Connie Rice: Institutional Change for Social Change Webinar
0:11 Rich Callahan: It’s a great honor to have you join us here this evening to hear Connie Rice speak and share with us a lifetime of insight – hard earned insights on leading change at the institutional level. We’re joined this evening by a distinguished group – each of you joining us is a graduate student and a range of people, but I just want to take a moment to thank some of those who have made this lecture series possible, and I’m going to start with Fr. John Koeplin, who chairs the Jesuit Foundation Board, which provided grant support of this, as well as Dean Michael Webber in the School of Management, which provided support for this.
0:49 RC: We’re joined this evening by a distinguished visiting professor from the Lane Center for Catholic Social Thought, Fr. Jim Hanvey, who joins us and just flew in from the United Kingdom. We’re also quite honored to have join us this evening the deans of the Law School, Dean Jeff Brand, and the Dean of the School of Education, Dean Walt Gmelch. I want to also thank the Vice Provost Mary Wardell for joining us, as well as the Director of University Ministry, Julia Dowd, our Associate Dean from the School of Management, who is also on the Jesuit Foundation Board, who has supported this from its very start, Catherine Horiuchi, and my colleagues in the Department of Public and Non-Profit Administration, the Chair, Michael O’Neill, Tim Loney and Gleb Nikitenko and my colleague, Erin Grogan, who chaired – who was the Director of Finance and Administration for the department.
1:44 RC: I’m sure I’ve overlooked some of our distinguished colleagues, and please don’t throw food at me for doing that. Catch me afterwards and say, “Rich, how wrong you are.” But I want to get to our speaker. Our speaker tonight is a woman whom I have admired and respected for her work and as I’ve described this lecture, the best description I could have, the highest compliment I could really pay anyone who does her work is, we have a modern day Thurgood Marshall. Not the Thurgood Marshall you know from the Supreme Court, but the Thurgood Marshall who is the Chief Counsel of the NAACP, who really led societal change through the law, the law system and through institutional change, and so Connie Rice joins us this evening. She recently wrote a book, “Power Concedes Nothing”, cleverly, with her name on the front. She’s too humble to say it, but I’d encourage you to – I’ve had the good fortune of working with Connie for several years in Los Angeles, where she’d be a guest lecturer, or I’d be at meetings where she’d be guest speaking, and as much time and we can give her this evening, she can only begin to scratch the surface of the work that she’s done through class-action lawsuits and meetings, and just what she will describe as her work in law, with law enforcement, and civil rights with education and civil rights, with gang violence and civil rights and just a range of work that she’s done.
3:19 RC: The other piece I would describe, and it comes from Jim Collins, who describes great leadership, what he calls Level 5 leadership, he says it’s characterized by – in the greatest leaders he’s seen and studied in the corporate sector, and it has two qualities: great humility and a fierce determination. And so, in addition to describing Connie Rice as a modern-day Thurgood Marshall, I would also say, “And she’s fierce.” And that fierceness in part, comes from her training in Tae Kwon Do, where she is a black belt. So it takes determination. I’m really honored and inspired by having Connie join us this evening. She’ll speak for about 40 minutes, then we’ll do about 10 minutes of Q & A, so we can make sure that she can catch her plane back this evening. I’d encourage you to get her book and really look at the work that she can – that she’s done over the years, really on behalf o myself and our dean, Mike Webber, our Associate Dean, Catherine Horiuchi, and all of us at the University of San Francisco, we’re deeply honored and appreciate that you could join us here this evening, so welcome!
4:36 CR: Can you hear me? Is my mic on? Ok. That’s a miracle because I’m a Luddite. I’m like that ?. This morning I got up and thought I was going to get ahead of the curve because I’m behind on my laundry, and I threw in the laundry, and when I emptied it, my iPhone was in there. So I now have no iPhone. No clock. Nothing. No phone. Nothing. I’m hopeless. I am hopeless. So you do not give me a microphone that I have to turn on, is my point. And I am so pleased to be here. And Rich, thank you for inviting me. I – I feel like I’ve known you forever because we’ve been – [laughs] – and it’s been a good 10, 15 years. And Rich is like a fellow traveler. I found him at USC, or was it UCLA? I don’t know. USC. I know we ended up at USC, but anyway, thank you very much for having me up here. Rich is the kind of professor who is always trying to make sure that the academy gives back to the community, and I usually collect those kinds of professors because I have to have them testify for free in my cases. But thank you very much and thanks for all of the inspiration that you do creating public servants. There’s an ethos of public service that he teaches his students, and it’s very important, so whenever he calls I try to respond. To the Provost and to the Deans, thank you very much and thank you for making the time. I know you’ve all got better things to do. And to the public, thank you very much for coming out
6:18 CR: I am – I don’t know what you call me. I – you know, it’s – when people ask me what I do, I can tell them the value of the cases. I tallied it up one day, and without the injunctive relief, our cases are worth $30 billion with a “b”. When you look at the policy changes, it’s about $60 billion. And when you think about moving $60 billion worth of change and strategy and so forth, and remedy, that’s pretty big. So we do big law with very little money. In fact, I’m allergic to money. I think if I ever started making money, I’d break out in hives, but what we do – we engineer systems change. Because I have to do systems, because I’m so bad with individuals. And you do not want me being a counselor. You do not want me being a pastor, OK? I’m very good at looking at a problem, diagnosing that problem, then figuring out, OK, what does it take to change this to scale? Not change it so that we can do an Oprah story about it, or not to change it so that you can do – oh, something inspirational at the individual level, which is all very important. Very important. I’m not dismissing it. But if you want a system to change, it’s a completely different kind of analysis. It’s a completely different kind of work. And it takes an obsessive personality, which I am. It also takes somebody who’s a loner, which I am.
8:00 CR: Probably the most important quality is that you don’t care whether you’re invited to the Christmas party, and in fact, you’re hoping that you won’t be because you don’t like chit-chat over cocktails. OK? So, when – and I will give you some very specific examples, and I tried to write my book between 10:00 at night and 2:00 in the morning because I realized that I’m going on 60, and in another couple of years, I wouldn’t be able to remember conversations, so I needed to get them out, and however they came out, I think they came out very well, but however they did, I just needed it because these conversations were in my head. I had gone through these epiphanies and had actual conversations in my head, and I thought that they would make a pretty good book. It’s not boring. It’s not about law. It’s not about legal concepts. This was – this was Connie Rice going through LA in her usual clueless way and stumbling into the strategies that ended up changing how LA works.
9:00 CR: I remember when I lived at Edwards Air Force Base, and we came in over the San Gabriel Mountains, because we’d go to Fame Church about every 6th Sunday. And I remember coming over those San Gabriel Mountains, and looking into the abyss of the LA air, and it looked like dark, brown charcoal, and I thought, “Oh, well I will never live here. These people are too stupid to even breathe right.” I was in eighth grade, ok? So I’ve been like this for a long time. And I just remember, “Well, I will never live here.” I chose LA – I was up in San Francisco, as a matter of fact, working at Morrison and Forrester in 1987, and I decided that I can’t do what I need to do from San Francisco. I need to go to LA because LA has the state’s biggest poverty. It has the biggest everything. Biggest homelessness. You name it. We’ve got it. LA’s got it. I got down there and realized, no – I should have stayed in San Francisco because at least they think up here.
10:14 CR: And LA, unless there’s a movie star in the middle of it, you can’t even get people to recognize it as a problem. We used to think that to get attention to the issues that we had – with homelessness and drive-by shootings and all of the rest of the things we were doing we needed to get – we needed to get a car chase, and then put somebody on the escaping car, and then the news would cover it, right? No, LA – LA is shallow and big. It’s also one of the most wonderful collections of human beings on the planet. It has more different kinds of human beings than anywhere else on the planet, even Brazil. We outdo Rio. Outside of Korea, there are more Koreans in LA than anywhere else. Ethiopia. More Ethiopians than anywhere. Norweigians. We have 18,000 Norweigians. We’ve got everybody. We’ve got the whole planet, in one big, vast dysfunctional – 88 citie, 44 police departments, two of which I’ve sued fairly well.
11:22 CR: So what does it take to make a region like that work, when you’ve got astronomical poverty? When I got to LA, I had no idea. I joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund because I thought I was born to be a Thurgood Marshall lawyer. And I had a law degree, and I had the clerkship but I had all the credentials. And I was going to – I wanted to go back to LDF. I had been an LDF law student, and I did capital punishment, and I talk about it in the book, in The Summer of Death. And I had learned so much from the lawyers at LDF. They taught me how to look at even death in the face, and to battle it. And to win. And so they were the best lawyers. They still are the best lawyers on the planet, and I felt like that was my home, so I went back home. I rejoined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund as an attorney in LA, and I looked at my four partners, and I said, “LDF is a Southern organization.” I said, “This ain’t the South. We’ve got to figure out what 21st century civil rights looks like. And we’ve got to make it work for the people here. African Americans and Mexican Americans and El Salvadoranio Americans and Koreans and Ethiopians. I mean, we’ve got the world’s population here, we’ve got to make it work. We’ve got to make multi-racial democracy work.
12:47 CR: What wasn’t working? Well, when I got there – police misconduct. I have never seen a community outside of Mississippi hate the police as much as the black community hated the police in LA. LAPD was brutal, and it was professional. They were smartly dressed. They were very efficient. And they were racist. And I looked at them and I said OK, the politicians are afraid of them because they had secret files on all the politicians, as we learned. They took a page out of J. Edgar Hoover’s book. And they had all these secret files on the politicians, and the politicians were terrified of the LAPD, and I have to tell you, LAPD used to be – I use past tense to tell you a very hopeful story, but they would come in. They didn’t talk to you. They just proned you out, or slammed you against a wall and they would swagger into the City Council and they wouldn’t talk to the politicians. They had to intimidate the politicians. I mean, they were very intimidating. I looked at them and I said, who do they think they are? This is a democracy, and I’ll never forget the day that I walked up to Chief Parks, who was after Chief Gates and after Chief Williams and he had – he was getting rid of the first Inspector General after the Rodney King riots. The only two things we got out of the Rodney King beating and the Rodney King riot – $2 billion riot – most expensive riot in the history of the United States. They said it was $1 billion, but it was closer to $2 billion in damages. Watts burned down LA that year, and when those verdicts came down and exonerated the police who had beaten Rodney King, I knew the moment that 7th Not Guilty verdict came out and that there were no prospects of any guilty verdicts, I knew the place was going to burn. And I called my office because I was working at home that day and I told them, “Send everybody home now!” And you tell them, “Go pick up their kids and they are not to leave their homes because this place is going to blow.”
14:58 CR: And when I saw that the first place that it blew was at the police station, do you know what it takes to attack LAPD in its – people were pissed. I mean, they were beyond angry. And I thought, “Oh my God! It’s going to be worse than I feared.” And it was. That was the beginning. That was the beginning. It took that kind of cataclysm because we had been suing. I got up every day and took a shower, and in the shower figured out a new way to sue LAPD. I had more fun suing LAPD. I am a great class-action litigator. I can get up there, especially in federal court. It is so much fun. You have no idea. I had a ball doing war with the police, and because I love being a warrior, I really am a warrior. I’m an Amazon. I love doing war. There’s something wrong with me. In my spare time, I do Tae Kwon Do. There is something wrong with me. And therapy? It’s too late for therapy. I’m just going to indulge it, ok?
16:00 CR: Somebody one time – I was talking about the Iraqi War – I’ll never forget this – this is an aside – and he called me a blanking pacifist. I said, “Oh, no. Oh, no. I know pacifists. I’m no pacifist.” I said, “I wish I were.” I said, “I’m not that evolved. I said, “I live to fight. I’m a pugilist.” I said, “What are you talking about, a pacifist?” I said, “This is just a stupid war. You don’t want to do this. But anyway – so I really enjoyed my warfare. I loved deposing them. I loved filing, holding the press conferences and then making the police march in, and I would take up their whole day. Oh, and I would cross-examine them, and then get ‘em on the stand, and oh, then! My Perry Mason moments. Oh, I was just – I was brilliant. And, we would win. We won. But here was the genius in terms of how we changed. You want to know, how do we figure out how to –
16:49 CR: At the time, there was no political solutions because the politicians were afraid of LAPD. They’re not elected, so you couldn’t unelect them. They were a power of such a – and they were like a neutron star in terms of the density of their power. And they could force the politicians to do it because if they didn’t endorse you, you didn’t win. And so the normal means of power and accountability didn’t work. If the politicians were afraid and none of the other police forces were willing to take them on, what did you have? Well you had lawyers, but then, LAPD doesn’t particularly care about courts. Whenever Chief Parker one of the first the chief who was in the 50′s and 60′s – 40′s and 50′s – late 40′s and all throughout the 50′s, Chief Parker would take the Supreme Court cases and take them around to roll call and say, “We’ll get around this one, too, boys.” That court in Washington thinks we’ve got to give people their Miranda rights. Or that court in Washington – they used to call it “that court in Washington” like it didn’t apply to them. They were a law unto themselves. And the scariest thing about LAPD is that they’re smart. I like suing LAPD better than any other force because they are smart. It’s not a question of ability. It’s a question of will.
18:04 CR: So I enjoyed it. I really did enjoy it but we could only get so far because you would win case after case. Johnny Cochran taught me how to choose juries, and I remember when he – at the time he was teaching me how to choose juries, the City Council paid out $20 million per year in judgments for police abuse cases. $20 million a year. It ended up going down a little bit, to 15 and then to 10 and so forth, and now it’s like two or three million, but back in those days, it was the cost of having a brutal police force. They just – it was just the cost of doing business.
18:40 CR: So when your system accepts as its setpoint the brutality against African Americans, you have to think of a strategy that can blow that system up. A lot of it was timing, and recognizing which wave to ride in. It’s a little bit like surfing. When Rodney – when the Rodney King beating happened, and I got home late that night, and I couldn’t figure out what – what was that grainy thing on the TV? It’s 11 o’clock at night, I haven’t eaten dinner, the cat needs feeding. You know, I’m feeding the cat and I keep looking over my shoulder at the TV. There’s this video that they keep playing over and over again. And when I finally realized what it was, I said, “Oh my God!” I called Ramona Ripston at the ACLU. I said, “Ramona, do you think this is it?” She said, “They can’t ignore this. They can’t sweep this under the rug.” And CNN had just started its worldwide coverage. Remember? It was “the video seen ’round the world.” And they kept playing it over and over and over again, right? That was the beginning of the end of LAPD’s impunity. They couldn’t ignore us anymore. They couldn’t just wipe the … lawsuits like a water off a duck’s back. We had to keep suing because the lawyers were the only accountability mechanism that was willing to take on LAPD. So the litigation was very, very important. Even if it was just to get the individual who had been abused justice. Very important at that level, but also there were so many police abuse – we had a police misconduct bar. A whole bar of lawyers. Johnny Cochran was the Dean. Well, after the Rodney King beating, I began thinking, we can’t continue to just do lawsuits. We need to actually change the lawsuits, as well as add some additional strategy. We changed the lawsuits by listening to some of the good cops inside LAPD. And one of them was Jess Brewer. Former Deputy Chief. Highest ranking African American and he came into my office and he was waiting for me inside my office, and I got in at about 9:30 because I had been working until 4:30 and I thought, “Oh, Dad came to visit me!” because he looks like my Dad’s fraternal twin, and I race – I’m like – “Oh, my God, that’s not my father! Who is this?! Who is this?!” And it was Chief Brewer, and he said, “Connie, I’m so pleased to meet you. Please sit down. I’m going to tell you how you take apart the Blue Machine.”
21:16 CR: I took notes for three hours. He told me – he said, “Look, you can’t represent police abuse victims.” I said, “Well, who else would I represent?” He said, “You need to represent cops. You need to represent cops because once you represent a cop, they can show you how to take the department apart.”
21:42 CR: Represent cops. Then he said, “You need – you need to create a wall of Blue Opposition. Create an army of cops who are willing to battle the LAPD for you. Now, don’t just represent them; mold them into an army that will fight from within. And then you have to come inside.
22:12 CR: I said, “Inside what?” He said, “LAPD.” I said, “What?!” I said, “I’m a virus they reject.” He said, “Yeah, but eventually you’ll be able to come inside.” So we started representing cops. We represented African Americans. But you see, LAPD had so alienated, and they were so racial in terms of how they operated that up until 1965, a white cop couldn’t ride with a black cop. You had to have segregated police cars. And they were brutal. What I discovered as I started to represent them – the reason they were so brutal to the public is that first they were so brutal to each other. They tortured one another. And I said to them, until you treat your cops humanely, you will never get them to treat the public humanely. That was the first insight. And so I said, we’ve got to change the conditions inside LAPD so the cops stop brutalizing one another because you’re never ever going to get them to understand humane treatment of the public, because they are brutalized. They’re humiliated. They were broken down. They were – they were set up to fail. It was a very – it was a breakdown system. Much worse than Boot Camp in the Army, because at the end of Boot Camp, they build you back up. LAPD never – they never built you back up. They had so much alcoholism. The suicide rate was up – so once you got in there, you realized these people are hurting. And I started to think of them as my clients. And I started to think, how do I heal them? Long story short, we continued the lawsuits representing the cops, the inside strategy. This is the inside strategy. And we had all of the minority cops, including Chinese-American, Korean-American, Latino – you know, Mexican-American, El Salvadoranian. We had Japanese-American cops, we had African-American cops – we had everybody except the white cops. So we peeled off – we got all the minority unions. The white union was so hostile to the minority officers that they created all these other unions. We represented all the other unions of color. And we drove a great big wedge right up the Blue Machine.
24:30 CR: And those cops stuck with us. And you want to know something? Most of them lost their jobs, but they didn’t care because they knew – they knew that if this police department didn’t change, LA was never going to make it. Because if we had another riot like that riot, we weren’t going to make it. You have no idea. That union – when we looked at fire map after every riot – go to the Planning Department and get the fire map. You can see where all the fires are because believe you me, they plot every single fire that the Police Department responded to. And you can look at all the fire calls. Do you realize that there were three fires right outside Nancy Reagan’s compound? It went all the way up to Bel Air.
25:04 CR: The Watts Riot in ’68 stayed in Watts. This riot made it up to Bel Air. And I said, “The fire next time? Ain’t none of us going to survive it.” We had to change how LAPD – now for me as a civil rights lawyer, it wasn’t just about stopping the abuse. It was also about the theory, what’s the first civil right? The first of all civil rights is the right to safety. And the first of all freedoms is freedom from violence.
25:41 CR: Now, privileged slave owners are not going to think about that because they just take all of that for granted. They take their food for granted. They take shelter for granted. But the right to food, the right to shelter, the right to safety, all of those basic rights, they’re really the first Ten Amendments. They’re really the first ten civil rights. And then comes the right to speech, but if you don’t have safety, you can’t speak. So for a civil rights lawyer, some of us had to take on the mission of getting constitutional policing, and if you could go beyond constitutional policing and get kinder, gentler paramilitary policing, and then beyond that is community policing, where the police actually see a community as opposed to a target. And then the ultimate is safety partnership, where the police see individuals in the community and care about the children. They actually see themselves as the protectors of poor children. That’s the pinnacle.
26:42 CR: That was the goal. I never dared to dream of that. I just wanted them to do paramilitary in a constitutional way. I didn’t think we could change them. I didn’t. And then I started to get to know them. I don’t know why they allowed me to exist inside LAPD. I still haven’t figured it out because I was like a virus. The first time I drove my blue Prius – because I am exactly what I look like – I am a Whole Foods-shopping, green tea drinking, Prius-driving liberal, right? I drive my Prius – you know, they have all these barricades and things you’ve got to go over – I mean, you’d think we were in a war or something- but I drive my – and Chief Paysinger would get on the intercom and say, “Red Alert! Red Alert! We do not allow Priuses in our parking lot! Priuses do not belong with Crown Victoria Fords!” And I mean, he would just – they would go through a – and then I found out later that they were – they would have bull sessions. They would actually sit down and talk about whether I was lesbian or not. And they were trying to figure out who I dated, and would I date one of them? I mean, I’m like, I don’t care about my love life, why do they? But I mean, they were debating –
28:06 CR: So evidently, evidently, you know, – and of course, you have to keep it totally professional. I don’t even call them by their first names. I call them by their ranks to make sure. And I’m a military kid, so you call people by their ranks. And it’s Chief This, and Assistant Chief This, and Deputy Chief This, and you know, Sergeant This. Finally, finally they let me in because Chief Bratton was there. Chief Bratton was put in charge of LAPD after the Rampart Scandal. So you had Rodney King in 1991. The riots in 1992, and then you had the Rampart Gangster Cop Scandal seven years later. Almost seven years later. Those were the two bookends. That Gangster Cop Scandal scared the bejesus out of our courts because you had cops planting evidence on people, cops stealing drugs, which is something that LAPD culture does not do. You could have $10,000 on the floor; they would not take a dime. They’re one of the cleanest big forces in the world.
29:13 CR: Their Achilles Heel is not money. They don’t have money corruption. Their corruption is abusive force and sex. Usually not combined. In LAPD, you have to know who slept with whom or you’re not going to understand anything. It’s a Peyton Place. Very insular culture and they socialize with one another. So, once I got inside here’s what I discovered. If you sue them, you sue LAPD for 25 years and they fear that you’re not going anywhere, they give up and they marry you. They married me. I am now a part of LAPD. And here’s how it happened.
30:03 CR: With Chief Bratton, he pulled me totally inside. I was one of his deputies and he – Gerry Chaleff – I worked with Gerry Chaleff, who was his main Consent Decree enforcer. That Consent Decree forced LAPD to start taking track of the abuses, and you know, that Consent Decree – it looked like, it looked like a bean counting, but it really wasn’t. It was forcing behaviors into the department that would change them. So decree enforcement is something lawyers know how to do. That part of it we could get done. The part of it that create – that has to require some creativity and the part of it that really changes stuff for the community, changes the conduct of the police for the community, changes their attitudes toward the community, changes how they treat the community, that part is the hearts and minds, the mindset of cops. Now, no court knows – no Department of Justice knows how to write a decree that says, this is how you change the mindset of a cop. And no court knows how to do that. But you take a brilliant police chief like Bratton, pair them with brilliant lawyers like Gerry Chaleff, who was head of the Consent Decree Bureau. Bratton created a Consent Decree Bureau and then I told Gerry, you make sure your office is the one next to Bratton’s because in LAPD culture, the most powerful man in the department and it’s always a man, has his office next to the Chief’s. And if you put the Consent Decree Bureau – he is sending the critical message the Court needs you to send.
31:47 CR: He put Gerry’s office at – the LAPD shut down for a day. They couldn’t believe it! They had a fit! A royal fit! I mean, “He can’t do that!” It was – you would have thought there had been an assassination on the Sixth Floor as opposed to putting Gerry in there. We were in there every day for seven years. You have to be a little bit obsessive. I know, I know it looks weird, but you do have to – not too much obsession because then you can’t let go when you need to, but you do have to be able to stick with it day in and day out because this is the work that had to be done. It wasn’t about collecting data. It was about going into that police department and sitting down with their Deputy Chiefs and Chiefs, and then going out to the divisions and sitting down with the sergeants and the captains in roll call and at the end of the day, end of call, and getting them to talk about their jobs in a different way. I interviewed 700 cops for Bratton. He said, “Tell me what we haven’t learned from the Rampart Scandal.” It was really his way of making me do a report so I couldn’t sue him.
32:58 CR: I said, “Chief, I know this is your way of making sure I can’t sue you, but you realize you’re bringing me inside and I’m now one of your advisors.” He said, “Yeah, I know.” And I said, “And if you don’t listen to me, I can sue you, still. If you listen to me and take my advice, I can’t sue you.” That’s not quite accurate, but he’s married to a lawyer. I let her figure it out. But I did this report to figure out if we had learned the lessons of the Rampart – so it’s not just lawsuits. It’s not just representing. You can also use reports, and you can use – but the critical thing was I said, “Nobody needs to understand another report about the Rampart Scandal. There are five other reports. Nobody read them and nobody cares. We’re seven years beyond the scandal now. Bratton’s been here for two years. What I’m going to do is I’m going to use this as a talking tour through LAPD, and I’m going to make myself bond with these cops. I said to the Chief, you have to get the police union, the white one, the white police union to back me, and I need them as my co-pilots, because if you have the conservative police union with you, nobody can attack what you do.
34:04 CR: I didn’t think he could do it, but he got them to agree. And so, I’m in the Police Union headquarters. Obviously, I was going to have to bear the brunt of this. I’m with the guys – these are the same police union leaders who had me bodily thrown out of a building one time, and then they had me followed and they were the ones who used to threaten us all the time. And the good cops would get on the payphones – this is how long ago it was – payphones! – and say, “Connie, don’t come down – don’t come down to Watts tonight. Graveyard is gunning for you.” They would warn me when the cops were going to hurt me. So there were always good cops and that made me realize my job – the good cops were not in charge. It was the bad cops who scared the good cops into getting in a phone booth and whispering, “Connie, don’t come down!” So, I realized that my job wasn’t just the cops I was representing, but also the good white cops who would call me and say, “Don’t come down, Connie. We can’t protect you.” From cops! Not from the gangsters. From the cops!
35:12 CR: So when I started this and did these reports – do you know the conversations I would have with them? I learned they were so scared, these big burly cops who would act so badly and so racistly and contemptibly. I mean they were just full of contempt. Contemptibly is the word – against the African-American community and the Latino community – and then when I talked to them, I asked them questions like, “Why do you lie so much?” Nothing provocative. They were used to me by now. They know I ask what I really want to know. I said, “Why do you lie so much?” They didn’t protest. “What are you talking about?! We’re vanguards of the truth! We always speak – ” No, no, no. They said the following. They said, “Well Ms. Rice, what you call a lie, we call survival.” “Well, Ms. Rice, we lie and lie and lie so much that pretty soon, it’s not a lie to us.” Or, “Ms. Rice, we lie because we’re told to do a job that can’t be done. And we want to promote.” And, “Ms. Rice, we lie so that we can get home alive at night.”
36:35 CR: And I thought, OK. They’re telling me what they’re afraid of. Now picture this. I’m in the Police Union building, a building that they literally threw me out of bodily at one time and I actually had to go get my arm put in a sling. I deserved it. I provoked them. But here I am now, eight years later in their dining room. We decide we better bond if we’re going to do this report together, and so they decided to cook dinner for me that night, and I’m watching everything they put on my plate, and I don’t know what they’re going to do and I do not trust these men as far as I can throw this building, and I’m watching –so I’m watching Cliff Ruff, this great big old cop I used to do war with all the time and he used to hate me and he would walk out of the room when I walked in because he didn’t want to breathe the air I was breathing. Oh, it was seventh grade – sixth grade, fifth grade. And so Cliff is fixing me a drink, and I’m watching what he’s putting in the drink and he’s like, “Now Connie, if we’re going to be working together, I need you to hear something, and I know it’s not going to be easy for you to hear but you need to hear this.” And I’m like, “Oh, this condescending bullshit. What is he going to say?” and I said, “What is it, Cliff?” And he says, “Now…” he hands me the drink and I don’t take anything from it and I’m like – and so he sits down and he starts drinking his drink and he says, “Now look, we need you to understand why the Rodney King beating was a good beating.” Now, I had told my staff, I started counting ten, nine, eight… now if they say something stupid, just count back from ten, and whatever you do, don’t touch them because they’ll shoot you. Do not hit them. Do not slap them. They’re going to say a bunch of stupid stuff and it’s going to be hard for you to hear it.” I didn’t tell myself the same advice, so I had to chew a hole in my cheek. I couldn’t have drunk the drink anyway, because it would have stung. You know, I – “The Rodney King beating is a good beating and you’ve got to understand that inmates do nothing but pump iron all day, and then they get on the PCP so they’ve got gorilla-level strength.” And I’m sitting there, they’re talking about black men and gorillas and how they’re at – I said, OK. By the time that night was over, I had two holes in my cheeks, and I had to start counting back from twenty. Twenty, nineteen, eighteen. It was unbelievable – I – but I had to learn to listen, even to that. And I had to do it in a way that didn’t communicate what I was feeling. It’s called acting. I had to because I needed them as a partner. The only way to change LAPD was to get the white union out of the way because they can destroy anything. It’s like the Republicans in Congress in the House. They can destroy anything. Can’t build anything but they can destroy everything, right? So you’ve got to get the destructors out of the way. And you have to neutralize them. And the way you neutralize them is you make them your partner. And get them to co-write the report. Now they thought I would have to use them to get interviewees. When they found out that I had figured out that when you put cops in a group and they can see what everybody is saying, they can hear what everybody is saying, you can’t shut them up. So I did roundtables. I figured that out. And it was like therapy sessions for them. No one had ever asked them, “What did you think of the Rampart Scandal, and how were you treated?” And, “Do you think that they learned the right lessons?” I could – there was one – there were several cops that called up and said, “When are you coming back for the next session?” They wanted me to come back. Because they needed to talk.
40:15 CR: They said things to me that – they said, “Connie, I’m afraid of black people. I’m terrified of black people.” “You’re not like the black people I’m afraid of.” “Can you get the black people to be more like you?” They said, “Here’s what I fear.” I said, “Tell me what you fear the most.” They said, “I’m afraid that if I ever got shot down in Watts, the community would come out to watch me bleed, but they would never call 911.” “I want to feel like if I got shot, the black community would call 911.”
41:00 CR: So they also had to listen to me. They had to listen to me talk about slavery, and how we had given them a system of policing that descended from slavery, and I’ll end with this anecdote. I decided when I was in my slave artifacts store that when I saw a warning poster to escaped slaves, it said, “Escaped slaves beware! Beware of Boston Police! They will sell you back into slavery.” And it was in the big, big warning – you know the old Western fonts, and I thought, “well this would be a great gift for Chief Bratton!” So I bought it, I bought it and to make sure the people understood why I was giving it to him, I put a plaque on it that said, “To Chief Bratton, this poster reminded me of the 300 years of headwinds we’re trying to reverse. Thank you for having the courage to change the wind. Your colleague in Civil Rights, Connie Rice.” Just to make sure people understood why I was giving him a slave poster. And I took it to him and he acted like he was delighted to have it and he cleared a space on his wall and he called in all of his Deputy Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs, and they looked appalled. They all blanched and just looked like, you know, they were going to die and, “This crazy civil rights lawyer putting slave shit all over the walls.” But then he asked me where I got it. And I told him, and long story short, I ended up taking him to the slave shop. I called Gail, I said, “Listen, the Police Chief wants to come to the store, get to the store early tomorrow.” She said, “The white police chief wants to come to my slave artifacts – ” I said, “Yes, and act like it’s normal.” So here are these black women, these two black American women with this Scottish-American police chief and we’re going through pictures of lynchings. We’re handling lynching ropes that she has in her store. The slave shackles. The Chief actually wept when he held child shackles. Those little –have you seen child shackles? They’re actually worth $40,000 now because they’re so rare. They destroyed all the child shackles. And the Chief is saying things like, “It’s just unbelievable that we would ever own another human being. Can you believe we did this? And we’re bonding over the artifacts of slavery. And then finally, he stumbles onto the counter that I thought he would, because we’ve been having this argument. I told him that American policing descended from slavery. He said, “No!” He’s going on about Robert Peale and the British bobbies, and I said, “This ain’t got nothing to do with British bobbies! This comes from the slave control system. It’s called suppression-containment policing, Chief.” “What are you talking about?” And he says, “That’s crazy, Connie! And da da da…” So we’d been having this tug-of-war.
44:02 CR: Long story short, he discovers the counter and in the counter, all these plantation police badges. Ladies and gentlemen, they look exactly like today’s police badges. Only where it says, “City of Oakland” or “City of LA,” it says “Plantation Green Acres.” He took one look at those badges, he took them out, and he’s placing them, he says, “Oh my God. This is exactly like the badge I had in Boston, and this is exactly like the badge I had at such-and-such. “And I just looked at him and he said, “Oh my God, Connie. Now I understand what you were saying.” Long story short, ladies and gentlemen. I still have my parking space at LAPD, only now I park next to the Chief in the new headquarters. It’s not the 6th Floor anymore, it’s the 10th Floor of the new headquarters, and with Chief Beck, whom I did help to pick, I chose him because he’s a Prince of the LAPD and he could help bridge the old culture to the new culture. I didn’t choose him. I just kind of threatened the Mayor that he would have a lot of trouble from me if he didn’t pick him. But a lot of us pulled for him because he changed 180 degrees, and when I asked Chief Beck when he was Captain Beck, I said, “Charlie, you used to be part of SWAT.” I said, “You were our nightmare.” I said, “What made you change?” Because he had started- he almost adopted some black kids from Watts. He refused – he was undoing arrests. He was being humane and compassionate and he was exhibiting a completely different mindset, the mindset change that I didn’t think I could ask for. And so he put him – Bratton put him in charge of the Rampart Division to recover from the Rampart Scandal, and I went there to interview him for the report. And I said, “What made you change?” And he looked at me, and this is what he said.
46:04 CR: “I changed, Connie, because Search and Destroy was no longer working, and if you destroy your community, you destroy your police force.” And I thought, “He is going to be the next Chief. He gets it.” Long story short, two weeks later, I found out some information and I went back in to Captain Beck and I said, “Captain, you didn’t tell me why you really changed.” I said, “The reason” – I said, “now I know why I can really believe in you as the change agent.” He said, “No, no, no. I didn’t lie.” I said, “No, no, no. I don’t mean that you lied. I mean, I don’t think you understand why. Because you’re a man, and you don’t get this stuff.” I’m a female chauvinist, if you haven’t noticed. I love men, but I think that women are superior. So just forgive me. But I said, I said, “You didn’t get it because you’re a man.” He says, “What do you mean?” I said, “You didn’t tell me that Brandy is a policewoman!” Brandy is his daughter. His daughter was a P1. She was in the police force as a P1, a Police Officer 1. And then his son was in the Police Academy. I said, “Chief!” No, he wasn’t Chief. I said, “Captain, you changed because you’re trying to keep your children safe. You are a father protecting his children. Now that’s change I can believe in.” To this day – I’m ending – to this day, I could go on forever, the point is, I’m still working on him. I’m with the Police Chief. I was just with him yesterday. You have to ride shotgun with him. And you have to understand them. And it’s the inverse of war. Our genius in getting the most fearsome, most militaristic police force in the world to change was an inside game. And in Oakland, you’re going to have to do an inside game. Ok. We can show you how, but you have got to get that police force right. We know how to do it. I’ve begged Chief Bratton to go in and help. I think he is helping now. We actually need Chief Bratton to take over the police department because I don’t know that you can do it as an advisor, but we are going to do what we can to help because Oakland has got to be set straight.
48:46 CR: What we do, and people have asked, “Why aren’t you afraid?” It’s because nothing could have been scarier than trying to end slavery, and I think of Harriet Tubman. I think of all the Quakers who risked their lives. All of the Underground Railroad white people who sheltered African American escaped slaves. I think of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, all of them. If they hadn’t had courage, they had a reason to be afraid. I have no reason to be afraid. I have no right to be afraid because without what they did, I would never have been free. So it has been a privilege and an honor to be on this journey. I’m going to continue. I have a little bit of energy left. It’s not what I had when I was a demon that you see in that picture on the book. I was Hell on Wheels, let me tell you. I was scary. I scared myself sometimes. And you have to be kind of scary to scare the police. And they are afraid of me. But now they’re afraid that I’ll disapprove, and I’ll leave you with this last anecdote. I promise, Rich.
49:59 Rich: It’s your plane flight.
50:02 CR: We’ll have 20 minutes for questions. Uh, is that clock right? I hope so. Um, this – two Thanksgivings ago, with Chief Beck in place, we had Occupy LA, right? You didn’t hear about Occupy LA, did you? You heard about New York, you heard about – you know, you heard about several – but you didn’t hear about LA. You want to know why? Because he followed our advice. The chief followed our advice. I said, “Chief, walk among them. Ignore the marijuana – ignore the marijuana smell. Walk among them. They’re going to look like hippies to you. But just talk to them. And here are the ones who are going to make sense to you and here are the ones that are nothing but tree-huggers and they’re crazy, and here are the ones who need mental health services. But talk to them. Get to know them. Make sure they know who you are. And he did. Every day. He would walk through. He said, “Just don’t smoke in front of me, so I don’t have to arrest you.” He said, “I don’t care if you’re smoking, but just don’t.” And he said, “And don’t hurt anybody. And if there’s nobody getting beaten up, I don’t care.” So I left for Thanksgiving. I was very nervous because I knew the mayor wanted the camp shut down, and I thought, “Oh, here we go. They’re going to make LAPD go back to, you know, boots and billy sticks. And I’m in my mom’s kitchen, and my mom picks up the phone, and she says, “Connie, it’s Chief Beck.” And I said, “Oh, no. What happened?” And he says – I said, “What happened? What happened?” He says, “No, no, no. I just wanted to let you know that we just served the Occupy LA people Thanksgiving dinner.” I said, “Oh my God. What have I done?” I said, I’ve gone too far now. I said, “Thanksgiving dinner, Chief? Oh, really? That’s really – who’s idea was that?” I was – I would never – First of all, they’re all vegan. They don’t eat turkey. I’m like, “Oh no.” It was the thought that counted. You know, and I’m thinking, “LAPD – instead of killing them, LAPD’s cooking dinner for them. That’s got to be progress, now.” The bottom line is that we have a long way to go. We’re further than I ever hoped. We actually have the community safety policing partnership. He gave me 50 officers, and he did give them to me. And these are the first officers who are in housing projects. 10 apiece for four housing projects. 40 of them with 10 supervisors. And ladies and gentlemen, these are the first cops in LAPD’s history who will be promoted solely on the basis of how they demonstrate they avoided arresting a child. They will be promoted on the basis of how they kept a kid in school. And here’s the sine qua non. We’re going to gang families, and we’re saying to the family, if you give us your youngest, I call it the Michael Corleone Project, if you give us your youngest and let him or her be free from joining the gang, we will pay for college and graduate school.
53:11 CR: So can police change? Yes, but it’s going to take all of you. You have a couple of people up here who are like me. Eva Patterson, who is a good buddy of mine. We actually went to the same high school for a little while. You’ve got some civil rights lawyers up here who can help be the tip of the spear, but they’ve got to get out of the courtroom and they’ve got to become fluent in how cops operate. It’s painful. But you have to get out and get an inside game. I’m all but a cop now. I actually think like a cop. And I have to warn community groups that I’ve gone to the other side. And you will see it on the Internet. They blog, “Connie’s gone to the dark side.” But it was necessary, and so I would say, we’ve had enormous success, and we’ve made enormous impact because we’ve been creative and because it’s never been about ourselves. It’s never been about money. It’s been about systems change. So find the people who can do the systems change and pair them with the people who know the individual change because you’ve got to have both and they’ve got to be married. And remember, if you sue the cops long enough, they will marry you. Good night.
54:37 Rich: I’d be glad for Connie to stay for the next couple of weeks but she does have a plane to catch this evening, so I’ll start off with a quick question because the focus has been around LAPD, but you’ve been involved in a number of efforts at societal change with school districts and with the Metropolitan Transit Agency. Could you talk a little bit about cases as a campaign. That whole idea that you –
54:57 CR: Yeah, I – even as a baby lawyer, I never saw the cases as just cases. This was a little bit of my genius, if I have any genius, it was that I never saw a case as a case. I saw it as a platform to transfer power, and I saw it as part of a campaign. I never saw the case as the end. I saw it as just the beginning, and if you see a case as a campaign, it can become – it becomes much bigger than just what the law says. We couldn’t have gotten out of a consent decree. We could not have gotten Charlie Beck to change his mind that way. It was a whole bunch of factors, and then the right support because he reached out and said, “Connie, I need you.” And he needed my credibility. He needed me to back him. He needs me to walk into rooms full of angry black people, just like Bratton did. And angry Mexican-American people, and they stand there and they take it and they say it will change, and then it’s my job to go out and make sure the cops change. But I have to be there with them and they have to trust me. So, it’s a different role. But the other – but the other cases, the MTA cases, they were going to take – they were going to destroy the bus system. There are half a million poor people who depend on the bus. They don’t have cars. If you’ve been in LA, you’ve got to have a car. So if you’re – if you’re transit-dependent, you’re in trouble. They were going to take all the money out of the bus system to build a train system for the middle class, people like me. And these people can’t get to work. I actually had to ride the bus with my clients. I ended up representing the bus-rider’s union and about half a million bus riders were certified as a class. And we said, “You cannot destroy the bus system. The poor depend on to build rail for middle class people. What is the matter with you?” So we sued in federal court. Nobody thought we would win. But I had an insider. One of the tricks of the case is you always get a mole to give you the information. To give you the documents, tell you where the bodies are buried. And you can beat an opponent when you’ve got one of their insiders. We had their Chief Financial Officer as the insider, and so he gave me all the secret info and the judge took a look at the different declarations and said, “I’m going to grant this injunction.” And he stopped the fare increases and he made the MTA stop the development of the rail. So you have a case up here that’s modeled after our case down there, and sued BART. But bottom line, we had to get about $4 billion put back into the bus system. To date, it’s been about $7 billion. So that was an enormously successful case that began on the day we settled it, because it was the execution of the settlement, how we executed it that ended up getting us twice as much money. And we structured it in a way that our experts, who were bus riders – actually, our experts were so good that the judge said he believed our experts more than the transit experts from the MTA. We had folks who hadn’t finished junior high school, but they became experts in counting overcrowding on the buses, and the judge went with their data rather than the transit experts. It was really quite amazing. We had this guy who dropped out of school in 7th grade. He was up there. We taught him how to do a presentation. I thought, “Well, damn, he didn’t finish 7th grade. He’s better than I am.” He’s up there, “Now, Your Honor, if you will look at page such-and-such – ” Ted had never even had a closed pair of shoes before that day. I mean, it was unbelievable. It was fantastic. There’s nothing like being a civil rights lawyer and seeing your clients up there instead of you. We empowered those bus riders, and so that was a very, very important case. It made a big difference to a lot of peoples’ lives.
58:57 CR: The MT – the school construction case – 120,000 children sitting on the floors and on the window sills because there were no seats and no desks. Of course, all of them were minority and poor. But a lawsuit wasn’t going to take care of that because you couldn’t make the school district- which was congenitally incompetent build anything. They couldn’t build an outhouse with Legos. My diagnosis was that we had to take over the school board. A case is so much easier, but we went to the mayor and told him he had to raise $5-$7 million dollars. We had to take over three positions. We had to throw Maxine Waters’ candidate out. It was not pretty. You don’t want to do electoral politics because it is… A lawsuit is beanbag compared to electoral politics. But we had to take over the school board because we had to fire the superintendent and hire a competent superintendent. That’s how bad it was. A lawsuit – I told my boss. She said, “Well, why aren’t you filing a lawsuit?” I said, “Because we’d win.” We would have. Winning a law – I mean, a five-year-old could win a lawsuit against LA Unified, they’re so incompetent. I said, “We can’t do a lawsuit.” I said, “There are twelve of them already and they don’t make a difference. We have to take over the leaders of government now.” So we filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s allocation of school construction money because part of the problem was that LA never got any of the school construction money. 120,000 children with no desks and no seats? How are they supposed to learn? You know, I mean, it was absurd, and then they would have meeting after meeting after meeting to plan how they were going to plan to plan the schools, right? And when we looked at this paradigm, but ladies and gentlemen, to give them a – why do we have teachers building schools? I looked at this whole thing and said, “There’s something wrong with this paradigm.” Lawyers don’t build courthouses and doctors don’t build hospitals. What the hell do we have – why do teachers have to build schools? This is stupid. We are stuck on stupid.” But while we have this system, we sure as hell aren’t going to get the money we need down here. So we figured out the money we needed. To really fix everything we would have needed $80 billion. Just for LA. To do all of the repairs to the existing schools, as well as build the new schools. I said. “What would it- how much money do we need to build good schools, beautiful schools that give every child a seat?” And they said $20 billion. I said, “We can raise $20 billion. We can get $20 billion. That we can do. Can’t do 80 but we can do 20.” And that was the constitutional standard. What’s the minimum constitutional standard under Serrano? So we figured out what it would cost and we went after that pot of money. We sued. The judge took one look at it, and said, “OK, I’m going to put in escrow a billion dollars. The school district has a year to go after this billion. And then we had to figure out, well who’s going to build these schools? The lawsuit was just the beginning. The genius was this. I am a military brat. When Roy Romer, whom we – after we won the elections and kicked out all these ridiculous numbskulls and put in our candidates and then we made Genethia Hayes our candidate for president of the board, and she got to engineer the selection of Roy Romer, the former DNC head, the former governor of Colorado. Brilliant guy, doesn’t need the job. You have to have people who don’t need the job in the job because they won’t be afraid to lose the job to do the right thing. That’s one key lesson we never learned. Romer doesn’t need that job and he’s not afraid of politicians because he was the head of the DNC. So get some unorthodox – unorthodox candidate who will do what’s needed and will not fear getting kicked in the butt or dragged over the coals or fired. So between Genethia being the head, Romer being there, I said, “I’ve got a solution.” I took him up to Port Hueneme and introduced him to my friend, Captain McConnell, he’s a Seabee – a naval base at Port Hueneme, and I told Captain McConnell, “Captain, you can’t go to Annapolis. You’ve got a mission. The mission is to save these kids. You’ve got to build 150 schools. And you’ve got to create a construction authority, and you’re the Seabees and you can do it. Isn’t it your motto, “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible just takes a little longer?” I said, “Well, this is impossible. It’s going to take little while.” And Romer, who could sell sand in the desert, he so won Captain McConnell that McConnell came down to LA with us that night and agreed that he would bring his platoon and build schools for the kids. Not –we had seven captains to begin with. By the time we were done, we had about twelve captains, two admirals came down to join the team, and created an independent construction authority and we walled off the school board and the school bureaucracy, which makes the Kremlin look svelte. It took them 80 days to pay an invoice. By the time the Seabees got done, it was twelve days for an invoice to get paid. And they had their own procurement, their own contracting. We made sure they were independent. And then we protected them politically. And Romer told the board, “If you touch my Seabees, I will resign and they will, too.” Ladies and gentlemen, fourteen years later we have 147 brand new schools, built on time, on budget.
1:04:33 CR: Hmm? Well, let me tell you, if you can do it in LA, you can do it anywhere. And – but it took – look what it took. The walls of separation. It took the catalyst of the case, because without that billion dollars and the court making a challenge, we wouldn’t have been able to cow the politicians into stepping out of the way. We had to put Genethia in there to get her board to step out of the way. We had to empower the Seabees. Who goes to the military? I said, “We’re paying them enough. They’ve got all of our money.” The military has all our money. I’m going to make the military do everything. They’ve got all our money. And they’re smart. Just like my dad. My dad was colonel in the Air Force. So, go, go. You’ve got some of the smartest people. I love Stanley McChrystal. I told him that he had to come down to LA and help with the gang thing because we’re doing nothing but counter-insurgency. That’s all the gang work is. He’s there. Stanley McChrystal is helping us. So, think about the true nature of the problem. And get creative. And if you just – it just takes one or two crazy people like me to stick with it and push it through. But it takes a team. I’m not suggesting I did all this stuff by myself. I didn’t. We had incredible teams of people. And San Francisco is so much easier, and Oakland is so much easier than LA. LA’s a nightmare. LA is a nightmare. And if we can do it in LA, it can be done here. Did I talk about the cases enough?
1:06:07 Rich: I’m not as fearless as Connie because my boss, Sandra is here tonight. She’s done tremendous work, Sandra ?, who informs me that Connie’s driver is here. You say, “Callahan, I have all these questions!” Buy her book. After you read the book, email Connie, or we’ll see if we can get together another time. But I’d like to thank you again on behalf of Dean Mike Webber – [unintelligible]