Conservative Black Radio Host Sonnie Johnson on June 10 told President Donald Trump during a White House roundtable on race relations that over-policing must end, as calls for police reform grow amid protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In a meeting with several African American leaders organized by the president on Wednesday, Johnson said that more must be done to prevent excessive policing, when asked by Trump what she thought of the “defund the police” movement.
Johnson pointed to a 2015 Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation (pdf) into the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in the Missouri city. The 102-page report detailed a history of policies in the FPD that stressed revenue generation over actual crime-fighting—policies that overwhelmingly impacted the city’s black residents.
“We need the police,” Johnston said of black communities. “But if you take and look at what happened in Ferguson … the mayor’s office was using the police force as a taxation unit,” she said. “They were forcing interactions between police and the citizens, as a way for them to raise money and bring money into the mayor’s office.”
The report said that the St. Louis suburb disproportionately arrested and issued traffic citations to black people to boost city coffers through fines, used police as a collection agency, and created a culture of distrust that exploded when 18-year-old Brown was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson who was white.
According to the Washington Examiner, the DOJ under the Obama administration dropped all charges against Wilson after an investigation found no evidence that Brown was trying to surrender to Wilson when he was shot. Witnesses told the DOJ that shortly before the fatal round, Brown had punched the officer in his car, attempting to gain access to the officer’s weapon.
At that time, black residents in Ferguson made up 67 percent of the city’s population, but were 93 percent of the people arrested. A total of 85 percent of the people subject to a traffic stop were black drivers, though a search of their vehicles was 26 percent less likely to produce contraband than when white drivers were searched, the DOJ report found.
“That was causing over-policing,” Johnson continued. “So it is not the fault of the police, nor is the fault of the citizenry what the legislator and the executive branches of city government are putting into legislative practice.”
The radio host’s remarks came as White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president may take action on police reform via an executive order in the wake of protests following the death of Floyd on May 25. McEnany said Wednesday that Trump has been reviewing proposals on reform since he and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) met to discuss the issue in September 2017.
There have been growing calls from the far-left side of politics for officials to cut police funding and place greater emphasis on supporting essential social services. Organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement have stated they want “a national defunding of police.”
The demands of the “defund the police” movement range from calls for redistributing funds from police budgets for complementary community-based solutions to extreme proposals of entirely disbanding police departments.
Floyd’s death has also fueled national discussions on overhauling police procedures, including creating a national database of excessive-force encounters, banning the use of chokeholds, and limiting legal protections for police.
Johnson told the president that the black community “is not doing okay” on issues including health, education, and criminal justice reform, due to decades of “Democratic control.”
“All of these things have been under Democratic control for 60 years,” she stated. “And they are not going to change until we have a Republican Party that is willing to go into these communities and actually offer a choice to these people about how we can do things differently.
“Because the way it is structured now, the only choice that we get is left or even further left, and we’re not getting the opportunity to actually vote on what we look at as conservatism, equally applied. The very basic economic principles that we on the right say are significant in our success and seeing the success in our country, those are not being offered at the local level in black communities,” she said.
Johnson continued: “We have started to change a lot of the negative dynamics that are still brought up in statistics today involving us” but she said those “numbers and statistics about my generation are not going to be out for 20 years.”
Referencing Johnson’s comments, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told Fox News’ “The Story” that Congress should coordinate with the White House and the DOJ to “incentivize” federal tax dollars to support greater accountability and “the very best practises” in training and transparency at the state and local levels.
“Let’s look at ways we can foster and promote the very best practices so that what happened to Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis never happens again,” he said.
Annie Wu and Reuters contributed to this report.