IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 3/16/21

Guests: Dana Nessel, Chrissy Houlahan, Michael Hancock, Lauren Groh-Wargo, Rosa Brooks, Marq Claxton


Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is interviewed. Democratic Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, and the Democratic Mayor of Denver, Colorado, Michael Hancock are interviewed. Today, Stacey Abrams gave the keynote speech at the South By Southwest Festival. She explained the strong voter turnout for Democrats in Georgia. Police officers are our most expensive government workers. Some of them cost more than Super Bowl winning quarterbacks.



And we have so much ground to cover here in the first minute together.

First of all, about your Grammy which I know you`re embarrassed about that you won Sunday night for audiobook. What I was telling you whether the sound cut out on you last night and I suspect you did not know this is that in your category was Meryl Streep. You beat Meryl Streep for a Grammy. So - - there`s that.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: If Meryl Streep comes for it, like if she confronts me and wants the Grammy because she should have got the Grammy, I will just give it to her. She will have no fight for me. She is Meryl "freaking" Streep, right?

What will I do? No, no. It is for me?

O`DONNELL: I have met and chatted with Meryl Streep only once, and I can assure you, based on that alone, I know she won`t do that.

The other thing, Rachel, is that tomorrow night, the Georgia senators are going to be making their appearances here on this network. You have I believe Senator Warnock at 9:00 p.m.

MADDOW: Indeed. I have Senator Warnock at 9:00 p.m., and you have Senator Ossoff.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, at 10:00. He`s going to be here at 10:00.

MADDOW: This breaking news tonight in Atlanta may change that, I don`t know at this point. But I`m hoping to have Senator Warnock, and it just -- this is one of those nights when I feel like there`s 40 stories developing at the same rate. So, we`ll see, but I do hope to have him tomorrow indeed.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, we`ll see if that does happen. Thank you, Rachel. Thank you very much.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, how many Timothy McVeighs attacked the Capitol on January 6th? How many of those attackers are capable of doing what Timothy McVeigh did in 1995 when he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, killing 16 people which included 19 children, who were in the day care center in the building that day?

Who is the next Timothy McVeigh? That is what investigators of the attack on the Capitol are worried about. Who is the next Timothy McVeigh? Is it one of the hundreds of people who have been arrested for the attack on the come? Is it the man Michigan`s attorney general brought charges against today for death threats against President Biden, Speaker Pelosi and Michigan`s governor, Gretchen Whitmer? Michigan`s Attorney General Dana Nessel will join us in a moment.

Who is the next Timothy McVeigh is a question that law enforcement has been obsessed over for 25 years and if you work in a federal building, then Timothy McVeigh changed your life at least a bit because security was increased in all federal buildings, all over the country. In Washington, traffic was no longer allowed to pass by the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. And security for the Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings was instantly and immediately increased after Timothy McVeigh took down the federal building in Oklahoma City.

And if you don`t work in a federal building then nothing in your life changed after Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people. Nothing.

All of our lives changed after 9/11. Security measures were enhanced not just at airports but in office buildings in big cities and many other places. 9/11 changed the way we live but Timothy McVeigh didn`t.

But the spirit of Timothy McVeigh is alive and well in the people who attacked the Capitol and issued death threats. The people who Michigan`s attorney general has awaiting trial for their kidnapping plot of the governor of Michigan were all part of the Timothy McVeigh spirit, hatred of government and the people in government and the demented belief it is their duty to kill people in government, to kidnap the governor of Michigan and murder her, to hang Mike Pence. If Timothy McVeigh were alive today he would be on board for all of that.

Timothy McVeigh would have been one of the first ones in the Capitol and killing one police officer would not have been enough for Timothy McVeigh. Timothy McVeigh`s death sentence was carried out in 2001, but the murderous poison that was in his brain is still flowing in the brains of people who tried to kidnap the governor of Michigan and in the brains of the people who attacked the Capitol, like many of the people who attacked the Capitol, Timothy McVeigh was an honorably discharged army veteran.

This guy served two years in the navy before switching sides from the defenders of the United States to the attackers of the United States on January 6. We don`t know what that guy is capable of. But we do know that Timothy McVeigh never did anything as bad as attacking the Capitol before the day that he killed 168 people.

Timothy McVeigh`s life and death show us how far people who share his madness about government can go -- mass murder. That`s how far they can go.

Timothy McVeigh is the reason none of the threats against government officials can ever be taken lightly.

Senator Ron Johnson has forgotten all about Timothy McVeigh because he believes if you look like Timothy McVeigh, there`s nothing scary about you.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): On January 6, I never felt threatened. I know those people love the country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break a law. So I wasn`t concerned.

Now, had the tables been turned, Joe, this could get me in trouble. Had the tables been turned and President Trump won the election and those were tens of thousands of black lives matter and Antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned.


O`DONNELL: I knew those were people that loved this country, that truly respect law enforcement. Here they are respecting law enforcement. Would never do anything to break a law. And every one of them was breaking the law, that day.

Every single one of them. Many of them were severely beating law enforcement officers, 140 police officers injured. And two of them, two of those people, Ron Johnson was not afraid of, have been charged with inflicting the injuries that killed Officer Sicknick.

The only thing Ron Johnson knew about those people is that they were white. Just like Timothy McVeigh. Timothy McVeigh got his first bomb training in Michigan. Timothy McVeigh killed more people with a bomb than anyone else in American history. And Ron Johnson could take one look at Timothy McVeigh and know that he would never do anything to break the law.

Today in Michigan, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced charges against 21-year-old Joshua Doctor from making death threats against President Biden, Speaker Pelosi and Michigan`s Governor Whitmer. He is charged with one count of threat of terrorism and one count of using a computer to commit a crime, both are 20-year felonies.

The FBI opened the investigation when they received tips about threatening posts that Joshua Docter made on social media, Michigan state police took up that investigation, a state released by the attorney general`s office today says doctor posted multiple threatening comments on the social media platform in January 2021. In those posts, Docter stated he would use a gun to shoot and kill the elected officials and would be the catalyst for a new American revolution.

Docter had information on how to make a bomb and where to find the necessary materials on his smartphone. And that is exactly what Timothy McVeigh wanted to be, the catalyst, the catalyst for a revolution against the American government by deranged, murderous people, like Timothy McVeigh.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

That you are very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.


O`DONNELL: How -- can you tell us how long this investigation has been going on and when you decided to make the arrest?

NESSEL: Well, you know, not for very long. Unfortunately we have been seeing a mass easy ka lags in the number of threats toward public officials and as you noted, when you talk about Timothy McVeigh which unfortunately had close connections to the Michigan militia, you know, we have been seeing this over and over again with our public officials.

I honestly think had the internet been around in Timothy McVeigh`s time, he probably would have started off by posting death threats to these individuals before he ever got to Oklahoma City. And so what we`re trying to do is we`re trying to ensure that these individuals before he ever got to Oklahoma City. And so what we`re trying to do is we`re trying to ensure that we act quickly when we see these sorts of threats so it doesn`t get to a point where someone is committing mass murder. That`s what we did in this situation.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, no, your point about if Timothy McVeigh had social media is so important. It`s kind of what I was framing here in this discussion tonight is that we don`t have that kind of clue in Timothy McVeigh`s case simply because it didn`t exist but it is very, very likely that he would have been active like so many of these people are active on social media and if we would have picked up something here or there before he suddenly emerged as a suspect quickly in that bombing.

So that`s the ultimate thing that all of you in law enforcement have to worry about when you see one of these threats that -- and some percentage of them are harmless in the sense that the person really doesn`t mean them literally. But you have to worry about every one of them.

NESSEL: That`s right and the fact is you just never know whether or not one of these threats is going to end up later on and so when taking action in order to actually harm somebody. And so, we are taking these very seriously. We have charged a number of cases, not only this case today involves as you indicated President Biden, Speaker Pelosi and Governor Whitmer but a few weeks ago involving Senator Debbie Stabenow, Representative Elissa Slotkin, and a local judge who had made some I guess controversial rulings in an election related case.

But we are seeing it over and over again and the fact is we have to step in and make sure people understand that this is not First Amendment protected activity. The same way you wouldn`t like fit the neighbor posted a threat indicated to come over and shoot you. We can`t allow this to happen in terms of threatening public officials either. We can`t have it change the way we operate our government because people are so afraid that, frankly, they will be assassinated.

So we have to make sure that we`re there as law enforcement to intervene and so people should be on notice that if they intend to threaten public officials on social media, be forewarned it is a crime and law enforcement will be taking it seriously, you will be investigated and you will be prosecuted.

O`DONNELL: Why Michigan? That`s where McVeigh learned the makings of bomb in Michigan over 25 years ago. Michigan is where we -- you have been prosecuting the plot to kidnap the governor. We don`t have a plot like that stopped in any other state.

Why Michigan?

NESSEL: Well, I wish I knew the answer to that question. I think it was sort of a confluence of factors in 2020 that we really saw the exponential rise in the terrorist organizations.

We have a purple state with a divided government. We have a very right wing legislature. We have all Democrats in the executive offices. All female Democrats I`ll add.

And then we saw COVID-19 and a lot of restrictions that had to be put in place via the governor in order to protect people in our state and then you had the George Floyd murder and the Black Lives Matter protests and I think all of this came together at the same time in a way that allowed the groups to heavily recruit mostly online and for a lot of people to become radicalized.

But I will say this after serving as attorney general for just the last couple of years, if I had a nickel for every time a death threat was issued against our governor, I`d have enough money to buy Amazon from Jeff Bezos. It is really that bad. It is that tragic and that`s why it`s so necessary for us to take each and every one of the threats very seriously.

O`DONNELL: Have you had to as attorney general in Michigan basically create a specialty desk in your office for this kind of investigation?

NESSEL: Yes. In fact, we have -- we have developed a special hate crimes and domestic terrorism unit at the Department of Attorney General. And much of the work we do specifically is to work with the FBI and work with the Michigan state police and work with the other local law enforcement partners and when we receive the threats to make sure they`re investigated and acted upon before something happens.

O`DONNELL: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

NESSEL: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris went to Pennsylvania and Colorado today to explain the financial support that people and businesses will be getting from the relief bill the president signed into law as the American rescue plan. Two people who were with the president and vice president today will join us next.


O`DONNELL: In a moment, we`ll be joined by two people who were with President Biden and Vice President Harris in different parts of the country today as they explained what individuals and families and businesses have coming to them in the COVID relief plan that the president signed into law as the American rescue plan. Today`s focus the plans nearly $51 billion designated to help small businesses.

The first stop on President Biden`s tour was Smith Flooring Incorporated in Chester, Pennsylvania, a Black-owned union shops that installs flooring. The business was able to survive the pandemic in part due to the Paycheck Protection Program loans. The American Rescue Plan provides an additional $7.25 billion in PPP funding to support small businesses and nonprofits.

President Biden thanked Pennsylvania`s Democratic members of Congress who were with him today.


JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m not just saying this because they`re here. They have been loud and strong voices to getting this done and not like it passed with 100 votes. You know what I mean? It was close.


O`DONNELL: Vice President Harris took part in a listening session with small business owners and local leaders in Denver, Colorado.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we think about the American rescue plan, a lot of the president`s priority and our priority around it was equity, making sure that everyone wherever they are, that they`re not overlooked, that they`re not left behind. All of these issues are connected, from what we do to pull children out of poverty, what we do to help our small businesses, what we do to make sure that everyone gets vaccinated and that they get that vaccine when it is their turn, all of these things are connected.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania who met with President Biden today in Pennsylvania and the Democratic mayor of Denver, Colorado, Michael Hancock, who met with the vice president in Denver today.

Congresswoman Houlahan, let`s begin with you. You were with the president in Pennsylvania. How helpful was it to your constituents to have the president visit today and emphasize these components of the bill that helps small business?

REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): It was a remarkable opportunity to have the president be with us in our communities, specifically focused on our small businesses, the smallest of small businesses, because this is a time to celebrate and a time of hope. We have an opportunity here to support our smallest of small businesses and as the vice president said, this is a comprehensive and holistic approach that focuses on the small businesses and children and families and those who are unemployed. This is a time to be hopeful and it was wonderful to host the president today in our community.

O`DONNELL: And, Mayor Hancock, the vice president came to Denver today. You met with her. Is that helpful to you in understanding what Denver has coming in this legislation?

MICHAEL HANCOCK (D), MAYOR OF DENVER: Absolutely. It`s incredibly inspiring quite frankly, Lawrence. What the president and vice president have done in their first few days in office is really inspires the nation and really connect by simply saying help is here and all we ask from government no matter what level is that you are empathetic, understand the plight of the people and we hadn`t had that for four years.

So, I got to tell you, talking to the vice president today, saying to her that on behalf of so many mayors across this country, we`re grateful for the partnership, we`re grateful for the fact that you are in tune with what the American people need and this American Relief Package makes a difference. Help is here and makes a difference in terms of the sense of belonging and sense of optimism looking to the future.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Houlahan, I noticed with the vice president today, she spent a significant amount of time asking for input and listening to what people in Denver are telling her. I noticed the vice president was doing -- the president was doing that in Pennsylvania, too. Toward the end of his comments, there`s a certain point he said, do you have questions for me? Does anyone have questions for me?

So it`s very clear that both of them don`t consider these opportunities for them to just deliver a speech to people listening to them. They clearly want to hear back what`s happening on the ground where this aid is going.

HOULAHAN: And you`re absolutely right. The people who he visited were frankly stunned by the fact that the president of the United States turned to them and said, is there anything I can answer for you? Is there anything that you need more help on? They had prepared themselves to be asked -- to be answering questions rather than to be asking them and I think they`re pleasantly surprised and really receptive to that listening tour.

O`DONNELL: Mayor Hancock, the vaccines are part of this, delivery of vaccines.

Does Denver need and expect help through this bill for the delivery of vaccines?

HANCOCK: Absolutely. I think the key with this -- with regards to vaccine obviously many of us cities across the country, states have set up an infrastructure to vaccinate, get needles into as many arms as we can, the key and the challenge has been supply. And certainly, the Biden/Harris administration has doubled down on bringing the amount of more supplies to cities and states around the nation and that is critical because once we have enough supply, we can turn over that paradigm if you will and that is to have more supply than we have in determines of demand.

So this bill provides for the support for infrastructure and support, of course, for the distribution or supply of vaccination and distribution of those vaccination -- of the vaccinations into the arms of American people.

That is so critical for us and because we can begin to turn our economies forward, moving forward with great momentum and optimism and the more needles into the arms of the people that live in the nation and so, I`m excited about the fact they thought of course to make sure that part of the recovery strategy and this relief plan supply of the vaccine is critical.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman, we noticed that the president went to a swing state today. He could have gone to New Jersey, he could have gone to other states close by that really aren`t in play in presidential elections but he went to a very important state.

How much was that a part of the calculation in today`s trip?

HANCOCK: What I would say is our community and our commonwealth is very much of a purple place. We are, at least my community 40-40-20 in terms of the Republicans, Democrats and independents, that we are all universally suffering under this pandemic.

And so what I think the message was that not only is help here but hope is here and I think it is a great place to be delivering that mess and in a place like Pennsylvania which has a really diversity, of all kinds of opinions but also a real -- a strength and hope in terms of our people. So it was lovely to have him here and I don`t necessarily think of it as a political calculation but rather a calculation of where to go where people are and that`s where Pennsylvania is.

O`DONNELL: Pennsylvania Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan and Denver mayor, Michael Hancock, thank you both very much for joining our discussion tonight.

HOULAHAN: Thank you.

HANCOCK: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, Republicans in Georgia are doing everything they can to prevent Democrats from winning in that state again by restricting voting rights. Lauren Groh-Wargo, who managed Stacey Abrams campaign for governor in Georgia and is our expert on this, will join us next.


O`DONNELL: Today Stacey Abrams gave the keynote speech at the South By Southwest Festival. She explained the strong voter turnout for Democrats in Georgia this way.


STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT: We did it by telling them a story about their power. That if they wanted relief from COVID, if they wanted access to voting rights, if they want criminal justice reform that is real, if they want policing reform -- these are the things they need to do. They need to show up to vote. They need to make a plan, bring their families.

They listened and now we have 253 bills going across the country trying to undo their performance. Here in Georgia more than 50 bills have been introduced to roll back access to voting rights. And do so part of the responsibility is to not just tell a chapter of the story but to come back and tell people what happens next.

I like to describe it we protest in the streets, we protest at the ballot box but then we have to protest in the halls of power because in between elections is when life happens.


O`DONNELL: Lauren Groh-Wargo is working with Stacey Abrams in the struggle against those voter suppression bills. And a week ago Lauren Groh-Wargo appeared on this program and told us that she is not just focused on efforts to restrict voting access in Georgia. It is all over the country.


LAUREN GROH-WARGO, CEO FAIR FIGHT ACTION: This is a national strategy that`s been building over time that is unleashed as a response to historic voter turnout. All of this sample legislation and its precision focus on Democratic communities so communities of color in the south and young progressive students and immigrants in the north, states like New Hampshire.


O`DONNELL: Last week we ran out of time at 11:00 p.m. before Lauren Groh- Wargo could explain what Democrats in Congress can do about the Republican attempts to restrict voting rights.

And so joining us now is Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of Fair Fight Action. She was the manager for Stacey Abrams` campaign for governor.

Thank you very much for coming back. As you were saying, H.R.1 and I think it`s Senate Bill 1 also, what can they do in Congress about this?

GROH-WARGO: Well, it`s just phenomenal. We recently had H.R.1, as you said, the "For The People Act" pass out of the U.S. House of Representative and now the senate counterpart S-1 is being considered.

This matters for all Americans. It is a big bill, Lawrence, and it is a voting and democracy ethics gerrymandering and campaign finance reform bill but what Americans need to understand about it is that voter suppression we are seeing of late would be almost stopped in its tracks by H.R.1 and here`s why.

H.R.1 the H&1 tackles registration, accessing the ballot and getting their ballot counted. There`s provisions that go to all three which that precision targeting I talked about before, Republicans are attacking that in states across the country.

O`DONNELL: And there`s good news for you tonight on this because President Biden gave an interview to George Stephanopoulos. They talked about the filibuster because the current Senate rules it would take sixty votes to get this through the Senate. And Joe Biden is now open to some kind of reform -- it wasn`t specified -- but some kind of reform about being the filibuster rules in the senate.

Let`s listen to some of what the president said.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: So you`re for that reform. You`re for bringing back the talking filibuster

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am. That`s what it was supposed to be.


O`DONNELL: When people say the talking filibuster to those of us who really know senate rules that`s a very imprecise way to refer to whatever it is that you want. But it sounds like he wants something like Norm Ornstein`s idea that`s proposed here which shifts the burden of the process to the minority. Instead of needing 60-vote threshold, it changes it to a 40-vote threshold -- 41-vote threshold that you need in order to continue the debate.

I won`t get into it here. It`s too messy for this. but it looks like the president and the Democrats are going to make some kind of change in the Senate rules that could make this legislation possible.

GROH-WARGO: Here`s the thing. Republicans and the voter suppression industrial complex as I call it that was ready to file 250 bills the Monday after an insurrection, their blatant racist attempt to curtail access in states from New Hampshire to Florida to Texas to Arizona has just given the mandate to Congress that they need to act.

I mean this bill is not new. H.R. 1 has been introduced previously but the impetus for it is so obvious when this is Jim Crow 2.0. We have a Website - - for how you can get involved to encourage your senators to vote for this bill.

But so I think the filibuster conversation would be very different if the Republicans hadn`t shown how anti-democratic it was going to be. Not just are they going to tacitly or openly support an insurrection, those same state legislative leaders that were organized in advanced to the insurrection just as the case in Pennsylvania, for example, those same people are now trying to cut access in all of these ways to get lines longer, to reduce turnout.

And I`m going to tell you two things. One, it`s not going to work. We`re going to see senate action. We`re going to see congressional voting. Mark my word.

Between this and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, that would put southern states like Georgia back under Department of Justice oversight, rectifying the horrible Supreme Court decision of 2013 that said, no, there`s no more racism in voting, right?

So between H.R.1, S.1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, those are really strong provisions. Republicans are showing us why they are needed.

And two, Lawrence here`s the thing. Georgia is still going to be competitive. They can curtail voting in Georgia. They have curtailed it in the past. Brian Kemp oversaw his own election that Stacey Abrams and were competitive.

Georgia is competitive. No amount of voter suppression laws is going to dampen the spirits of voters. We`re just going to fight harder. We will see them in court. We will see them on the streets. We will see them at the ballot box.

There`s tremendous organizing going on. The business community is getting in the game in Georgia. This is a civil rights movement and a voting rights movement. And the Republicans had so overresponded and the racism is so observe.

We`re getting all kinds of unusual coalition partners in this fight because enough is enough. So I`m very optimistic. It is not going to be an easy fight and this is the fight of our life. It`s never going to go away but I think there`s a lot of momentum and this overreach is an opportunity.

O`DONNELL: How can businesses be effective in what you are trying to do?

GROH-WARGO: First they need to speak out. You know, here in Atlanta we are home to a lot of Fortune 500 companies, you know, the busiest airport in the world.

And if you think back and I know you know your history very well, Lawrence, that the entire movement around Jim Crow, it was a lot of large corporations, international corporations that said we`re not going to play ball in certain states when this egregious racism is happening.

So I think we`re seeing a modern version of it. Stacey calls it Jim Crow in suit and a tie. And that is just not -- you know, not palpable for Georgia business leaders who are trying to recruit major events to Georgia and Atlanta, the tourist haven of Savannah.

The reputational damage to the state is severe. The economic consequences are severe. So I think they`re getting in the game.

O`DONNELL: Lauren Groh-Wargo, thank you for joining us once again tonight. We always learn something. Really appreciate it.

GROH-WARGO: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, the judge in the trial of the police officer accused of murdering George Floyd is considering a motion to delay the trial now that the city of Minneapolis has public announced the settlement of $27 million in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by George Floyd`s family.

The judge is considering whether that huge settlement which is the biggest financial award in the history of wrongful death cases against police officers will prejudice the jury. It is yet another example of why police officers are by far our most expensive government workers and why they will continue to be because police training does not work. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Police officers are our most expensive government workers. Some of them cost more than Super Bowl winning quarterbacks.

Derek Chauvin cost the city of Minneapolis $27 million for his eight minute and 46 second decision to keep his knee on George Floyd`s neck while George Floyd was saying "I can`t breathe". He kept his knee there when George Floyd fell silent and was dying under that knee -- $27 million.

And that doesn`t count how much the state of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis are spending on the criminal prosecution of Derek Chauvin right now.

$27 million is the settlement of city of Minneapolis agreed to in George Floyd`s family`s wrongful death lawsuit. That $27 million makes Derek Chauvin the single most expensive police officer in American history.

George Floyd is dead because police training does not work. Derek Chauvin violated the training of his own police department by keeping his knee George Floyd`s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

Police training is like pilot training. It has to be perfect or people will die.

When I started researching and writing about police use of deadly force in 1980 a black Chicago police officer Howard Saffold told me cops can do things in a minute or a second that will sour a community for a generation.

And since then reform-minded police chiefs had high hopes for stricter deadly force rules and improved police training to eliminate the worst abuses of deadly force but the problems persist and have gotten ever more attention thanks to all of us having video cameras in our pockets all of the time.

It is now a cliche of cop movies that when a rookie fresh out of a police academy gets into the patrol car with the veteran, the veteran makes fun of everything they teach in the police academy and every single Hollywood depiction of cops is always on the side of the experienced veteran in that scene mocking all of police training.

The veteran then starts the rookie cop`s training on the street. And here is the way that scene played out for our next guest in real life. "Everyone you meet here would be happy to kill you, Murphy told me. That`s what you have to remember. These people hate you. They would dance around your dead body."

That was Rosa Brooks` first night as a patrol officer and that is how she begins her powerful and important new book "Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City." Rosa Brooks will join us next.



BIDEN: Every cop when they get up in the morning and put on that shield has a right to expect to be able to go home to their family that night. Conversely, every kid walking across the street wearing a hoodie is not a member of a gang and is about to knock somebody off.


O`DONNELL: The first part of what President Biden just said is constantly repeated in police training. Every cop has a right to go home to their family. That is the fundamental baseline of all police training.

In her new book, Rosa Brooks describes her big-city police department training this way. "There`s no such thing as a routine call had been drilled into us, and by now we had all been killed during scenario-based role-play practice sessions. In both our classroom practice scenarios and our sessions at the academy`s Tactical Training Center, we had been dispatched to mock calls and conducted mock traffic stops.

Typically, we recruits would bumble around asking irrelevant questions or falling prey to intentional distractions. At that point an instructor would pull out a training weapon and splat, our backs or chests would be covered in bright colored paint and we`d trot off sheepishly to be debriefed on our fatal lack of paranoia."

Joining us now is Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University Law Center and a former Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police reserve officer. She is the author of the important new book "Tangled Up In Blue: Policing the American City".

Also with us Marq Claxton, a former New York City police detective and the director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance.

Professor Brooks, or Officer Brooks -- I don`t know which I should use.


O`DONNELL: Yes, so your husband thought you were insane. That`s the word he actually used when you said as a law professor I think I`m going to join this reserve troop of the Metropolitan Police Department. This is the big city police department of Washington, D.C., not to be confused with the Capitol Police. This is the police force that patrols that big city. Why did you decide to do it?

ROSA BROOKS, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER: You know, I think if you want to change something, you need to understand it first. And we live in a culture that likes these polar oppositions. You meet people, you ask them about police and either they`re going to tell you that they`re underappreciated heroes who can do no wrong or they`re going to say they`re a bunch of brutal racist thugs and they can do no right.

And I`ve always thought whenever you get that kind of polar opposite, the truth is a whole lot more complicated. But I wanted to find out what it was like behind that blue wall of silence and it`s something I think for outsiders it can be very hard to understand police culture. It`s very opaque from the outside.

O`DONNELL: Police training is something Marq and I have talked about on this show many times, always in the aftermath of a controversy of some kind. And when I say it doesn`t work, I mean it doesn`t work to the public`s satisfaction because the public tolerance for error is zero in use of deadly force -- exactly like our tolerance for pilot error is zero.

And so what did you find in terms of the police training, particularly as it prepares officers for the use of deadly force?

BROOKS: You know, I think police training in most places -- and there are exceptions, there are some academies that have done terrific and really interesting things. But in most places it emphasizes a combination of rote Memorization and paranoia. So you do get drilled into you that any situation could go bad and turn lethal for you in a millisecond. There`s no such thing as a routine call.

That`s both totally, deeply, profoundly true. It can happen. About a week before I started the police academy, a young officer in a neighboring jurisdiction was killed responding to a domestic violence call on her very first day on the job.

but it`s also really misleading because statistically policing is not nearly as dangerous as people, including cops, think it is. And that kind of -- you get primed to think that a threat could come from anywhere at any time. You`re more apt to see everybody as a threat. And in some cases, that can make officers trigger-happy.

O`DONNELL: Yes,. You described it in that passage about your lack of paranoia that the training is trying to make you paranoid enough for the job.

Marq, there`s a fascinating quote on page 125 of Rosa`s book about black police officers. She says, "More than once I heard black recruits offer a wry justification for their decision to join the police. Why am I here? Because the safest place for a young black male for this country is behind a badge."


MARQ CLAXTON, DIRECTOR, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Yes, and also a lot of the black police -- yes, a lot of black police officers will tell you, I have to acknowledge, that even their own experiences, personal experiences before becoming police officers that cultural understanding and experiences become subsumed by a larger police culture. And they kind of lose themselves in the culture of the police.

And too often, not just the culture of the police, but a lot of the toxicity, that is what`s in the police culture is the thing that really confounds and takes over, unfortunately.

I think the professor had a serious indoctrination into police culture and sometimes the implicit bias that`s built into it, the us against them tendencies that policing has, the resistance to change, you know, the not respecting anyone outside of the law enforcement community -- all of these things are part of the larger problem, which is a toxic police culture.

And that is resistant to any form of change or in the case we`ve been talking about for many months --

O`DONNELL: And Rosa, I just want to make clear to the audience, you were not in a ride-along like many reporters and journalists have done over time in the past where they ride along with police officers. You were a sworn officer. You were actually on duty in these situations.

It was real. This was -- it was completely real. And what Marq was just talking about I found passages in your book that reflect exactly that.

BROOKS: That`s absolutely right. I mean D.C. has a program that`s relatively unusual for major cities. It`s kind of an amazing program where you can volunteer to be a part-time police officer and you go through the same academy curriculum as full-time officers and you come out the other end sworn, armed with same arrest powers and so on as full-time officers

You know, it`s actually, I think, a brilliant program because you bring in people from the outside and you get a little bit more mixing of ideas in the force.

But no. No question about it I think. I think that a lot about police training and culture does emphasize a sort of us versus them attitude. And you know, when I saw that clip that you aired of President Biden saying police officers are taught that they can expect to go home safe but not everybody wearing a hoodie is a member of a gang, I sort of wish that his second statement had been police are taught that they have the right to expect to go home safe but so does every member in our community, right.

And I think sometimes that gets lost, that there`s so much focus on protecting officers that we lose sight of the fact that police officers are trained and usually paid, not in my case, but usually paid, obviously, to take risks, to take calculated risks. And it`s not inappropriate.

Obviously we should expect officers to defend themselves when they`re in danger, as they sometimes are. But at the same time we should expect officers to understand that their top priority is protecting the communities that they serve.

O`DONNELL: And Marq, when I heard Joe Biden say that line about police officers have a right to expect to go home at night, I knew that speechwriters, people who know the police community gave him that line to speak directly to police officers because that`s what you hear from chiefs, that`s what you hear from union officials, that`s what you hear from officers constantly. And it is a very direct way that he had of saying to police officers I understand your job.

CLAXTON: Yes. It is somewhat reflexive, I think, for politicians especially. Listen, we all understand -- and I understand that intimately well the dangers of policing. We understand the nobility of the profession. We understand the sacrifices that police officers make.

But I think too often people make a mistake and not realize that, hey, this is a police job itself, and that we can`t afford to lionize because we put them at a disadvantage when we do that. We understand the dangers, but we have to realize that police officers are people too and should be held accountable for their actions.

Marq Claxton, thank you for joining us tonight. And Rosa Brooks, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Rosa`s book is "Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City". It is the most important new entry in our literature about police work in America. It is a must-read if you`re interested in that subject.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.