Today New York University Law School’s Policing Project, the Police Foundation, and the National Urban League released a new study, Beyond the Conversation: Ensuring Meaningful Police-Community Engagement, which highlights the public’s desire for more say in policing matters.
“Our study shows that although many police agencies are trying to engage the public, much more needs to be done to ensure the public has a meaningful say in how their communities are policed,” said NYU Law Professor and Policing Project Director Barry Friedman. “Members of the public want to have input, but are skeptical departments will listen. Departments say they lack resources to hear from the public, or are themselves doubtful the public understands enough about policing to be helpful.”
Still, there is reason for optimism. Many departments are trying to reach the public, and indicated they would do more if the resources were available.
“The police can build on the relationships they do have, and take steps to hear what the community wants before changing policy,” Friedman said.
The study found many law enforcement agencies still view community engagement as a way to tell the public about new policy changes, rather than listening to the community’s input at the policy development stage.
“Substantive engagement isn’t easy, but it is essential,” said Police Foundation President Jim Bueermann. “This finding suggests an opportunity for agencies to continue building legitimacy and trust by considering ways to factor the public’s voice into their decision-making.”
Building on these findings, the project partners will conduct site visits to jurisdictions across the country to learn more about promising examples of community engagement around key policing decisions, and to identify best practices tailored to agencies of different sizes and needs. The work will culminate with a major convening at NYU School of Law next spring.
“The survey results make clear that community members want a greater sense of shared ownership in the work of their police department and the safety of their neighborhoods,” said National Urban League President Marc H. Morial. “We look forward to working with our project partners to identify promising approaches to fostering this sort of engagement.”
Today’s study was undertaken with the support of a grant from the Charles Koch Foundation, an organization supporting students, scholars, and partners exploring wide range of inquiry including criminal justice and policing reform, free speech and open inquiry, foreign policy, economic opportunity, and innovation.
Learn more about the report here.