The Charles Koch Foundation, which supports scholars working to explore improvements to the nation’s criminal justice system, has announced it will renew its support for New York University School of Law’s Policing Project. The Project, launched in 2015, aims to promote public safety, equal rights, and human dignity by building partnerships and applying cutting-edge scholarship to improve police-community relations. Its work focuses on three areas: elevating the communities’ voices on policing, fostering transparency and regulation around the use of policing technology, and driving the national conversation on re-imagining public safety.
With the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the Project’s work has never been more urgent and important.
“As always—but even more at this very moment when the nation is grappling with recent incidents of police violence—transparency, equity, and democratic accountability from law enforcement is essential,” said Project Director Barry Friedman. “We hope these tools will guide government in building a more just, inclusive, and accountable public safety system.”
Although New York City is one of the epicenters of COVID-19 in the United States, the Policing Project has continued its efforts during the pandemic, releasing two resources for police and communities that outline steps for improving the COVID-19 public safety response.
The first resource provides best practices as police work with communities to uphold state and local social distancing guidelines. The Project notes that “enforcement is a double-edged sword”—social distancing can help contain the virus, but it also poses a threat to the safety and security of individuals. Additionally, as individual families face economic devastation, civil fines compound their hardship. A balance must be struck between enforcement and understanding individual situations and pressures.
The second resource offers advice about how to reimagine community engagement during a health crisis that keeps stakeholders physically distant. While encouraging law enforcement to embrace digital platforms and technology, the Policing Project also advises that police “think analog” by establishing phone trees or using radio and television to reach residents since the internet is not accessible in all communities.
CKF’s continued support—along with support from other organizations—will allow the Policing Project to expand its staff and research capabilities. The Project also will unveil a suite of web-based engagement tools that will provide a fresh and incisive method for promoting meaningful community interactions and partnerships; work directly with companies that supply technologies to police to conduct independent audits of their products; and release materials that will help police leadership evaluate the potentials costs and benefits of new policies.
“The Policing Project puts human dignity and equal treatment under the law at the center of the national conversation around policing reform,” said CKF Executive Director Ryan Stowers. “To keep communities safe, it is essential for law enforcement to build greater trust within the communities they are sworn to serve and protect. These Policing Project tools come at a pivotal time to shape the future of policing.”
Click here to read more about Barry Friedman. Click here to read more about CKF’s past support of the Policing Project, and here to read more about the foundation’s criminal justice reform work and support. The new grant agreement is available here.