“Black and Blue: Inside the Divide between the Police and Black America,” is CBS News Justice and Homeland Security correspondent Jeff Pegues’ first book.
The KMSP-TV alum clearly enjoys tackling books as heavy as his average 14-hour workday, which began Monday with him reporting the lead story on “CBS This Morning.” That’s the one about Donald Trump Jr. and others having a 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in search of dirt about his father’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Fittingly, Pegues’ second book, already in the works with an anticipated 2018 release, is about allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. “Some people look at the issue through a political lens. I will address it in a balanced way because I believe that in any other time in history an adversary interfering in a U.S. election would likely have been considered an act of war,” Pegues said via e-mail. “The danger, post-2016, is that the American people will lose confidence in our elections. If the American people don’t trust elections, then they don’t have confidence in what makes us Americans. It’s another important issue shaping who we are as a country.”
The same could be said of “Black and Blue.”
Pegues is one of those highly efficient news talents. He works long days and is a devoted husband and father of two who also finds time to write books. I teased Pegues that his book’s dedication to his family was so glowing it gives him no wiggle room for that lapse into immaturity otherwise known as “the midlife crisis.” Pegues’ response: “I meant every word.”
A great guy, an extraordinary reporter with a commanding yet calming presence and deft understanding of issues, I think Pegues would be a worthy successor to Scott Pelley, anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News from 2011 until his departure in May. Only problem is that CBS’ evening anchor desk chair is not the most secure place in news, and I really like Pegues. Anyone paying attention knows that Pegues already has the network anchor wardrobe. When I asked how many suits he owns, Pegues wrote: “I’ll put it this way … I have more than I really need. But I do enjoy a good suit, shirt, tie and (don’t forget) pocket square combination!”
This is Part 1 of my interview with Pegues.
Q: In “Black and Blue,” you describe seeing young police officers on the beat in NYC, watching people in not-the-best neighborhood and wrote “They were brave, but boy did they look terrified.” Is fear, sometimes unnecessary fear, a factor in police work that is discounted?
A: There is fear on both sides of the issue. The images police and black Americans see on television and online can increase that anxiety. If there is a lack of training or if someone is truly ill-equipped to be a police officer, it can lead to mistakes.
Q: There has been a decline in police recruits and what some argue is a lowering of standards for new officers. Is weeding out ill-suited officers enough of a priority?
A: I’ve talked to police chiefs across the country who see it as a priority. Incidents over the last four years have made it a priority. But, as you noted, there aren’t enough recruits. Policing is a community endeavor, and 99.9 percent of police officers are doing the job the right way. How can communities across the country make their law enforcement better and more accountable? Maybe joining is the answer? There are police chiefs encouraging people of color to join. It won’t be an easy road because it is a tough job.
Q: What trait do you wish all police officers possessed?
A: There is a discussion among law enforcement about having a “guardian” vs. “warrior” mentality. “Protect and serve” has to be more than just a motto.
Q: Did anything stand out for you in the video showing officer Jeronimo Yanez shooting Philando Castile?
A: When the shooting occurred, just based on the video, I had sources in law enforcement who were stunned by how the officer was reacting after the shooting. In their view, he seemed panicked. Now in the videos released after the trial you can contrast Yanez’s actions with those of the other responding officers.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.