Criminal Law and Justice

Beyond Policing: Creating Safe and Just Communities

March 11, 2021  • Criminal Justice Reform Initiative

This bonus episode of the Aspen Institute’s Criminal Justice Reform Initiative‘s podcast Shades of Freedom is drawn from a February 2021 online event of the same name created by CJRI and the Conversations with Great Leaders Series, in Memory of Preston Robert Tisch.

The panel discussed how, as a nation, we are witnessing increased public support for reimagining and transforming the criminal justice system, and tackled the question of how we, and our leaders, make change happen in a way that takes into consideration historic injustices, as well as the underlying social, economic, education and health disparities in the United States.

The podcast features Art Acevedo, Chief of Police, Houston Police Department; Roy L. Austin, Vice President of Civil Rights, Facebook; and Karol Mason, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The moderator is Bill Whitaker, of CBS News and a 60 Minutes correspondent.

Transcript available here. You can also view the full event video on YouTube.


Art Acevedo is the Chief of Police for the Houston Police Department (HPD) in Texas, where he leads a department of 5,400 sworn law enforcement officers in the fourth largest city in the United States. As the first Hispanic to lead HPD, Chief Acevedo brings a unique understanding to the concerns of the diverse communities in Houston, and as a proponent of community policing, firmly believes that good, two-way communication is vital for a successful community and its police department.

Roy L. Austin, Jr., a nationally renowned civil rights attorney and advocate, has recently joined Facebook as its first Vice President of Civil Rights. Prior to this position, Mr. Austin was a partner with the law firm of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP, and worked with the transition team of President-Elect Joseph R. Biden advising on the Department of Justice. Austin was previously Deputy Assistant to President Obama for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity and a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division and Assistant United States Attorney in Washington, DC.

Karol Mason is President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Formerly, as United States Assistant Attorney General and head of the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs under the Obama Administration, she was a leader in juvenile justice issues, bail reform and re-entry for individuals leaving prison, and led programs including the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. In her distinguished career at Alston & Bird LLP, she was the first African-American woman elected as chair of the management committee at any major national firm.

Bill Whitaker has covered major news stories domestically and across the globe for CBS News over four decades, and has been a 60 Minutes correspondent since March 2014. His reporting has garnered numerous awards including the DuPont-Columbia University award, the Peabody, an Emmy, and an RTDNA Murrow award. Whitaker’s 60 Minutes reporting has taken him to Asia, Africa, Europe, Mexico and the Middle East, but domestically, his stories have provided keen insights into the issue of race and policing in America.