Community Advisory Boards
One method of fostering public engagement with policing is through a Community Advisory Board (CAB)—a group of individuals who meet and work with police officials as representatives of the community. CABs can serve as a bridge between the department and the general public, providing a formal structure through which community members can share their views and concern. When police departments are not able to collect the views of the community in one-on-one interactions, CABs can fill the gap.
Problems With Existing CABs
CABs are valuable tools for increased communication between police departments and the communities they serve, but in practice they fall short of this ideal. There are at least two common problems.
First, members of CABs often are chosen to represent various groups in the community simply by virtue of their identify. For example, a CAB may have “representatives” from various religious or minority communities. But no one individual can really be said to represent a community in this way. And the public is more than the sum of its groups.
Second, existing CABs often fall victim to flagging attendance rates, and in many jurisdictions once thriving boards are now inactive. This is in part because police chiefs consult the CAB on rare occasions when there is a problem, but the CABs have no clear mission for setting their own agenda.
A New Form of CAB
The Policing Project is working with jurisdictions to create a form of CAB that addresses some of these concerns, providing for a more inclusive, enduring engagement between the public and local law enforcement officials.
Rather than picking members on the basis of their identity, these new CABs will be comprised of individuals chosen on the basis of their skills and ability to obtain input from the community at large. The mission of the CAB will be to serve as a true bridge, facilitating robust engagement between the residents and the department, opening up the conversation to as many community members as possible.
This sort of CAB requires both training and ongoing staffing. While the Policing Project will provide these services initially, it also is exploring partnerships at other law schools in proximity to the police departments, in order to make the new CABs sustainable in the long-run.
Interested in a CAB for your department or community? Contact us.