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A Black officer and an activist's honest conversation about police reform

Black police officers say they are crucial to police reform. Into America heads to Miami to ask a sergeant and an activist: can the system be changed from inside?

About this episode:

After George Floyd’s murder, police departments across the country faced criticisms of systemic bias and a failure to reflect the communities they patrol and so they worked to enact reforms. But diversifying efforts have been underway for years inside the Miami Police Department. Roughly a quarter of all officers in Miami PD are Black, which is a much greater percentage than the city’s overall Black population. Over the past year, Black officers have been pushing for even more reform within the department, from the top down.

One of those officers is Sergeant Stanley Jean-Poix, President of the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association, the second oldest Black police union in the country. Jean-Poix joined the force over 20 years ago with the goal of enacting change from within the department. He led a two-year fight against the former police chief Jorge Colina, alleging he oversaw a department that treated Black officers unfairly, and let racist cops slide. Colina resigned last year.

But can true change come from the inside? James Valsaint, a Miami-based artist and activist, doesn’t think so. Valsaint was born in Little Haiti, one of the neighborhoods that Sgt. Jean-Poix patrols. His interactions with the police growing up were not positive, whether the officer was Black or white. Valsaint got active following the killing of Trayvon Martin; he joined the Dream Defenders, who fought against Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, and later helped to organize actions in Miami following George Floyd’s murder. For Valsaint, defunding the police is just the first step on the long march to police abolition.

For these two men from Miami, the goal of reducing police violence against Black Americans is shared, but they see different paths forward. Trymaine sits down with Sgt. Jean-Poix and Valsaint for a frank and challenging conversation on the progress and limitations of police reform.

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Find the transcript here.

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