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CNN’s New Black in America Special Explores the Strife Between Cops and Young Black Men

Scott Olson
Scott Olson

Soledad O’Brien dedicates the next installment of her Black in America documentary series to the ongoing tensions between cops and working-class black people.


The special airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CNN and is called Black & Blue—the former presumably representing the Trayvon Martins, Jordan Davises, Eric Garners and Michael Browns of the nation, that is, unarmed black men whom many believe were unjustifiably killed because of the color of their skin. The Blue represents the police officers and white vigilantes (like George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn) who are accused or convicted of targeting young black men and pegging them as criminals.

The special is particularly timely because the nation is waiting to find out if a grand jury in Missouri will bring charges against Michael Brown’s shooter, Officer Darren Wilson.


In the program, O’Brien questions New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton about why rookie police officers are assigned to the most crime-ridden neighborhoods in the city. Her line of inquiry stems from the critique that inexperienced cops are patrolling areas where they don’t have a familiarity with the people or the culture. That inexperience makes them anxious and trigger-happy while they’re on duty. 

Bratton explains that when the city’s police force was reduced significantly in recent years, his predecessor, Raymond Kelly, adopted the “surge” strategy used in—wait for it—Iraq. Bratton admits that using rookie cops probably wasn’t a good idea.

“[It’s] what [Gen. David] Petraeus did in Iraq—we’ll surge in our worst crime areas,” says Bratton, describing the strategy that was put in place before he took office.

“The mistake was that these kids didn’t really know the job yet. And that’s what we’re trying to correct,” Bratton explains.


O’Brien also speaks with African-American men about their experiences with law enforcement. It's compelling television. Watch the trailer below:

Read more at CNN.

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