Presidential office on hate crimes and white supremacy
Q: On June 12, 2016, I was present as a man with an assault weapon murdered 49 mostly LGBTQ people of color at Pulse nightclub. What will you do?
BOOKER: So first of all, very clearly, it is a national emergency, the majority of the terrorist attacks
in this country since 9/11 had been right-wing extremist groups and the majority of them had been white supremacist and hate groups. And I will elevate, as president, an office on hate crimes and white supremacy to make sure it is a presidential level
effort to protect our country as a whole, but I'm not stopping there. We need a Department of Justice that recognizes this is a problem and investigates hate crimes. 30% of LGBTQ youth have reported missing school in the last month because of
fears for their physical safety. We live in a country where we still see regular, everyday violence and intimidation and bullying against Americans because of who they are.
Clemency to 17,000 people who are jailed for outdated crimes
I led in the United States Senate the only major bipartisan bill to pass under this president, for criminal justice reform, that has already led to thousands of people coming out of jail.
If 87 members of the United States
Senate says that these sentences are way too long, and we changed it, but we didn't make it retroactive, we could literally point to the people that are in jail unjustly right now.
Everyone on this stage should say that we are going to give
clemency to these 17,000 people. And I challenge you. Don't just say a big statement; back it up with details of the people in prison right now looking for one of the most sacrosanct ideals
of this nation, which is liberty and freedom. We need to reform this system and we must do it now. Every day we wait is too long.
More black men are in jails now than under slavery
NYC Mayor Bill de BLASIO [leading to Sen. BOOKER]: For the last 21 years, I have been raising a black son in America. And I have had to have very, very serious talks with my son, Dante, about how to protect himself on the streets of our city and all
over this country, including how to deal with the fact that he has to take special caution because there have been too many tragedies between our young men and our police. We need to have a different conversation about policing that brings police
and community together. We've done that in New York City and we've driven down crime while we've done it.
BOOKER: You know, when I got to the United States Senate, going back to what De Blasio said, as an African-American man in an African-
American-dominated community, I knew one of the biggest issue was criminal justice reform, from police accountability to dealing with the fact that we have a nation that has more African-Americans under criminal supervision than all the slaves in 1850.
Criminal justice reform is one of Booker's key policy areas in his presidential policy platform. He was a key force behind the FIRST STEP Act, which President Trump signed into law. Booker will soon introduce what he calls the Next Step Act, a package
of further criminal justice changes. It includes provisions that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, and give felons [who have served their time] the right to vote.
Evolved from supporting Broken Windows theory to opposition
BROKEN PROMISE: : As Mayor, Booker applied the "broken windows" theory, which is generally considered a Republican theory for crime reduction: take care of small issues like broken windows in inner cities, and the level of respect for the
law, and for police, leads to reduced crime rates overall. Mayor Booker believed in this theory and applied it to inner-city Newark. Senator Booker "evolved" and renounced the theory entirely.
ANALYSIS: : Booker's turnaround can be
attributed to two factors: First, his city's police department was challenged on this issue, and the practice was found counter-productive. Second, the "Black Lives Matter" movement took hold between Booker's time as mayor and his time in the Senate,
questioning the effectiveness and the racial bias of many police practices. Both of those factors led Booker to "evolve" on this issue. Booker might say that he responded to facts, and to societal change, rather than breaking a campaign promise.
2010: Layoff police officers to push for union concessions
In May 2012 Booker was in political trouble. Following a nationally heralded drop in violent crime in his first term--showcased on "Brick City"--
murder and mayhem were again on the rise. The summer of 2010 was the bloodiest in twenty years, with thirty-four homicides, many carried out execution-style by gangs.
Making matters worse, on this day, November 9, 2010, Booker was about to lay off 167 police officers, including every recruit hired during his first term, as union leaders stiffed his demand for concessions.
He speed dialed his chief labor negotiator and shouted what seemed obvious: "We have a crisis on our hands!"
1960s cities had mostly white cops & mostly black majority
`The Northeast saw dramatic losses of urban manufacturing jobs. As work vanished, poverty rose; with poverty came crime, which accelerated the exodus of people, businesses and investment, shrinking Newark's tax base and creating a downward spiral.
With fewer resources to address increasing problems, schools suffered, as did the kids who attended them.
Overt racism pervaded the city in the 1960s.
Though blacks and Latinos accounted for the majority of the population, they had almost no meaningful political representation. What's more, mostly white officers policed predominantly black sections of the city, like the Central Ward.
There were widespread reports of police brutality, and tensions built up around the all- too- common experiences of black youth who were stopped and harassed by the police.
Police doesn't solve problem; they just attend to symptoms
Crime makes for simplistic generalities, easy finger-pointing. It's tempting to wash your hands of responsibility and just blame the "bad guy." If we could just capture all the bad guys and lock them up, put enough cops on the street, create enough
deterrence with strict penalties, then wouldn't everything be okay? Now, bad guys DO need to be locked up. We need more cops. Deterrents properly placed can help. But that is not enough.
In Newark, a meeting took place at the FBI's Newark field office. As they rolled through the data on violent crime in and around the city, I said to the then special agent in charge, Les Weiser, "How do we solve this problem?"
Agent Weiser looked at me. "Mayor," he said, "we DON'T solve this problem. We just attend to the symptoms of the problem." I knew that by "we" he wasn't just talking about the FBI; he was talking about law enforcement.
Poor & minorities bear the brunt of policing practices
The fact is, poor and minority communities disproportionately bear the brunt of crime. But they also bear the brunt of policing practices that punish their communities--
for minor offenses or no offense at all--in ways that wealthier communities simply don't experience.
The irony is that communities that are crying out for more police often end up getting a type of policing they aren't seeking and not enough of the police work they need. In a world of budget cuts, we aren't adequately investing in local law
enforcement and the strategies that can work, such as community policing, but instead are allowing practices to proliferate that don't reflect our common values.
Parks and green spaces are associated with safer communities
My administration worked in conjunction with nonprofits and grassroots activists to increase community gardens, begin large-scale urban farming, and bring in farmstands and farmers' markets.
Activists and leaders educated me on the [environmental] benefits trees provide, and soon we set out to find every way possible to plant more of them.
But when my staff told me that tree planting could actually help in our efforts to reduce crime, at first I didn't believe them.
So they provided the data: evidence from studies that there may in fact be a causal link between more trees and less crime and violence. In fact, beyond trees on the street, parks and green spaces all were associated with safer communities.
Real solution to crime is addressing poverty and education
Booker said the real answer to fighting crime is addressing poverty and poor education. In the meantime, as homicides surge in the city he governed for seven years, Newark's leaders say the city can't wait.
"Nobody would argue with the need for a
holistic approach over the long term, but our citizens need help right now," said one mayoral candidate. "I requested federal emergency funding to flood high crime areas with more police."
Booker would not comment on whether those dollars would be available but said he has been talking with U.S. Attorneys about immediate strategies.
He also said the violence was not confined to Newark.
The Star-Ledger reported today that New Jersey has seen a seven-year high in homicides statewide. "Looking at the whole state, we have serious, serious violence issues," Booker said.
As an executive serving during the deepest economic downturn this nation has endured in generations, I did all I could to protect the ranks of my fire and police departments, and funding for emergency medical services. But it wasn't enough.
Like most localities in New Jersey, and like so many across the country, we watched our ranks dwindle even as we searched for new revenue and cut everywhere else first.
Source: 2013-2014 New Jersey Senate campaign web CoryBooker.com
, Nov 3, 2013
Ran off armed assailant: "Not in our city anymore!"
Booker's governing style: the mayor as collective parent and urban superhero. This is the guy who began his first term staying up all night to chase drug dealers off corners and once ran down a scissors-wielding assailant
while shouting, "Not in our city anymore!" In April, he shoved aside his bodyguard to rescue a neighbor trapped in a burning house, suffering smoke inhalation and second-degree burns in the process.
His heroics aren't merely expressions of physical courage--though they certainly are that. They're applications of a theory of civic revitalization, which says that a single leader,
visibly doing the right thing, can influence a whole community's behavior.
In 2010, Booker celebrated Newark's first month without a murder since 1966.
Got celebrities to donate cash for police equipment
Slow down, he tells his driver, and points out the police station where the riots began in July 1967. They were sparked when an African-American taxi driver was arrested and a rumor went around that he'd been killed in custody. Twenty-six people died.
The memorial is barely visible; in its place, Booker wants to commission "an iconic piece of art" that will pay tribute to Newark's past and future.
There's no public money available for something like that.
Booker assumes he'll pay for it himself, or get some of his well-heeled friends to pitch in. Many of the most important initiatives Booker has introduced, from the Emergency Operations Center's huge wall of flat-screen
TVs to the police department's bulletproof vests, have been funded with private money--more than $300 million for the city from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Goldman Sachs, and Zuckerberg.
Booker remained steadfast in his commitment to reduce crime in the city. He believed that if he could reduce the city's crime rate, not only would the existing residents' quality of life improve, but he would be in a better position to promote the city
to businesses and tourists.
Booker has been a long-term believer in the "broken windows" theory, which was made popular by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Booker spoke glowingly about this theory to voters during his 2002 campaign, at great political risk.
The theory holds that if police officers enforce community standards of decorum (e.g. no loitering, panhandling, littering, squeegee window washing, and the like), criminals will get the message that residents care about their community and
will not tolerate crime. This idea led to the belief that police officers can reduce the number of major crimes by enforcing the laws regarding even minor infractions.
Improve police data collection process & homicides dropped
On Booker's 1st weekday in office, he attended the police precincts' roll calls to introduce himself to the force. While there, he toured the stations and was appalled at what he saw. The precinct buildings were infested with rats and reeked of urine.
The officers themselves reported low morale. They were still typing arrest reports on typewriters.
The old data collection system was confusing and not terribly helpful to fighting crime. There was little to no geographic mapping of crime.
By revamping the data collection process and giving the precinct commanders greater ownership of their precincts, the hope was that precincts would become leaner, more effective crime-fighting organizations.
Violent crimes fell dramatically in the city
in 2007. Increasing the number of police patrols at night, when most violent crime happens, had the effect of either deterring the crime or catching the criminals before they were able to act. The most notable decline was in the city's homicide rate.
$1,000 reward for crime tips leading to gun recovery
The reason we had four years of double-digit reductions in shootings is that we approached crime as more than just a police issue. We have the first-ever pro bono legal service for ex-offenders.
We have one-stop centers for youth coming out of prison; we have a fatherhood program that's gotten a lot of national attention. If you think someone's carrying an illegal gun, all you do is call a tip line.
You get four digits, you call back and see if we've made an arrest--we don't need a conviction, we just want to recover the weapon--and then, if we have, you get another four digits that you can use to get
$1,000 from a number of local banks. It's just those eight digits, no questions asked.
Source: Andrew Romano interview in Newsweek
, Dec 20, 2010
Launch Fatherhood Center and pro-bono legal help for ex-cons
Booker has tried to find ways to short-circuit the farcical arrest-release-rearrest-rerelease cycle by encouraging
ex-offenders get a foothold once they're out--launching the Fatherhood Center, which helps men who want to be better dads, as well as partnering with the legal community to create the nation's first pro bono legal service for ex-cons.
Police overhaul to change cronyism, favoritism, and cynicism
One of Booker's earliest priorities as mayor was to overhaul the police department, which suffered from cronyism, favoritism, and cynicism; a corrosive "Why bother?" attitude had set in.
Alerted via e-mail every time there was a shooting, and frantic
to avoid another one, he started hitting the hoops court at midnight to help keep kids busy and out of harm's way. Then he began going out on night patrols in cruisers with cops, rolling up to shady characters and initiating come-to-Jesus conversations
about what they were doing with their lives. The foolhardy gambit had its impact: Booker's dedication started to rub off on the department.
More orthodox strategies have included what's known as the broken windows theory--the idea that attention to basic quality-of-life issues can ultimately help avert serious crimes.
Applied "broken windows theory" in Newark policing
More orthodox strategies have included what's known as the broken windows theory--the idea that attention to basic quality-of-life issues can ultimately help avert serious crimes, as when two policemen stopped a guy drinking a beer on the corner, then
discovered he was carrying two guns. When they brought him to the precinct and ran his name through the database, they found out he'd just been released from prison for shooting someone six years earlier on that very corner. "If those cops had driven
past the guy, we probably would have had a homicide that night," [Booker's police chief] notes. Overall, [Booker's police policy] is getting results: Murders are down 29 percent since Booker took office, and
2010 saw an almost festive-sounding "murder-free March," the first such month in Newark in more than 40 years. But there have been setbacks.
Broken criminal justice system kindest to rich and guilty
There's no difference in America between blacks, whites and Latinos for using drugs or dealing drugs. But if you are African-American, you are almost four times more likely to be arrested and incarcerated. So much comes down to privilege.
We have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you'reˇrich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent. We can demonstrably show that there are 17,000 people unjustly incarcerated in America.
Source: September Democratic Primary debate in Houston
, Sep 12, 2019
Cut mandatory minimum sentences; end solitary for juveniles
He has been a vocal proponent of reforming the criminal justice system. Proposal for a new bill with progressive ideas like further cutting mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses and banning racial and religious profiling. In a recently enacted
bill, Booker pushed to prohibit solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons.
Source: Axios.com "What you need to know about 2020"
, May 6, 2019
Rich-and-guilty treated better than poor-and-innocent
Sen. Cory Booker slammed the 47-month prison sentence for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Booker, who introduced the landmark First Step Act last year to implement a series of prison reforms, said he was "ticked off" about what he
said was a light sentence for Manafort, but that he was not surprised: "We have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent. We prey upon the most vulnerable citizens in our nation.
Poor folks, mentally ill folks, addicted folks and, overwhelmingly, black and brown folks."
A federal judge sentenced Manafort to nearly four years in prison on eight charges of bank and tax fraud, but his sentence will
be cut to three years and two months after he was given credit for time served. Federal sentencing guidelines suggested Manafort be sentenced to 19 1/2 to 24 years.
Ended "three strike penalty"; more reform is needed
He was a key force behind the FIRST STEP Act. Among other things, that law ends the "three strike penalty," helps judges avoid mandatory minimum sentences, and gives prisoners more access to rehabilitation programs. Booker will introduce the
Next Step Act, a package of further criminal justice changes. It includes provisions that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, and give [ex-]felons the right to vote.
Source: NPR Morning Edition: Election 2020 Special Series
, Mar 7, 2019
Opportunities for dropouts: avoid school-to-prison pipeline
Gone was a plan to spend $50 million on programs for an estimated four thousand teenagers and young adults who had dropped out of school, with few skills and less hope, becoming a recruiting pool for
Newark's proliferating gangs.
Booker had made "disaffected and at-risk youth" his personal project--and he spoke eloquently of the urgency of connecting young dropouts with learning and economic opportunities,
lest they swell the school-to-prison pipeline. But he ended up not raising the money to pay for the initiative, which was quietly shelved, even as intensifying gang violence seemed to validate the mayor's concern.
Anti-recidivism funds much scanter than prison funds
In the 1970s, our nation's policy makers clamored to appear tough on crime. Punishments were put on steroids and our prison populations exploded.
If you go to prison for a nonviolent crime, you will return to society as part of a growing group of
second-class citizens--often denied basic citizenship rights such as being able to vote or serve on a jury. If you have a felony conviction, your face often overwhelming obstacles to getting a job, obtaining housing.
Over the years, our initiatives helped keep thousands of Newarkers from recidivating--and they cost a fraction of what taxpayers would have spent rearresting, retrying, and reimprisoning these people. The irony remains that money for efforts to put and
keep people in jail and prison is far easier to come by than the scant funds we cobbled together to run these fledgling programs. I always had the feeling that although we were making an important difference, we were not fixing the system.
In my first term as mayor, our city lowered crime significantly. In 2008, Newark experienced its longest stretch of time without a murder since 1961, and in 2010, it experienced its first calendar month without a murder since 1966. Making clear that
this was not a statistical anomaly, the New York Times reported the odds of Newark going 43 days without a murder at 1 in 111,482. Even with setbacks in my second term, the average crime rates over my time as mayor compared to the year
I took office would be marked by double-digit percentage drops in murder rate, aggravated assault, theft, auto theft, and shootings. The reductions were a credit to our whole city not least to the activism of residents, the partnerships of
organizations that built parks and helped men & women coming home from prison, and the dedication of our police force. Even so, reducing the number of murders didn't mean that there weren't still people getting killed; we still had crime, too much of it.
Theory of "broken windows" doesn't drive down crime
[The federal DOJ investigated the Newark Police Dept. in 2010]. The report challenged a type of police stop in which I had put great faith--our quality-of-life stop, which stemmed from "broken- windows" theory of policing. The idea is that if you focus
on minor infractions that disrupt the quality of life, things that might seem small in the context of more serious crime, you can actually undermine the more serious crime. The theory was widely adopted and is credited by many with playing a role in
NYC's success at reducing crime in the 1990s. But they also gave fair warning about how quality-of-life enforcement could undercut the larger goals of a department if there was a lack of legitimacy and equity.
Decades after these practices were
documented, judicially upheld and implemented across our nation, the DOJ alleged that our use of stop-and-frisk and quality-of-life summonses were not helping us drive down crime and that these tactics actually undermined residents' quality of life.
Some of the most important work we need to do to reduce crime has nothing to do with police. I am proud that more people are realizing the failure of mass incarceration
and how lack of opportunity after returning from prison can send too many of our fellow Americans spiraling back toward crime.
I am also growing more hopeful about issues of race and the criminal justice system. We can't achieve our ideals of safety and security in our country without confronting the persistent realities of race in our criminal justice system.
When it comes to policing, the attention being paid to videos of minorities being treated badly by police is good--if we learn from them.
Prison construction draws resources from other priorities
The federal incarceration rate has increased 800% and state incarceration rates have increased 500% since 1980.
Our nation is now the undisputed incarceration capital of the world. America has roughly 5% of the globe's population but about
25%--one out of every four--of the imprisoned people on the planet.
Roughly 1/3 of all adult Americans have an arrest record.
As we rolled out these statistics to the people in that auditorium, I saw looks of surprise and faces full of disgust.
Most Americans don't know the extent of our incarceration explosion, and hearing about it sparks feeling of disbelief.
In the years between 1990 and 2005, a new prison opened EVERY TEN DAYS. The astonishing rate of construction
draws precious public resources away from other priorities. At the same time, America--which once had the top-ranked infrastructure, from roads to bridges to airports, seaports, and electrical grids--has slipped to 12th place.
You may assume mass incarceration exists because people are committing more crimes. But that is not true. Violent crime has declined roughly by half since 1993. In fact, numerous studies have shown that incarceration rates cannot be tied to crime rates.
The incredibly costly reality is that prisons in our nation continue to grow irrespective of crime rates. It is a bureaucracy that has been expanding independent of our security or safety.
In fact, Americans are increasingly detained in jails for
simply being too poor to pay a fine or from conduct stemming from mental illness, homelessness, or addiction. Instead of empowering people to succeed or treating their addictions or mental health problems, our overuse of detention, jail,
and incarceration aggravates their problems. Being poor should not be a crime. Incarcerating a person further undermines his or her ability to achieve economic stability, and have an arrest record that makes the person even less employable.
Incarceration isn't working; focus on preventing recidivism
Our criminal justice system is broken. New Jersey's prison population increased by 328% between 1980 and 2011, burdening taxpayers with billions of dollars in direct and indirect costs, and destabilizing countless families and communities. And that
incarceration isn't working: 55% of those who go to state prison are rearrested within three years. In Newark, we didn't wait for the state or federal government to get their act together:
We launched ex-offender reentry programs that drove
down recidivism rates;
We created a youth court, community court, and veterans court -- the community court and veterans court are the first of their kind in the state, designed to connect low level offenders with specialized resources to reduce
recidivism and better protect our neighborhoods.
We expanded mentoring programs, youth programing, recreation spaces, and youth employment opportunities to engage our kids in constructive activities that lead to productive pathways, not prison.
The challenge I often see in America now is we get caught in this idea that democracy's a spectator sport, that you could sit on your couch, root for your team, red or blue, but not realize that politics is a full-contact, participatory endeavor.
We as a people can never allow our inability to do everything, [such as] solving poverty, to undermine our determinations to do something. And so I'm a child of a generation that said, "I'm going to do something to make this world a better place."
[For example], the Manhattan Institute is a right-leaning think tank. I have lots of disagreements with their leadership, but we said that one of the biggest problems in America is mass incarceration. It's one of the most expensive governments that's
gone out of control and it fails. They release those people and the majority of them come back. And we found ways to get together and do reentry programs of dramatically-reduced recidivism.
We have a politics in this country that's failing its people.
Prisoner re-entry is the new front line of civil rights
Booker made it a personal priority in his administration to address issues of prisoner reentry. To him, this is the new front line in the civil rights movement.
Booker was passionate about this issue and understood that if he did not address it, millions of men across the country, particularly black men, could be permanently relegated to the underclass.
Booker believed that it was in everyone's interest to work to provide employment opportunities for ex-prisoners, and he hoped that he could be a champion for this issue, echoing
a pledge in his inaugural address to make Newark a model city for prisoner reentry.
His administration's prisoner reentry plan proceeded with fits and starts.
With "Volunteer Lawyers for Justice," we launched ReLeSe, the first organization of its kind in the Nation, to offer pro bono legal services to ex-offenders; to date; more than 1,200 clients have received help to eliminate barriers to employment and
family reunification. We also started the Fatherhood Center to help dads returning from prison transition successfully back into the lives of their children. We opened a City Hall Office of Reentry and created the Newark Prisoner Re-entry
Initiative, which in a year's time has served over 600 ex-offenders and already placed more than half in jobs. This powerful network of providers we've assembled, in total, is serving thousands of returning ex-offenders and dramatically lowering
Every dollar we invest in re-entry initiatives results in many more dollars saved as we reduce our dependency on courts, police and jails. These programs must, and, under our leadership will, expand in the coming years.
Booker has made criminal justice reform one of his top issues in the Senate, and scored a victory last year with the passage of the bipartisan First Step Act.
The law, which overhauled sentencing guidelines and prison conditions, was an
updated version of a bill Booker first sponsored in 2015. Booker's personal connection to the criminal justice system, which he has called a "cancer on the soul of our nation," goes back more than two decades to when he ran free clinics to help
Newark residents expunge their criminal records.
Booker joined the Senate's two other black members--Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and
Tim Scott, R-S.C., in introducing a bill to make lynching a hate crime.
Booker also cited concerns about Jeff Sessions' record on civil rights at the Alabama senator's confirmation hearing for attorney general.
Rated 9% by the NAPO, indicating a police-the-police stance.
Booker scores 9% by the NAPO on crime & police issues
Ratings by the National Association of Police Organizations indicate support or opposition to issues of importance to police and crime. The organization's self-description: "The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) is a coalition of police units and associations from across the United States. NAPO was organized for the purpose of advancing the interests of America's law enforcement officers through legislative advocacy, political action, and education.
"Increasingly, the rights and interests of law enforcement officers have been the subject of legislative, executive, and judicial action in the nationís capital. NAPO works to influence the course of national affairs where law enforcement interests are concerned. The following list includes examples of NAPOís accomplishments:
Enactment of the Fair Sentencing Act
Enactment of the National AMBER Alert Act
Enactment of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
Enactment of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act
Enactment of the Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act (Right to Carry Legislation)
VoteMatch scoring for the NAPO ratings is as follows:
0%-50%: soft on crime and police issues;
50%-75%: mixed record on crime and police issues;
75%-100%: tough on crime and police issues.
Source: NAPO ratings on Congress and politicians 2014_NAPO on Dec 31, 2014