Innovations in Policing Clinic
Why Trust and Collaboration Matter
Police and the communities they serve are necessarily interdependent. Officers depend on civilians to report crimes and criminals, to take basic steps to prevent crime, and to provide--via taxes and time--material support. Communities, in turn, rely on the police to keep them safe.
Still, some communities--particularly young people, communities of color, and low-income communities--are more likely than others to mistrust the police. These tensions are historical. In the 1960s, the Kerner Commission highlighted a gap in trust between disadvantaged communities and the police. Riots across the United States--from New York to Detroit to Los Angeles--both prompted the report and punctuated its importance. Policing beatings and shootings in communities of color and racially disproportionate traffic stops and stop-and-frisks have peppered the news for the last several decades. This violence can scar the psyche of a community. Disadvantaged populations know they are being unfairly targeted, and inequitable procedures can make it difficult to build trust.
Officers and police leaders alike have all felt the sting that can be caused by a lack of trust. A detective has a witness who could clear a case--but she won't, because she doesn't want to be labeled a "snitch." An officer knows that a new gang is causing the crime rate to climb--but he cannot act, because he cannot access needed information. Leadership wants to undertake a new problem-oriented initiative--but they lack the contacts necessary to determine the community's view of its major problems. Lack of trust and collaboration, especially in our nation's most disadvantaged neighborhoods, can have a concrete impact on the police and communities' ability to prevent crime and create public safety.
Conversely, building trust and collaboration can have immediate benefits. In Boston, an alliance between the police the local ministers lead to an unprecedented drop in crime during the 1990s. In New Haven, community policing opened the floodgates of information and enabled a new police chief to drive many of the major gangs out of the city. In High Point, North Carolina, targeted alliances and interventions allowed police to shut down the city's major drug market.
We delivered a presentation that we will deliver to the Executive Session in April 2012. We are also developing a report and a website. Our material will highlight why police leaders should care about improving trust and collaboration with disadvantaged communities; describe successful programs that have fostered collaboration; identify barriers to trust-building and principles for success; and provide a guide for police leaders interested in implementing these principles in their departments. We will develop a concrete, actionable toolkit that police leaders can use to support their efforts to build trust and collaboration with disadvantaged communities. In building the case studies, clinic members may be asked to travel for one or more short (2 or 3 days) site visits.
Below are skills that would be especially useful to the clinic.
- Web development
- Film or television production
- PR/Media relations
- Community organizing or youth advocacy--although our current focus is on developing materials for police leaders, we also plan to develop materials for community groups seeking to improve the quality of policing in their neighborhoods.