Proceedings of a Workshop
|March 2021||IN BRIEF|
Community Safety and Policing
Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief
HISTORICAL AND CONTEMPORARY CONTEXT FOR POLICING
In this workshop, speakers described the historical underpinnings that have linked policing with systemic racism and explored how policing in specific communities has shaped disparities in rates of crime and victimization across racial and ethnic groups. Speakers from both the criminal justice system and several communities spoke about how they are working to address racial inequalities today and about the problems of over-policing and under-protection in certain communities.
The failure to confront White supremacist elements of U.S. culture, identity, and memory is key to the persistence of racist criminal justice systems, said Geoff Ward (Washington University in St. Louis). While policing is an important and visible component of the system, he said, it cannot be considered in isolation. The relationship between policing and racism is structured by legacies of White dominance in systems including legislatures, courts, schools, housing, labor, and immigration. Although attention is often paid to the actions of police and other state actors, Ward stressed that inaction is also a critical mechanism by which communities are stripped of their liberty, dignity, and security. This duality is commonly referred to as “over-policing and under-protection.” The United States has refused to confront its history and its need for racial healing and reconciliation, Ward said, noting that to achieve racial justice in both policing and other systems, it is imperative to disavow the idea that the United States is a White country and to dismantle the associated structures of White dominance. Ward concluded that we must abolish our inherited structures of inequality, which are rooted in histories of violence, and seek to create structures that produce a vibrant multi-racial and ethnic democracy.
Simon Balto (The University of Iowa) continued on the same themes as Ward, noting that police departments in the United States often grew directly out of or had significant overlap with other instruments of racial oppression, such as slave patrols. In Chicago, the police department was
founded primarily to control the behaviors of German and Irish immigrants, and eventually pivoted to controlling labor organizing. In other words, said Balto, the Chicago police department was founded to uphold ethnic hierarchies and enforce the class structure, rather than as a service driven by a commitment to securing public safety. As the Black community in Chicago grew, White citizens began to view Blacks as a problem population. That tension culminated in the Red Summer riots throughout the country in 1919; in Chicago, 38 people were killed, the majority of them Black. Two themes emerged from this horrific violence. First, Black residents found that they could not rely on the police for protection from White violence; in Balto’s words, the police were “disinterested at best” in protecting Black lives. Second, Black residents were disproportionately arrested and subject to police violence during the riots. This duality of “over-policing and under-protection,” Balto said, has continued to dominate the experiences of communities of color in Chicago and across the United States.
Policing in Indigenous Communities
Echoing that theme, Annita Lucchesi (Sovereign Bodies Institute) said Indigenous people, particularly in Indian Country, are vastly underprotected by police and at the same time experience the highest per capita rate of police killings and brutality. In her work as an advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous people, Lucchesi said police have lied to her and misled her about their jurisdiction and responsibilities, and she has seen negligence and racism in policing that is systemic and not limited to individual “bad apples.” While some place the blame on a confusing maze of jurisdictional issues, Lucchesi pushed back against this explanation, saying that “if you cannot figure out where your jurisdiction starts and ends, you are not equipped to be a law enforcement officer.” Lucchesi also asserted that the underlying issue was not jurisdiction confusion or a lack of resources, but rather it is colonialism.
One solution for improving justice in Indian country, according to Lucchesi, would be giving tribes sovereignty to investigate all crimes on their own land. While this would represent a monumental shift in law, there are also other policies and practices that can improve justice for Indigenous people. In 2020, Savanna’s Act was enacted, requiring the Department of Justice to strengthen training, coordination, and data collection for cases of missing or murdered Native Americans. Lucchesi said that one critical component of justice that can be practiced by all justice system stakeholders is “deep, authentic, collaborative, genuine listening.” As an example, she shared the story of a sexual assault survivor who felt unsafe with local law enforcement. Lucchesi called the district attorney (DA) to ask for assistance, and the DA immediately agreed to send investigators to meet with the survivor, listen to the story, explain the process, and answer questions. This type of deep listening, said Lucchesi, is “incredibly healing” and conveys humility, service, generosity, and a survivor-centered sense of justice. Reimagining the justice system in order to truly serve communities requires putting the most vulnerable at the center of the conversation, she said, focusing on healing the hurt individual, addressing the root causes of the crime, and addressing the impact on the community.
Insight of community members
The research of Waverly Duck (University of Pittsburgh) focuses on how people make sense of their communities, how community members see their relationship with the police, and how they address power structures in everyday life. Duck shared a conversation in which a research participant conveyed his beliefs about law enforcement: that it exists in order to meet the demands of the prison industry, that there is a quota system and the quotas are filled by incarcerating Black men, and that police are “petty” in their focus on small crimes rather than the “hardened criminals.” Residents also reported feeling that police officers were not held accountable for their actions. The brother of a young man killed by a police officer expressed his frustration that the police officer was allowed to go free after the incident, that the investigation
process was not transparent, and that the investigation was not conducted by objective outsiders. This type of research, said Duck, shows that policy makers have not been asking the right questions or listening to what community members have long known. Instead of regulating residents from the outside, policy makers need to see them as skilled actors who are embedded in a complex setting and whose practices and choices are adaptive in that context.
Public health perspectives on exposure to policing
Black children live without sanctuary from the intersecting forms of violence that threaten and shorten their lives, said Rhea Boyd (UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland). Boyd discussed the various ways and places that children are exposed to police, and reviewed the evidence of the health harms associated with these exposures. She said that the harms associated with police exposure begin in utero, with mothers who live in neighborhoods with high levels of police presence having a higher risk of preterm birth. This continues in the community, in homes, and in schools; police exposure in these environments is associated with stress, anxiety, and depression, and investing in policing comes at the expense of investing in approaches to improve children’s well-being. One notable consequence of exposure to policing can be seen in the educational outcomes of Black and Latino students who live in close proximity to police killings; this exposure increases absenteeism, decreases GPA, and decreases the likelihood of graduation. Boyd noted the acute and chronic effects of police violence on educational attainment, which, she explained, is closely related to life expectancy. She shared examples of initiatives that seek to reduce children’s exposure to police and police violence, including using non-police responders for 911 calls, shrinking the police footprint and diverting resources into health care infrastructure, and removing police from public schools.
POLICE REFORM AND ACCOUNTABILITY
In order to frame the workshop discussions in this session, Jim Bueermann (National Police Foundation, retired) and Rod Brunson (Northeastern University) presented their perspectives on police reform and accountability, focusing on how police departments, police oversight actors, and communities have engaged in efforts to address police accountability. “The price of greatness is responsibility,” said Bueermann, a retired police chief. When policing is done right, he said, it is a noble community service, and when it is done wrong it is one of the most damaging things that a governmental institution can engage in. Bueermann stated his view that police officers should be trained and viewed as peace officers, whose primary focus is the facilitation of peace in the community. Given the historically complex and fragile relationship between police and Black communities, Brunson noted that a nuanced analysis that humanizes both parties is missing from the contemporary public discourse. He said that without intentional and thoughtful focus on police reform efforts, Black residents of disadvantaged communities will continue to be simultaneously under-protected and over-policed. Residents of high-crime neighborhoods have long protested against ineffective policing, including officers’ rudeness, slow response time, and lack of compassion for crime victims. Reform efforts, Brunson said, should be driven by partnerships between police and communities of color and informed by evidence-based policies.
Data and transparency
The relationship between the police and the communities they serve is of vital importance, said Merrick Bobb (Police Assessment Resource Center). In the aftermath of the Rodney King incident in 1991, Bobb was appointed to a committee to study the extent to which the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the LA County Sheriff’s Department were aware of the conduct of their individual officers. They found that the departments—and even more importantly, the community—lacked information about the performance of their officers, such as which officers used force more often or which officers generated more community complaints. Bobb and his colleagues asked people in the police department as well as community members what infor-
mation they wanted to know about the conduct of police in the community. Once this information was collected, said Bobb, the question became one of transparency: How does this information get released? Who has the right to see it and for what purpose? How much information should be available to the public? These questions remain critical issues today, he said, and are the subject of negotiations between police unions and the communities they serve.
Robert Vargas (The University of Chicago) also discussed the issues of data collection and transparency. By having control over access to crime data, Vargas said, police get to define the crime problem, present the police as the solution, and create the appearance of police effectiveness. Due to the lack of data transparency, there is no avenue to contest the racialization and criminalization of communities of color. He said this exemplifies “scientific institutional racism,” which exacerbates racial disparities by cloaking punitive police responses under the guise of scientific objectivity. Vargas also cited racial disparities among researchers who are granted proprietary data access with police departments. He encouraged consideration of how social scientists can use data to legitimize institutions or enterprises, as well as how they can use their power to dismantle them through critique. Further, Vargas urged social scientists to investigate and address the root causes of crime and racial disparities in the criminal justice system, rather than simply looking at the evidence of “what works and what does not work.”
Observation as oversight
Dennis Flores (El Grito de Sunset Park, NY) was involved in a street gang as a youth in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, which he described as his community’s effort “to make sense of the world that we live in.” In the mid-1990s, members of the Young Lords Party brought the leaders of the area’s Puerto Rican gangs together in order to stop violence. In addition, the group organized the community against police misconduct and supported the families of children murdered by police. The group’s organizing, said Flores, caught the attention of the police, who began to follow, surveil, and arrest those involved. In response, Flores then began to use a camera to document the police, which he recalls today as a “moment of empowerment,” one that allowed him to show others what his community’s interactions with police were really like.
In 2002, he was arrested while photographing a police assault; the incident resulted in a $270,000 settlement. Flores explained that he used the settlement money to put cameras into the hands of his community to build a “chain of cameras” as a mirror to the police. The utility of this approach can be seen in the story of the Sunset Park community pushing back against police harassment. Every year in Sunset Park, said Flores, residents have celebrated in the neighborhood after the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in Manhattan, and year after year, the police “flood[ed] the neighborhood with cops to clear the sidewalks.” Flores said police never attempted to communicate with the neighborhood but, instead, shoved people off the sidewalks and assaulted and arrested residents. He organized the community to document what was happening with cameras, and in addition, residents began to peacefully assemble to reclaim their community and put pressure on the police. The community organized town halls, press conferences, and marches and began the process of filing a lawsuit. Ultimately, the city approved a permit for the neighborhood to hold its own official parade in Sunset Park. As of today, the community has organized this parade for six years, said Flores, and there has not been a single arrest.
Prior to her role as Independent Police Monitor for the City of New Orleans, Susan Hutson (National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement) worked as a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and an assistant city attorney dealing with appeals of police discipline. In these roles, Hutson saw policing from many different perspectives. Although she witnessed numerous instances of police misconduct, she believed that these issues were due to bad actors rather than the system itself. In 2013, she began digging into the history of policing and of the cases that she cited in her legal work. She found that the U.S. Supreme Court had put its
“stamp of approval” on police misconduct and violence, and not coincidentally, that all of the cases reviewed by the High Court involved Black defendants This research convinced her that the system itself is unjust, and needs to be changed at multiple levels.
Further, Hutson said, officers need to understand the historical relationship between police and communities of color, including how police officers of color have been treated by their peers. It is critical for officers to learn about systemic injustice and to understand how the system was created and how it has persisted. Fixing the system, said Hutson, will require letting the community identify priorities and lead the efforts. Her office in New Orleans has worked with the community on a number of initiatives, including examining COVID-19-era policing, encouraging tickets rather than arrests, and banning tear gas and surveillance technology. Another community-led project, said Hutson, has been organizing a public-facing database that can be used to disseminate police data to anyone who needs it.
ILLUSTRATIVE EXAMPLES: REDUCING RACIAL INEQUALITY IN POLICING
Throughout the workshop, speakers discussed approaches for addressing public safety both within and outside the criminal justice system, and how these approaches may reduce racial and ethnic disparities in criminal justice outcomes.
POLICING AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM APPROACHES
Role of police chiefs: LaGrange, Georgia
It is the obligation of any leader of an institution to acknowledge the history of the institution, said Lou Dekmar (chief, LaGrange Police Department, GA). In 1940, the LaGrange Police Department was involved in the lynching of a young Black man, and no one was prosecuted. Dekmar only learned about this incident after overhearing a conversation between two elderly Black women. If officers in LaGrange do not understand this history, said Dekmar, they will not understand “the frustration, the hostility, the aggressiveness” that may greet them when they go into the community. When they are educated about the historic relationship between the police and the community, on the other hand, they can understand and begin to reframe the perceptions of those communities.
Dekmar shared four key ways that police departments can engender confidence and trust, which he said are critical to effective policing. First, create transparent accountability systems, particularly in the areas of search and seizure and use of force. Second, be deliberate in community outreach; listen to what the community expects so that finite resources can be used to serve their needs. Third, seek to understand the historic relationship between marginalized communities and police and make a commitment to building trust; this includes recruiting and training officers who are not “warriors but rather … people committed to the notion of service.” Finally, Dekmar said, police should consider the consequences of their enforcement actions and vow to “first do no harm.” For example, he said, arresting a lower-income person for a minor ordinance violation could result in that person losing their job if they cannot afford to post bond.
The initiatives that have been implemented in LaGrange reflect these approaches, said Dekmar, including offering coupons instead of tickets for defective vehicles, “handle with care” programs to inform schools when a child is involved in trauma, and efforts to connect citizens with needed services. Dekmar noted that while police are well-positioned to help community members access services (e.g., housing and food assistance), communities need to invest in resources to make these services available. Dekmar also noted this: “The biggest issue for police accountability is the inherent obstruction that has been created by elected officials currying favor for union support at the risk of their communities.” While unions should have bargaining power over working conditions, he said, police contracts should not compromise on accountability.
Park, Walk, and Talk: St. Petersburg, Florida
When people see a fire truck coming into their neighborhood, said Anthony Holloway (chief, St. Petersburg Police Department), they see someone coming to help the community and save lives. However, when they see a police officer coming into the neighborhood, they see someone coming to take someone to jail. Holloway started the “Park, Walk, and Talk” (PWT) model in order to change the perception of police officers by encouraging officers and community members to get to know each other. In the PWT model, each officer is responsible for parking their car for one hour each week to walk the community and talk to people. Other programs have evolved from PWT, including “Park, Walk, and Cheer,” in which officers hand out tickets to baseball games. Holloway said that kids are now “running to the badge instead of away from the badge” when officers come into their neighborhood. To embed the philosophy of PWT into department culture, officers are evaluated for promotions on the basis of how well-connected they are in the community rather than using traditional measures such as the number of arrests they have made. There are indicators that the PWT program is effective, said Holloway: crime has gone down, tips from the public have gone up, and the clearance rate has increased.
Racial reconciliation intervention: Stockton, California
In 2012, the Stockton Police Department was dealing with understaffing, high crime, low public trust, controversial shootings, and protests, said Eric Jones (chief, Stockton Police Department). Prompted by these circumstances, the department reimagined what justice could look like in their city and made changes in three major areas. First, they moved away from zero- tolerance and blanket enforcement of the laws. While these practices reduce crime in the short term, said Jones, they erode the trust of the community. Second, they worked to improve relationships with the community by getting out of the car and having positive interactions, and by having conversations about race, poverty, and systemic issues in the community. Third, the department collaborated with academic researchers to implement evidence-based best practices and to use data to identify disparities in enforcement. These shifts, said Jones, required changes to both the heart and mind: the mind for using data to make decisions, and the heart for listening to the real-life stories and perspectives of community members.
One of the most controversial efforts undertaken, said Jones, was a racial reconciliation intervention facilitated through a partnership with the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. This required the department to acknowledge the past harms of the criminal justice system, to truly listen to the community about their experiences, and then to make policy decisions based on what was learned in the process. Jones noted that some officers wondered why they should be held responsible for acknowledging the harms done by previous generations. He responded that “the badge we wear carries these burdens.” Communities of color know this history, he said, and it is imperative for the police to acknowledge their institution’s role in brutalizing and suppressing Black citizens. These conversations between the police and the community are an ongoing effort, he said, and the relationships that have been built through listening have resulted in policy changes (e.g. implementing trauma-informed training for officers).
Role of prosecutors: Los Angeles County, California
George Gascón (Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office) said that the conversation around public safety has long been narrowly focused on one point of view: that of the “prison complex,” which includes police, prosecutors, and private prisons. It is very rare, he said, for impacted communities to have a seat at the table. Due to narrow framing of public safety, he said, our system is largely focused on arrest and incarceration “without any attention given” to whether it is effective. We are spending money on a system that fails more often than not, he said, with one of the highest recidivism rates in the world. Without more effective interventions, the cycle of victimization and traumatization will continue as people enter, leave, and re-enter the prison system.
While Gascón used to say that the system was broken, he said that he now believes the system does exactly what it is designed to do. As a society, we have systematically devalued the worth of people of color, and the criminal justice system is one result. Gascón shared some of the initiatives he has been involved in to rectify the disproportionate impacts on minority communities, including: reducing incarceration by diverting cases from prosecution where there is no public safety concern; not transferring juveniles to adult court; ending the practice of enhanced penalty for gang involvement; re-sentencing people who have been incarcerated for long periods of time due to a racially biased application of the law; eliminating the use of cash bail; and utilizing a blind charging system that removes race from the reports that prosecutors use to make charging decisions. Gascón also shared the challenges faced when seeking to implement these kinds of reforms, including opposition and lobbying from various criminal justice system actors and double standards for scientific evidence, fears of being labeled “soft on crime,” and misinformation that results in a belief that these practices will create an unsafe environment.
COMMUNITY-DRIVEN SAFETY STRATEGIES
Centering community voices
When people hear the word “justice,” they tend to think of a rational, functional system, said Tshaka Barrows (W. Haywood Burns Institute). However, Barrows likens the system to a shopping mall where a person has to deal with each store individually. There is “no one in charge” of the justice system, and the real experts are the families and communities who have experienced the system firsthand but whose expertise, knowledge, and insight are often dismissed in reform efforts. The Burns Institute seeks to center these voices in the conversation, including the voices of people who have spent time inside an institution, those who are grassroots organizers, those who do direct service provision, and family members of those directly impacted. Engaging community members has helped to identify issues that were invisible to people working inside the system—the community voice is the “canary in the coalmine,” said Barrows.
Barrows shared an example of their work in Los Angeles County, where they are trying to take probation out of the picture for young people and to create an approach based on youth development. They have proposed establishing a network of service providers, operating 24-hour community centers for youth, and opening small, local residential facilities for incarcerated youth. Barrows noted that the young people who have been involved in this process “had more real concrete ideas [and] more real depth of creative thinking” than the professional stakeholders. He concluded that if reform efforts do not center community voices—particularly those of young people—it is a missed opportunity for creative and innovative transformation.
Building trust and legitimacy
Police officers are often supportive of community policing, said Victor Rios (University of California, Santa Barbara). They talk about implicit biases, building trust, and ensuring procedural justice. However, their actions do not always mirror their words; Rios has witnessed officers who talk about advocating for young Black and Latino men brutalizing these same young men. Conversations about the relationship between the police and the community, added Cid Martinez (University of San Diego) often focus on the importance of building community trust in the police. “The conventional wisdom is if only we could get [them] to trust the police more,” there would be better relations and less violence. However, Martinez said, this idea is missing a key element: the extent to which police trust the community. Research Martinez conducted found that police officers trust community residents even less than community residents trust police officers. Given these results, said Martinez, “how can we expect police to protect and serve the very communities that they are supposed to care for?”
Rios offered four suggestions for how to transform the relationship between police and the community. The first critical step, he said, is restoring dignity to people who have been mistreated by police. One approach is funding and implementing “been there, done that” programs,
which involve community members trained in conflict resolution working in the community to support crime suppression. Second, communities need resources to promote social efficacy, whether this takes the form of individuals protecting themselves from violence or organizations demanding an end to police harassment. Third, he said, a culture shift is needed within policing, a change from a culture that incentivizes “harsh, warrior policing” toward a culture that incentivizes “trust-building and true, genuine interest in the community.” Rios shared that some police view community policing officers as “hug-a-thugs,” and said changing this perception is critical to building trust. Finally, we need a “New Deal” to provide job opportunities in marginalized communities. Rios quoted Father Greg Boyle, who said “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.”
Reimagining police budgets: Austin, Texas
One thing that often goes unsaid, said Gregorio Casar (District 4 City Council, Austin, TX), is that the primary “service” that is sent into communities is the police. In many cities, the biggest budget item is police; before last year, about 40 percent of Austin’s unrestricted general funds went to the police department. After many years of community advocacy, the Austin City Council answered the call to reimagine police budgets. This process has involved three main components, said Casar. First, the council immediately took about $20 million from the police budget, as well as money slated for future growth, and put these dollars into community programs, including establishing a new family violence shelter, using a hotel to provide housing and services for people experiencing homelessness, bringing in mental health first responders as an option for 911 calls, expanding the Office of Police Oversight, and hiring a civil rights officer. Second, the city is decoupling certain functions from the police department, including the crime lab and forensics department, the 911 call center, and internal affairs. Third, said Casar, the city is creating a process for the community to be involved in reimagining public safety. The council identified $50 million worth of police functions to be reviewed by the community, with the goal of transferring some work to civilians or to conduct the work in a different way.
Oversight of Police Budgets: Oakland, California
Much of the accountability conversation focuses on the actions of police, said James Burch (Anti Police-Terror Project). At Defund Oakland Police Department—an initiative of the Anti Police-Terror Project—the conversation focuses instead on the budget of the police. Nearly half (44%) of the city’s general fund is dedicated to the police budget, while public services are extremely underfunded, said Burch. The money spent by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) includes millions of dollars that are not budgeted; OPD has exceeded its overtime budget by an average of $13.7 million each year over the last four years, and the number has grown each year. Despite the enormous cost of the OPD, said Burch, the public is not getting a good return on its investment. Defund OPD found that 67 percent of OPD calls for service and officer-initiated incidents do not involve violence, weapons, threats to safety, or threats to personal property. Instead, they primarily involve issues related to homelessness, sex work, substance abuse, traffic stops, mental health, welfare checks, and noise disturbances.
Many of these issues, said Burch, do not require the response of a police officer and could be addressed through public policy and the use of trained civilian responders. “When we know that police are our most expensive civil servant … it becomes an economic imperative for us to start divesting from policing in these categories,” said Burch. By divesting, he said, we can begin to invest in community-based programs and other initiatives that are a cost-effective way to improve public safety. For example, an initiative in Flint, Michigan, that involved community-led cleaning and maintenance of vacant lots resulted in 40 percent fewer assaults and violent crimes over a four-year period. Oakland has put together a task force to make a roadmap for what it would look like to shift 50 percent of its law enforcement budget toward community-based programs. “We have a choice right now in cities across the country,” said Burch, “because we cannot invest in both policing and the type of community investments … that have been demonstrated to keep us safe.”
Reducing violence: Advance Peace and Cure Violence
There is an entrenched idea that only the police are capable of protecting the public, said Cid Martinez (University of San Diego), but there is a long history of community-led alternatives to policing. Martinez and Jennifer Cobbina (Michigan State University) discussed two innovative approaches to promote safety and well-being outside of policing: Advance Peace and Cure Violence. These two approaches, said Martinez, begin with an assumption that people are capable of change, which is a very different lens than that of police. Advance Peace, said Cobbina, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending gun violence by investing in the well-being of people who are most likely to be perpetrators of gun violence. Street outreach workers deliver services and support to Peacemaker Fellows—a cohort of program participants who have been involved in lethal firearm offenses—during an intensive 18-month program. Advance Peace focuses on building trust and healing relationships with those who are at the center of urban gun violence, and it recognizes that past trauma they have experienced may contribute to their use of firearms. The organization also recognizes that people who are involved in gun violence live in communities with long histories of structural racism, divestment, and isolation from law enforcement, social services, and education. Evaluations of Advance Peace show positive results: Richmond, California, has had a total of 127 fellows; of these, 97 percent are still alive, 83 percent have not been injured by a firearm, and 66 percent have not been suspected in a firearm-related crime. Similar positive results have been seen in Stockton and Sacramento, with reductions in shooting and homicide rates, increased mediation of community conflicts, and fellows obtaining internships or employment.
Cure Violence is an organization that attempts to stop the spread of violence by using methods and strategies normally associated with disease control, Cobbina said. Cure Violence relies on “violence interrupters” and outreach workers who have had their own experiences with the criminal justice system, and introduces at-risk individuals to alternative models of conflict resolution, which in turn may spread to the larger community to de-normalize harmful behavior. It also connects high-risk individuals to positive opportunities and resources within the community, including employment, housing, recreational activities, and education. Evaluations of the program have found associated reductions in gun injuries and shootings in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Baltimore, as well as a decline in support for violence as a means of settling personal disputes.
Addressing housing insecurity
It is not possible to talk about homelessness without discussing the criminal justice system and the impact of structural racism, said Margot Kushel (University of California at San Francisco). Involvement in the criminal justice system dramatically increases one’s risk of homelessness, and homelessness dramatically increases one’s risk of involvement in the criminal justice system. The disproportionate incarceration of Black and Brown people contributes to disproportionate rates of homelessness among these populations, said Kushel. Moreover, people experiencing homelessness are at risk of being subjected to over-policing and under-protection, particularly if they are Black. Many behaviors that are basic parts of life—sleeping, walking, toileting—are subject to policing when done in public. These interactions with police bring numerous harms, including the risk of violence, stigma, and trauma and the costs of fines and court fees. The public dollars spent policing people for behaviors that arise due to a lack of housing could be much better spent if redirected to the solutions, namely housing and services, said Kushel.
Kushel offered a variety of approaches for addressing the homelessness crisis and its relationship to the criminal justice system, including: “ban the box” for employment and housing; narrowing public housing exclusions based on criminal records; providing housing for people exiting prison; reinvesting money from prisons into housing; decriminalizing survival behavior; and moving from a police model to a service model (e.g., diverting calls for mental health emergencies to a behavioral team). The cycle of homelessness needs to be broken by “under-
standing that the cause of homelessness is not individual deficits” but structural conditions such as lack of housing, structural racism, and income inequality, and recognizing the role played by the allocation of resources to the criminal justice system.
Schools as institutions of promise
Schools are powerful institutional forces that shape young people’s path to success or failure, said Carla Shedd (The City University of New York). Under the guise of establishing safety, schools have increasingly become an extension of the punishment and surveillance systems. For example, in Chicago all high schools are mandated to have at least two uniformed police officers, while the school safety force of the New York Police Department is larger than Boston’s entire police force. In her research, Shedd has found that while some students feel underprotected and want more police and cameras in their schools, others feel schools have become like prisons, with interrogation rooms, hall sweeps, and daily pat-downs and physical searches. Further, she said, some students feel that the presence of police officers is a powerful signal that they must be in danger. When young people navigate school spaces with metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and other mechanisms designed to monitor and control them, this may lead to frustration, disengagement, and perhaps even delinquency. If our society is interested in understanding mass incarceration, she said, it needs to understand how young people are diverted from their educational trajectories, and understand the mechanisms that structure the relationship between school and prison.
More young Black men go to prison than to college, said Celsa Snead (The Mentoring Center). This sobering fact led to the founding of The Mentoring Center in an effort to move away from punitive carceral responses and toward community-based healing responses. Transformative mentoring, she said, is a tool for violence prevention, violence intervention, and violence interruption. The Mentoring Center uses an expansive definition of “violence” which includes poverty, food and housing insecurity, police brutality, and family separation. This definition, said Snead, allows the Center to look for alternatives to the carceral system that address these deeper issues and repair the harm inflicted on young people by others, including the state. Law enforcement has “never worked,” she said, because it doesn’t address the basic needs that people have around housing, education, food, and employment. If law enforcement is eliminated as a possible response, solutions can be developed that are focused on harm reduction, healing, and recognizing the humanity and strengths of the community, Snead said. When communities have the necessary resources, they are best suited to take care of their own young people. “We take care of our own better than anyone else,” she said, so it is critical that responses to the issue of violence be community-led and community-driven.
The three main themes of the workshop, said Bruce Western, committee co-chair, can be summed up as “harm, repair, and power.” The police have caused a great deal of harm in low-income communities and communities of color, he said. These harms consist of both over-policing through the intrusive use of state violence, and under-protection through the inaction of police in these communities. These harms are multifaceted and wide-ranging: physical injuries, loss of liberty and life, the diversion of community funds into the police budget, and a sense of uncertainty and mistrust between the police and communities. Western said that these harms are both collective and historical, affecting entire communities over the course of decades.
Given these harms, the question is, How do we repair the system? In Western’s summing-up, speakers offered ideas on how the police can positively contribute to community safety and discussed approaches for repairing the relationship between communities and police. These ap-
proaches require acknowledging the harm, taking accountability, and opening the conversation about public safety to new stakeholders, including the community and impacted individuals.
Finally, workshop discussions focused on the issue of power. Western said that the fundamental challenge in repairing harm is shifting power away from the police and into the community. This shift will require transparency, oversight, and accountability, which may be met by resistance and will require a cultural transformation within the profession of policing. To this end, speakers discussed initiatives—including Advance Peace, Cure Violence, and The Mentoring Center—that shift both resources and responsibility for public safety into the hands of the community. Shifting power means shifting control for public safety; communities need support to be the “authors of their own safety.”
COMMITTEE ON REDUCING RACIAL INEQUALITIES IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Khalil G. Muhammad (Co-Chair), Kennedy School, Harvard University, and Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies; Bruce Western (Co-Chair), Justice Lab, Columbia University; Daryl Atkinson, Forward Justice, Durham, NC; Robert D. Crutchfield, Department of Sociology, University of Washington; Ronald L. Davis, 21CP Solutions, LLC; Bernice Donald, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; Francis Guzman, National Center for Youth Law, Oakland, CA; Elizabeth Hinton, Yale University School of Law; Nikki Jones, Department of African American Studies, University of California, Berkeley; Tracey L. Meares, Yale University School of Law; Derek Neal, Department of Economics, The University of Chicago; Valerie Purdie-Greenaway, Department of Psychology, Columbia University; Steven Raphael,School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; Nancy Rodriguez, Criminlogy, Law, and Society, University of California, Irvine; Addie Rolnick, School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Robert J. Sampson, Department of Sociology, Harvard University; Jeffrey L. Sedgwick, Justice Research and Statistical Association; Maria B. Velez, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland; Yamrot Negussie, study director.
DISCLAIMER: This Proceeding of a Workshop—in Brief was prepared by Erin Hammers Forstag, rapporteur, as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. The statements made are those of the rapporteur or individual meeting participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all meeting participants; the committee; the Committee on Law and Justice; or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The study committee was responsible only for organizing the public session, identifying the topics, and choosing speakers.
REVIEWERS: To ensure that it meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity, this Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was reviewed by Nancy Rodriguez, Department of Criminology, Law and Society; University of California, Irvine. We also thank staff member Kat Anderson for reading and providing helpful comments on this manuscript. Kirsten Sampson Snyder, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, served as review coordinator.
SPONSORS: The workshop was supported by Arnold Ventures, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, National Academy of Sciences Cecil and Ida Green Fund, National Academy of Sciences W.K. Kellogg Fund, and the William T. Grant Foundation.
Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2021). Community Safety and Policing: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26099.
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Copyright 2021 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.