While many law enforcement officials and community leaders alike have stressed the need for more “engagement” between the public and the police, there hasn’t always been agreement on the underlying goals of engagement. Is it improved relationships? More transparency?
At the Policing Project, we believe “real engagement” is more than just conversation—it means that the public should have the ability to define “public safety” in their communities. But how do we get there? Over the course of the last year, we set out to study police-community engagement and learn from successes and challenges across the country.
In partnership with the National Police Foundation and the National Urban League, we began with 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 there is significant interest from both the public and the police for more collaborative engagement, a great deal of work remains to ensure the public has a say in the policing policies and practices that affect them.
From there, representatives from the Policing Project and the National Police Foundation visited Grand Rapids, Austin, Stockton, Salt Lake City, Washtenaw County and more to observe local efforts to involve the public in policing decisions. The field research component of our study will also continue this summer in partnership with Latham & Watkins.
A Convening to Move Forward
Last week, we invited community leaders, police officials, inspectors general, and government representatives from across the country to the NYU School of Law campus to discuss the challenges of police-community engagement. 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 collective knowledge and experience of the participants will become the basis for the next phase of our project: a set of practical materials for policing agencies, elected officials, and community members to promote more effective engagement in their own jurisdictions.
We learned a tremendous amount from the expertise of this incredible group and the wide-ranging exchange of ideas and perspectives we had over two days. We’re excited to share the tools that will come from this experience and to continue learning from each other.