Deval Patrick opens up about issues of race, policing


As a former governor, civil rights lawyer and a product of Chicago’s South Side, there may be few Americans who understand the current national debate about the need for police reforms better than Deval Patrick.

“I don’t think anybody has ever believed that job of police officers is easy, isn’t fraught with danger, isn’t made more so because of the proliferation of guns,” former Massachusetts Gov. Patrick told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files,” a podcast produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. “At the same time we expect and train restraint because that’s what the rule of law means. It really does mean that you don’t get to be judge and jury and executioner out on the street.”

In the wake of a string of shootings of young black men such as Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald, the need to improve the relationship between police and the communities they serve has never been more apparent. According to Patrick, who served as an adviser to a police reform commission empaneled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the wake of the McDonald case, it is up to the police to take the first steps in repairing that broken relationship.

“The expectations of official behavior are higher. You don’t get to be unaccountable in an official capacity,” Patrick said. “It’s hard in these times to talk about that. Because it sounds to some that you are dishonoring the role of law enforcement and being unrealistic about how hard the job is. I certainly am not. We need it. You could argue, and many rightly do, that the folks on the South Side of Chicago need [law enforcement] even more.”

For Patrick, the solution to this problem starts when police “get out of their cruisers and start to build relationships with members of the community, relationships of trust,” even though he acknowledges that bringing about this change will not be easy.

To hear the rest of the conversation, which touched on Patrick’s upbringing in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes housing project, his path to becoming the first African-American governor of Massachusetts and more, click on To get “The Axe Files” podcast every week, subscribe at