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Courtney B. Vance hopes his new legal drama series ’61st Street,’ continues the conversation on police reform

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George Burns/AMC

In the new AMC drama series, 61st Street, Courtney B. Vance stars as Franklin Roberts, a lawyer working to prevent Tosin Cole‘s character, Moses Johnson, from becoming a victim of Chicago’s infamously corrupt criminal justice system. In addition to telling the all-too-familiar story of “a Black man’s life in jeopardy at the hands of police,” Vance says he hopes the show continues the real-life conversation on police reform.

Speaking with ABC Audio on the history of police in America, Vance says, “Their job was to keep African American males in line, so that is the idea of protecting and serving.”

The series’ plot — authorities seeking revenge against Moses for the killing of an officer — falls right in line with what Vance says is the reason that police as an organization was initially created.

“Their mission in the beginning was slave captures and making sure that the Black community was kept where they’re supposed to be, because we’re quote-unquote ‘animals,'” Vance maintains.

While there are many aspects to the reform conversation, Vance says one of the most important factors to examine is that of police training.

“What is the unspoken rule and what is the unspoken training when it comes to people of color?” he says. “No one really wants to talk about the training, when they confront an African American young man as opposed to a white young man.”

Vance then points out, “We all know what the training is [when police confront a Black man,] because we see the results of it, that the gun…clip is empty. Not one bullet…15.”

Regarding his own interest in affecting positive change, Vance says, “I believe that humans are bigger and more important than any system. Because the system is made up of us.”

61st Street airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC.

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