Years of tough on crime policies have harmed families and neighborhoods without making them safer. To understand how government can better serve communities, New York University School of Law’s Policing Project has launched Reimagining Public Safety (RPS), an initiative to learn from and support jurisdictions redesigning their public safety systems.
An important component of RPS is to talk to residents, especially those in communities of color and others most impacted by policing, to gather insight into their lived experiences and how they can inform new approaches. These conversations will answer:
- What are a community’s public safety needs and priorities?
- What are a community’s experiences with, and perspectives on, current public safety systems?
- What are perspectives and priorities for how services could and should change?
The goal of RPS is to support strong, healthy, and safe communities and end an overreliance on the police for a range of issues, including 911 response, that do not always require (or necessarily benefit from) a law enforcement response.
“By partnering with community leaders, police, advocates, social service providers, researchers, and even 911 dispatchers, RPS will create a blueprint for how government can work to keep communities safe while treating each resident with dignity and respect,” Charles Koch Foundation Executive Director Ryan Stowers said. “We’re excited to support this work, which ultimately will improve public safety systems in cities across the country. “
RPS already is conducting research in Denver, San Francisco, Tucson, Chicago, and Minneapolis. Based on efforts in these cities, the Policing Project will produce a framework for how government and community-based actors, including alternative and co-responders as well as police, can respond more effectively when residents call 911. Community members call 911 when there is a crisis they cannot handle, but not all calls require a police response. In fact, as a 2019 University of Michgan event concluded, law enforcement involvement can lead to unnecessary arrests that strain vital, but limited policing resources.
“[Residents] call 911 and we send the police,” said Barry Friedman, Policing Project co-founder. “It brings police into a situation that has the potential to escalate into criminalization and violence — especially in Black communities and other communities of color.”
The Policing Project will share its findings at www.SafetyReimagined.org. The centerpiece of that site is a “Learn With Us” page that offers concrete advice, research, case studies, and more public safety professionals, government leaders, and community members can use to inspire and guide improvements to their justice systems.