are implicit biases that end up shaping our actions. It's recognizing it and learning how to deal with it and process it in a way to ensure equity is being exuded doing that process.
BELL: That's nice. It's totally, I think, it's awesome that you are as a leader of this police force are dealing with perception that cops have in this country, you're not pretending that doesn't exist.
THOMSON: We're starting to see a lot of bad behavior of police officers. The video out of North Charleston, it sickened me. What's credit also that is now our responsibility to fix because that starts by us fixing our own and that is not something that you learn in a classroom. The only way that the citizens are going to trust the officer, they have to have human contact with an officer, and it can't be only when that person calls 911 and says I have a problem.
BELL: And that's the key to community policing which is something that isn't new to Camden.
Up until recently, if you wanted to join the Camden police force then you actually had to live in Camden. But in 2011, the Mayor decimated the police force because of a lack of state funding, and not surprisingly crime spiked exponentially. And then the city filed a waiver to let people join the police force whether they lived in Camden or not, which may not sound like a big deal, but the question is, can you engage in community policing if you aren't actually a member of the community?
To find out, I'm meeting up with Kelly Francis, President of Camden chapter of the NAACP. And according to my black people guidebook, he's going to have a lot to say.
When I've heard there was a point which the cops in Camden that they lost connection with the communities.
KELLY FRANCIS, CAMDEN, NAACP: One of the biggest problem is that most of the police officers are not a part of the community that they serve. They don't live there. You know, they come in as an army of occupation.
BELL: And why do you think it's so important to have police officers who are from the community?
FRANCIS: First of all, you get to know the residents. You know who's who. You know the difference between a drug dealer and an honest student. I know the difference, I know who's -- so I've been here 65 years. The guys who do not live in the community don't know that. They work their shifts or whatever, and then they go back to their communities for their 16 hours.
FRANCIS: But I'm not getting anything in return from them.
BELL: They're not renting a home here, than an owning a home here, their not.
BELL: ... buying the groceries.
FRANCIS: They're not sharing our tax burden.
FRANCIS: They're our burden because they're taking our tax dollar, but they're not returning anything. That's not community policing, that's all about appearances or show.
BELL: So, you're saying to be true community policing, you need to be from the community.
FRANCIS: Exactly. That's what I grew up with. The cops, they were neighbors. We went to school with their children, we went to churches with them. They were our mentors, they were our role models.
BELL: Not just a police officer?
FRANCIS: Yeah, absolutely. But today the only thing we see is them in a blue uniform.
BELL: That absolutely makes sense. Knowing your local officers is key to feeling like you can trust your local officers, feeling like you can talk to them, seeing them smile.
[22:20:08]Right now if a cop smiles at me, I'm like, uh-oh, something really bad is about to go down.
BELL: I don't care that it's not all cops. It's too many cops who have done bad things. I don't even hear not all cops. I get it, not all cops, but some jobs, you get the hold that job up to a higher standard than other jobs. You know what I'm saying? It doesn't matter. It's not all cops, it's enough cops, #enoughcops.
You have to have like a 100 percent success rate because if one person screws it up then started ruined the whole thing. You know what I mean? Some job is hold to high standard, like police, priests, school teachers, baristas. You know what I'm saying? Like you just don't screw up my civil liberties, don't screw up my swimsuit areas, don't screw up my kids and don't screw up my mocha is all I'm saying because that will ruin my day.
If I'm going to understand this community policing thing then I'm going to have to pound the pavement with officers that are actually from Camden.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing? How's everything?
BELL: Officers Tyrrell, Cabria (ph) both from Camden, have invited me to walk the beat with them.
And today we're going to do a little walking the beat?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right under the sun, yes.
BELL: All right. Let's do it. Let's do it. So, what is the purpose of walking the beat?
[22:25:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty much for like police presence. A lot of the people that live in the city, they don't want to see police officers just riding in their cars. They want more personal experience. BELL: Being from Camden, do you think that helps you sort of patrol and be police officers?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it makes them feel more comfortable because they're like, you don't understand my situation. You didn't go what I went to. I'm like, wait a minute. First of all, I'm from here. I was raised here so I know exactly what you're talking about. And it makes them feel a little bit more at ease.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, they're like OK, maybe she does get it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She knows what I feel, what I've been through, you know, so it make some a little more comfortable.
BELL: Also, does that mean they can't bias (ph) you in the same way?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, they try. How are you guys? Hey, man. Hey, man. Steven (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you that comedian?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BELL: I am ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just told him that. I just told him that.
BELL: Well, looks like the police aren't the only ones with street cred.
Walking the beat is hard work because not only does it last for an entire eight-hour shift, but also because officers Cabria (ph) and Tyrrell have to convince this neighborhood one person at a time that police aren't jerks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry. I like babies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a boy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a boy? How old is he? What's your name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Valerie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Valerie? Don't be shy. It's OK. Have a nice day, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You too.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love kids.
BELL: Is that part of it? Just talking to people and just being a person?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because then they're not afraid of you when they see you.
BELL: And it doesn't just put a police officer in their face when something bad happens.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
A lot of people in our community are afraid of the cops, and a lot of people I think would maybe I don't know, they feel like you're judge sometimes because you're people of color who's also wearing the uniform.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You get mixed reaction, you know, especially with everything that's going on in the media.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, they only see your uniform. They don't see you as a human. They don't see you -- they expect you not to understand. And they don't realize that under this uniform, you're still a person. You still have feelings, has nothing to do with color, has nothing to do with gender, you know, it just has to do with there are certain things that we have to do as officers. And a lot of people understand that, they become a little I rate the person, then I'm like OK, I understand you're just doing your job and things go smoothly after that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you live here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that yours right there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yup.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything I pass here ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm like, wait a second, is that a person and have to double back around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was Santa Claus. BELL: My name is Kamau by the way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you.
BELL: Nice to meet you, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, nice to meet you again, all right (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you again. Blessing (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll be seeing you and your man over there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're sniffing. Yeah, yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have food. I don't know what you're sniffing.
BELL: I'm not sure if this handshaking approach is the solution, but if all the bad things that could happen in an encounter with the police, I'll take awkward small talk any day.
BELL: My name is Kamau.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Magda.
BELL: Nice to meet you Magda. These your kids?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your grandmother or your mother live on like Fifth Street or Grant Street?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, my aunt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were at the incident for my daughter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he's still in jail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember that. I remember her and then I remember you when you guys came.
BELL: You said you had an incident and this -- and he showed up for the incident?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For my daughter. A guy got fresh with her.
BELL: Got fresh with her and he -- did he do a good job at handling it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad he's still in jail though.
BELL: And how long have you lived in Camden?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All my life.
BELL: Do you think things are looking up in Camden or they?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, North Camden's getting better ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... as the days go by.
BELL: All right, well, than you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
BELL: Actually, thanks for talking to me. (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye-bye.
This was interesting, but honestly, it might take a few hundred years of this kind of interaction before communities of color trust the police, but it does seem like a good start. But we all know right now in America, we need way more than a good start.
[22:32:34] BELL: Back on the beat in Camden, I'm heading out on patrol again. This time, I'm with Officer Matt D'amico (Ph).
Do you always want to be a cop?
MATT D'AMICO (ph), CAMDEN OFFICER: I did. Camden was hiring and, you know, I looked at it as a place to really learn and make a difference.
BELL: Now when you driving around that seat looking out the window, I see you checking out, what are you doing?
D'AMICO: Whenever I'm patrolling I always have a window down. I always like to have my ear on the streets, all my sergeants and hire ups and fellow officers have always installed it in my head, you know, pay attention. That will save your life, always watch your six?
BELL: And your six is what's behind you?
BELL: Yes. I've seen the "Bourne Identity." I know what you're talking about. I'm kind of half of police officer.
D'AMICO: Yes, with them (ph) ...
BELL: Yes. I've absorbed a lot through Matt Damon. Now what are we doing today? What are you doing right now?
D'AMICO: We're going to check out a house on Marian Street most known for CDS activity.
BELL: And what is CDS?
D'AMICO: Drugs, Controlled Dangerous Substance. 868.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 808.
D'AMICO: Can you show me on a 40 abandon checks Marian and Cain. Throw me an assist please.
BELL: Backup? This can't be good.
D'AMICO: So, yeah, this is the location now, actually, the front door is open. Last time I was here it was boarded up. So ...
BELL: So you think somebody maybe took the boarders off of the door?
D'AMICO: Yes, that's the way it appears. It used to just the only able to get in through the rear. Stay there, don't move. Have a seat for me real quick, ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure.
MATT DEMADICO: No, I just got to talk to you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, cool.
D'AMICO: You were inside the property, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, yes.
D'AMICO: All right. And, you know, you can't on the property? All right, there's three people in there, sarge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me see your hands. Let me see your hands now.
D'AMICO: Come outside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're under arrest. Everybody else inside, you come out now. If you don't, I will release this dog. He will bite and bite you.
D'AMICO: Come outside with your hands where I can see them. Put it down, have a seat.
[12:35:07] BELL: This house, which I don't even feel safe standing in, is apparently a well-known drug spot in Camden.
D'AMICO: This is probably where they were. These all looks fresh. This is still fresh heroin that has not been used yet
BELL: Oh, wow.
D'AMICO: So the front is completely blown out, on the side I should say is completely blown out.
BELL: I mean, yeah, I don't -- you say, watch for our step. I was good. I watch from standing.
D'AMICO: Yeah, as you can see that hole in the ceiling.
BELL: This used to be somebody's house, somebody home and picked out that carpet. And somebody picked out that carpet and yes somebody who like, who probably should we upgrade? This is the carpet we should get. There was discussion about this carpet going in here.
D'AMICO: Memories were created in here at Christmas morning, all that stuff in there, probably you know. It took a dark turn.
BELL: And now it's this.
And if you thought all this was happening in a deserted area of town, you'd be wrong.
Do you live here in the neighborhood?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. I've been here about 10 years already.
BELL: And did you see what just went down or what we just were part of over there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, kind of. So many people going in and out of that house. It's big kind of door. It would be like 50, 60 people coming in and out the house every day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Day and night. I mean, come on, my kids be out here, a lot of kids be out here, and they're growing up looking at that. So they are like, oh, I'm interested in that. So let me go do that, and then we have another drug user. Come on, we don't need that out here man. That is not cool. You know what I'm saying?
BELL: He's right, it isn't cool. And in parts of Camden like this, this activity seems normal. And while I'm overwhelmed, this lady seems like she's taking a Sunday drive in the park.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, sweetie, how are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm all right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see daddy go out the day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You did.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes sir.
BELL: Hi. My name's Kamau. We're just shooting in Camden, talking about policing in Camden, hanging out with the police. And you seem to be friends with the police. Do you live here in Camden?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I do.
BELL: And can you talk -- how do you feel about living in Camden?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love this city.
BELL: I just though you just drove through here and you're smiling and talking, it was almost like, you weren't even, I know you could see this was happening. But I was all like you weren't even let me to -- it wasn't (inaudible). Yeah, OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn't affect me. It doesn't affect me. Because the key is, we have to get involved. Now with this drug stuff, we have zombies walking through our streets. It's no excuse for that. And it has to be a proactive approach. If we choose not to get involved, then whatever happens we can't complain about. The minute we become involved and we're taking ownership of the situation other problem. And when we have ownership of it, that means we can dictate how it happens and what happens.
BELL: I don't know how she can handle this. She has pride in Camden and believes it will get better. But for me at this point, I'm pretty much gutted.
There's problems all over the country with police and how police are doing their thing and what police are doing, but we can't have that. It's just depressing. This is sad. Kids should be able to play basketball right there, but I wouldn't let my kids play basketball out here. The city has a lot of work to do. And I really hope this is the police force to do it, because they certainly need a police force that believes in the city and wants the city to do better.
[22:40:32] I got kids. I wouldn't -- I can't imagine what it's like to live in the city. And I'm sure it's great. I'm sure people have great things to do here and they love it and they have pride. A lot of people have pride, but to know that this is always right around the corner is overwhelming. I can't imagine. This is really emotional.
BELL: Camden clearly has an idea how they want their officer to conduct themselves in the streets. But I want to know more about how they're trained.
Here at the police academy, potential officers are put to rigorous physical training. These recruits have a top and complicated job ahead of them and I really got to ask, why would you want to be a cop?
So, first question, why'd you pick Camden? I mean, you could've been police officer anywhere. I heard there's a place called Medford Lakes. But sounds like it sort of Barney (ph) fight situation but you all three pick Camden.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Personally for me, my parents are pastors in Camden, New Jersey so I've been in that community for so long. I could've chosen to work in a suburban community which probably would've been, you know, maybe safer as some people say.
BELL: Lot of captain trees.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, but that's not what I felt like my calling. My calling and what I have passion for is the urban community, that's where I want to work.
BELL: There's a lot of police thing to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, just a lot of action, there's a lot diversity as well.
BELL: OK. And I think that's great. Is there any part of it that like the idea being police officers sorry I'm looking for scares the shit out of me. (Inaudible) any part of it that, I mean, I get tot his public service and that you're helping people and we absolutely need police officers and we need well trained, highly effective connected to community police officers but is there any part of it that scare you or you worried about or?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one thing I'm nervous about but is the culture towards law enforcement now is a lot of people are scare of law enforcement. I'm hoping if I could bring some integrity to the job, and some respect -- respecting people's privacy rights, thing like that. I can help generating new attitude towards law enforcement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you know, the most important thing is to get out there and build trust so that we do have a safer environment for both the community and the officers.
BELL: I'm glad that you guys are looking forward to be cops and I think do you have the right attitude and good luck in the streets of Camden.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you sir.
BELL: As we all used to say on Hill Street Blues, let's be careful out there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you sir. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you sirs. Stop calling me sir.
And while some officers say they felt the call to protect and serve. I'm guessing sometimes that call come from washing that liquid metal coffin Terminator 2.
[22:45:00] BAGBY: Hey Kamua. How's everything?
BELL: What's up Tyrrell.
But for others, policing in their blood. I'm meeting back up with Officer Tyrrell Bagby and his father retired lieutenant Scott Bagby. Another black man of unidentifiable age.
So this is the shooting range?
BAGBY: Yes sir.
BELL: And this is where you guys come down here and practice and keep your skills tight or?
BAGBY: Pretty much.
The threat has officially stops.
BELL: Wow. Now, in the news lot of times, people ask, why didn't the cop shoot him in the legs and this in a, you know, wound him and then -- so the person still be alive. So tell me why it's inner mask and not the little things.
BAGBY: Should I give it to you in one word and I'll explain it, Hollywood. Unfortunately, we're not all Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington in real life. If we go to shoot for the arm or for the leg, if he moves, it might go in the back and shoot, you know, baby Susan (ph) and we don't want that.
BELL: You're police officers but you're also black dudes and you know I would like to -- so that means, I'm declaring a black guy meeting right now. So, talk about the relationship between the black community and the police department because right now, nationally, that relation seems like it's in a crisis. There's a perception that black people have something extra worry about when we're being police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, it's the way it's promoting. A lot of incidents don't have to happen based on what I know and what I see and what I hear. A lot of these incidents don't have to occur if you do exactly what you're told to do. You're told take your hands out of your pockets. Take your hands out of your pockets. There's a safety issue, safety at the officer, safety of individual. Just follow their directions even if you don't agree with it, follow it. Even if you feel the officers is doing something wrong, there's an avenue later on for you address that.
BELL: It's a hard for people to swallow because it just felt like and I respect police officers just to be clear. I'm not -- I don't think we should not have cops but I certainly understand and when I see these clips online, and people getting upset, why they will be upset.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
BELL: You know, are there -- I'm not asking about cops in Camden.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
BELL: Are there bad police officers?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say absolutely, naturally there's bad human being.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just generally there's bad people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And sometimes, you know, people slip through the cracks sort of speak and become police officers and then they're true personality comes out after the fact and it's unfortunate but it does happen that way.
BELL: I think for me, it feels like the last thing any police officer wants to do is admit that another cop is bad because they don't want to cross that thin blue line and for us sometimes, it just like I feel like if cops could sometimes go, "Yeah". That cop was not a good a cop and we're glad that we got him out of here as supposed to saying it's always on citizens to understand why things went down. You know I'm saying?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BELL: So for me and especially talked to officers of color, it' actually got to thing that we don't hear from anything else so.
BAGBY: Now, you know, you've asked those questions that means we get to ask you a question?
BELL: I'll check you guys out later. You have questions for me, feel free to ask.
BAGBY: What's your perception of, you know, the average police officer now that you, you know, gone to speak to a few of them?
BELL: You know, I'm still processing like I've said a lot of it is pretty fresh for me. Everything I'm hearing from people is things I would want to hear from police officers. So, you know, sometimes you're a little bit like, "Is this the thing? Or is this because the cameras are here?" You know what I mean? The idea of community policing and the idea of police living -- and to me that's sounds like it just seems like a better way to go.
It's better if I come across police officers more often who I get to know and if I only see them when the (inaudible) fans. You know, it's all in the news now. Media is all supporting on mic. There's an epidemic of black people being killed and assaulted our police officers, no? Though it's always kind of been happening, there's an epidemic of people having cellphone cameras, there's what there is.
[22:48:52] There is an epidemic of people sharing clips on social media, that's what there is. There's an epidemic of truth, we didn't land, "Oh, I'm getting there." All right. Starting getting the zone a little bit.
BELL: Whenever I see news stories about police using deadly force in situations that I don't believe call for deadly force, I always think the same thing. What the hell are police thinking?
So the Camden police have invited me to get into the head of a cop who's in the heat of the moment. This is a virtual reality center to see how Officer W. Kamau Bell reacts in a tough situation. I'm guessing Officer Bell would be known for his great hugs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The system is very interactive. It's probably as close to real life as you're going to get without actually being in danger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, put down the weapon, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up here on the hexagon, you can maneuver all the way around the platform. The cameras from the computer and the monitors pick up your movements.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, drop the weapon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it allows 360-degree interaction.
BELL: Now this may look like a video game, but it's not. Take it from me, the fact that it features real people in these scenarios, makes it very intense and a little too real.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I don't want to hurt you. Do not go in that building, sir. Don't touch that door handle, sir. Sir, drop the weapon. Sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A34 (ph) shots fired, got a male down. Send me a 52.
THORNTON: After every scenario, we do a debrief with the officers and let them know what they did right, what they did wrong.
BELL: And you have to do that because this is out in the street. This is life and death?
BELL: OK. How do you think he did? THORNTON: He did excellent. He went from "Sir, drop the gun," and didn't realize this guy's thinking about committing suicide and he brought it back down. I don't want to take this guy's life. Let me try and save it by talking him through this situation he's going through. But if need be, I'll have to take it to prevent him from taking anyone else's life.
THORNTON: All right. Follow me up onto the stage.
BELL: After Sergeant Thornton gives me a crash course on handling a weapon.
THORNTON: Bring the weapon down and up, to your right.
BELL: It's time to begin. Have I mentioned I'd rather hug it out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 834 show us out we're with you.
BELL: Officer Fontez is my backup as we check out a report of several suspicious camouflaged males in a movie theater, a scenario clearly modeled after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado.
[22:55:13] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's he at? Where's he at? Tell us. Talk to us. Where is he at? Where is he at? Talk to us. Where is he?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is he at? There he is. Sir, sir, sir, let her go, sir. Let her go, sir. I don't want to do this. I don't want to do this. Sir, let her go. I don't want to do this, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, sir, calm down. You can talk about this. We can talk about this, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay in the game. Stay in the game.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, help me. Please. Please help me, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A34 send out 52.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, where he is at?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let him go. Let's go. Everybody's...
BELL: I bet that black guy get shot a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's he at. Where's he at?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on left, the left.
UNIDETIFIED MALE: Where's he at? You know where's he at?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, just put the gun down come on. Where's he at. Where's he at. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down, police. Get down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down. Get down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police get down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down, get down, get down. Ma'am, get down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A34 send us 52, another male down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time to find out how I did and hopefully get a hug?
THORNTON: If you felt that you could take this shot, then yes, you had have been justified. But you elected to try and talk him down.
THORNTON: It's not a wrong thing to do.
BELL: Yes, I understand.
THORNTON: That was your gut call.
THORNTON: And as an officer, you make split-second decisions that people have hours and days to criticize. But the only thing you have to realize is that every decision you make, you have to live with.
THORNTON: No one else. Keep going.
At this point, off duty cop comes out, shows you his badge has his gun.
THORNTON: Good control. Way not to get sucked up into this scenario.
THORNTON: All right. Roll. All right. You're, you're coming in with your partner, Officer Fontez (ph), you're clearing high and low. You all communicating with ...
BELL: What are you doing lady? THORNTON: She gets shot. Freeze. He shoots her twice. You and Fontez take the shot and you get him. Good job.
BELL: All right.
THORNTON: You lived. This is technically a win, but it's not, you, you know -- several people still die and this are all things you have to live with.
THORNTON: And your going to -- Monday morning quarterback yourself for the rest of your life.
Apparently, i did well. They were clearly surprised that I hadn't just shot everybody and we all know that most of policing isn't attempted murder suicide and movie theater shootings. I wonder if they have a scenario in here for a black guy standing on the corner minding his own business, and if they do, how often does that guy died?
THORNTON: Did I have taken the shot? Did I have the skills? Did I do the right thing?
BELL: Yes, so, obviously it's not business in a real scenario but and I'm sure the reality is way more intense than this, but I did it feels intense any number of things can happen.
It's my last night here, and in another effort to bring the city together there's a basketball game between the local team and Camden police, looks like community policing isn't helping their game any, and of course the police know that it's going to take more than some b-ball and walking the beat to earn the trust and respect of the residents of Camden, it's going to take time. And many examples of police publicly doing their jobs well without people feeling like they're going too far. It's going to take people feeling like but if they call the police when they need help that the police will come and make a bad situation better instead of the reverse.
And this is bigger than Camden. There's a national crisis happening in our country between communities of color and the police. Now, look, do I think community policing will solve all our law enforcement issues? No. But hopefully, it is a good start. Time will tell.
That guy looked at me like, what are you doing in the front seat. It's a, it's a unique experience for me to be in a cop car and see the look on some people's faces as the cop car passes. Like I'm I want to be like, I'm not actually a police officer. I'm just hanging out and then like there's a -- it's not that people look angry but they look like, it's just that their noticing.
[22:59:57] BELL: Just like the way I feel like i would notice if a, if sudden bobcat walked through my got my street.