Ben Jealous, Van Jones Discuss Law Enforcement Reform

by: Sean Yoes Baltimore AFRO Editor syoes@afro.com
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Ben Jealous is campaigning to be the next governor of Maryland, and one of the main planks of his candidacy is law enforcement reform in Baltimore, specifically.

Ben Jealous (l), the former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was recently campaigning in Baltimore with Van Jones (r), host of CNN’s, “The Messy Truth”. (Photos Courtesy of Twitter and Facebook)

Jealous, the former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was recently campaigning in Baltimore with Van Jones, host of CNN’s, “The Messy Truth,” which focuses on finding common ground between divergent political views. Jones is also author of the new book, “Beyond The Messy Truth,” which examines how we go beyond our differences, political, cultural and otherwise, for the good of the nation.

Jealous and Jones recently spoke to the AFRO about the fight for law enforcement reform in Baltimore City and across the nation. Jealous says he wants to take a more hands-on approach to repair law enforcement in Baltimore than the man he wants to unseat, Gov. Larry Hogan.

“We have to stop pretending like the governor is irrelevant to the conversation,” Jealous said. “BPD (Baltimore Police Department) has been a state agency since the Civil War. And, while the mayor and the council have important roles, the governor’s leadership is critical. When I’m governor we’ll start by doing everything we can simultaneously to bring down violence and rebuild trust, because unless you rebuild trust you will not be able to accelerate bringing down the violence or sustain it.”

Jealous specifically pointed to a crime fighting model that has had great success in reducing violence in the city, yet was on the verge of being eliminated for lack of local government funding.

“And we’ll start by properly funding Safe Streets…aggressively investing in the use of men who have grown up on the streets and kind of aged out of the life, but have the …credibility to squash beefs before they turn into all out wars,” Jealous said.  “And we see Safe Streets bring down shootings 80 percent in some areas, we know they can do great work. We need to double, triple, quadruple down on funding that.”

Jealous also alluded to implementing changes in law enforcement training and re-prioritizing staffing of specific departments of the BPD so that we have a police force “that serves our city rather than divides it,” Jealous said.

Jones, who has officially endorsed Jealous for Maryland governor, spoke to a broader national context for law enforcement reform and the inherent challenges the effort faces in the current political climate.

“Democrats and Republicans were essentially moving in the same direction together for the first time, maybe in two generations,” Jones argued referring to the Obama years.  “(They were) moving together in a positive direction for the first time in two generations. And Trump and Sessions just decided to back up over their own party members, as well as communities of color.”   

Jealous argues communities of color in Maryland and Baltimore, specifically, that have been underserved is at the root of escalating violence. He described elements of a wraparound strategy: “Creating more jobs—for too long there have been too few; making our public transportation better to connect people in impoverished areas of the city, to get people to the job centers in the city and the county; and making schools function in the interest of all of our children.”

“Gov. Hogan has made all these things worse; he’s redlined the Redline (the proposed extension to the transit system), he shut down the State Center Project (a project in the heart of the city, which promised hundreds of new jobs for city residents), and created great financial instability in our public schools (Jealous says Hogan has done this with a greater emphasis on charter and private school funding).”

Ultimately, Jones brought the conversation back to Donald Trump and the issue that is perhaps more ubiquitous in our national political discourse than it has been in decades

“You have a president who wants to rub the wound of race raw in this country every chance he can get because he has a strategy to use these wedge issues  to keep his White base inflamed and on his side,” Jones said. “That’s not a strategy to solve problems. That’s not a strategy to govern. That’s just a strategy to acquire power and keep it.”

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