Paul Butler, author of Chokehold: Policing Black Men, gave a powerful and provocative talk about race and policing in America last night as part of OSI-Baltimore’s Talking About Race series.
Butler suggested that policing in the United States is structurally discriminatory and that efforts at reform short, though he acknowledges that such efforts are necessary, even essential, in the short term. “We didn’t try to ‘reform’ slavery, we didn’t try to ‘reform’ the old Jim Crow,” he said. Instead, he argued a total transformation is necessary.
Tara Huffman, director of OSI’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice program, questioned Butler about consent decrees, like Baltimore’s, and Butler, a Georgetown Law professor and former federal prosecutor, was pessimistic, suggesting that they only improve things about half the time. “Half the time, things get worse,” he said, though he cautioned that the data on outcomes was limited, since consent decrees are relatively new.