About This Project

Beyond the Conversation is a multi-phase, comprehensive study of best practices for police-community engagement. Our partners in this study were the National Police Foundation, the National Urban League, and Latham and Watkins. The study was generously supported by the Charles Koch Foundation.


In May 2018, we released a preliminary report, Beyond the Conversation: Ensuring Meaningful Police-Community Engagement, which highlighted the findings from our nationwide survey of police departments and community groups. We found that although there is significant interest from both the public and the police for more collaborative engagement, a great deal of work remains to ensure that the public has a say in the policing policies and practices that affect them.

Policing Project Faculty Director Barry Friedman and participants at our May 2019 workshop.

Policing Project Faculty Director Barry Friedman and participants at our May 2019 workshop.


To learn more about on-the-ground engagement efforts, in the fall of 2018, representatives from the Policing Project and the National Police Foundation conducted site visits to five cities—Austin, Texas; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Salt Lake City, Utah; Stockton, California; and Washtenaw County, Michigan. While each city was unique in how the police and members of the public worked together—whether through task forces, effective community organizing, or structured approaches to policy revisions—they all were characterized by an uncommon degree of collaboration.

In early 2019, the Policing Project launched a project with the help of the law firm Latham and Watkins, which generously is giving their time, to learn more about community advisory boards (CABs). CABs are typically comprised of volunteers tasked with representing various communities and directly advising the police chief, but many of these groups struggle to find their place within a formal power structure. Representatives from the Policing Project and Latham and Watkins visited cities through the country to learn about the best practices that enable CABs to improve communication and ensure that police prioritize community voice.

As the culmination of this phase of our community engagement study, in May 2019, we convened community activists, police chiefs, elected officials, inspectors general, and more to talk frankly about the challenges of ensuring that community engagement leads to real change. Over the course of a two-day, intensive workshop, participants tackled issues ranging from transparency and accountability to power sharing and the role of commissions and inspectors general to provide the regulatory and oversight foundations that promote well-informed engagement between police and community.

The materials on this website were developed from the conversations held at our convening and what we learned during our site visits. It is our hope that policing agencies, elected officials, and community members use this site to promote more effective engagement in their own jurisdictions.