‘Beyond the Conversation’: a national Study on Community-Police Engagement


Police officials and community leaders across the country have long emphasized the importance of community engagement. But true engagement is more than just conversation: it means ensuring members of the public have a meaningful voice in how their communities are policed.

Together with the National Police Foundation and the National Urban League, the Policing Project is conducting a comprehensive, nationwide study of effective best practices for police-community engagement. The study is supported by the Charles Koch Foundation.

Preliminary Report

In May 2018, we released a preliminary report, Beyond the Conversation: Ensuring Meaningful Police-Community Engagement, based on the results of our nationwide survey of existing engagement efforts. We found that although many police agencies are trying to engage the public, challenges remain. Members of the public want to have input, but are skeptical police departments will listen. Meanwhile, departments say they lack resources to hear from the public, or are themselves doubtful the public understands enough about policing to be helpful.

However, there is reason for optimism, including the desire on both sides to do more in the engagement space, if the resources and guidance were available. This is where we come in. Our report outlines opportunities for law enforcement agencies to continue building legitimacy and trust by considering ways to factor the public’s voice into their decision-making.

Field Research

To build on our initial findings, we are now conducting site visits in five cities across the country to talk with local police departments and neighborhood groups. The goal is to learn more about how they’re approaching police-community engagement and the challenges and successes they’ve encountered along the way. Be sure to follow our blog for updates.