Watch CBS News

Four U.S. police chiefs on the need for change: "There's a lot of silence from our profession"

4 police chiefs discuss need for change
4 police chiefs on systemic racism, police brutality and much-needed change 07:46

Protesters, who have flooded the streets across the U.S. following the killing of George Floyd, have demanded an end to police brutality and the defunding of police forces.

The heads of four police departments — Dallas, Texas Police Chief Reneé Hall; Santa Cruz, California Police Chief Andrew Mills; Camden, New Jersey Police Chief Joseph Wysocki and Raleigh, North Carolina Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown — spoke with "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King about the flaws in the system and the need for change.

Read part of their conversation below, beginning with their reactions to the video of Floyd's death. Floyd was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis who pressed his knee onto Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes while he was handcuffed and pleading for air.

Chief Reneé Hall: I was angry at the profession because it took me back to why policing even exists in the first place. Police officers exist because of slave patrols. ... So there's something that goes back to that.

Gayle King: One of the things that was so disturbing is it that it seemed so cavalier and so cruel. ... On some level, he must have felt comfortable doing what he did because in the past ... there doesn't appear to have been consequences for their actions.

Chief Andrew Mills: Well, Gayle, I think you're right. … And I think it's a fairly small percentage, but it's a significant percentage of people who feel empowered. ... And the mere fact that the other officers didn't intercede is they're just as guilty. If you see it, you own it.

Chief Joseph Wysocki: I agree. The one thing I think we have to stress ... the duty to intervene. We need to stress that.

King: Do you think most police officers feel comfortable reporting bad behavior from another officer?

Mills: Yeah, you know, I think it is tough to turn other cops in because you depend on them for your life. ... And they sometimes make poor decisions, and you're going to try to do what you can to protect them, but we've got to get past that.

King: Generally speaking, could I have a show of hands, do you think that black people are treated differently than white people by the police in this country?

All four chiefs raised their hands.

Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown: I think there are differences, and they are systemic. It's community-based as well. It's not just in law enforcement. How many of us have been in a store and people have walked around while you're shopping because of the color of your skin?

King: Yes.

Deck-Brown: And I think now is that time to really pay attention to where we are and to really be a part of the change.

Mills: Here's the reality for me, I'm a 63-year-old white guy from a middle-class family with an education. I'm privileged. Nobody's going to kneel on my neck. ... I would guess 4% of our police agencies shouldn't be there, but those are the 4% that we've got to get rid of and we have to figure out how to do that. That is where the racism occurs. ... I think we need to take a look at how unions are empowered to protect the officers.

King: Immediately, the police union there [in Minneapolis] said, "Don't condemn the officer and don't rush to judgment." ... That's another thing that bothers people, that even when we see something that appears to be so blatant, it's still, "Wait a second. Don't rush to judgment. Let there be an investigation."

Hall: You know, some of the issues that have come have been that same issue — is that police associations coddle officers, and they make their behavior acceptable.

King: Do you think that's true?

Hall: Absolutely, I do. I think in some instances there are association members who regardless of the behavior of an officer, we blame everything else.

King: This is not the first case where an unarmed black man was killed, where people think unfairly, unjustified. This feels different to me. Does it to you?

Mills: Yeah, Gayle. It does feel different to me. ... It shocked the consciousness of the profession. ... This shallow symbolism of just a one time speaking out, we can't stop here. ... And, I mean, where were we when some of these other people were killed? There's a lot of silence from our profession, and for that, we are wrong. I am wrong. I am sorry.

King: Why do you think chiefs didn't speak up before? It had to be this heinous, Chief Hall?

Hall: These positions that we're in, if we're going to be truthful about it, are very political. ... And so, I think the balance of what is true and right versus what is politically correct to say gets in the way. But I believe that we're sick and tired of being sick and tired as a nation because we see that there's systemic change that has to take place in order for us to be on the other side of this. ... And I think what we're seeing now as a result of the pain, of the hurt, of the tired, is a result of not having that seat at the table.

King: But weren't you all aware of the pain, the hurt and the tired, to use your words, Chief Hall, before the murder of George Floyd?

Hall: We've seen it in all of our organizations.

King: Nothing changed.

Hall: So when we say nothing's changed, I don't think we're being, you know, genuine in that the fact that things have changed. ... But, we may not have done a good enough job of informing them that these recommendations have come in and we've implemented them.

King: I want to talk to you all about the protests. ... Chief Wysocki, President Obama singled your department out for the way that you handle protesters, so what are you doing that the rest of the country could learn from?

Wysocki: We weren't in riot gear. I didn't have a helmet on or, like, the big, like, sticks. We just were in our regular uniform and we marched, and you have to continually be doing community policing. You have to do community outreach and you have to listen.

King: Chief Mills, you made national news for kneeling with the protesters and the demonstrators.

Mills: We stand for justice and we stand for making sure that racial injustices are dealt with. ... And so, it's not just the black community speaking out, you have a lot of communities speaking out. ... But now we have to follow through with real policy changes, legislative changes, training, and I hope that there's leadership in Washington to ensure that this takes place in a thoughtful way and in a rapid way.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.