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The State of Safety & Justice in America

The Interactivity Foundation has been collaborating with the Kettering Foundation and its affiliate organization, the National Issues Forum (NIF), to promote dialogues around police-community relations.  IF Fellow Sue Goodney Lea has been working in the Baltimore/D.C. area to create forums for citizens to talk with police about how to enhance public safety and reduce both violence and violent encounters between police and citizens. Suzanne is planning a collaboration with Baltimore Police Department’s Chief Russell, who leads the department’s Community Partnership Division.  IF would help the Baltimore P.D. to facilitate a series of police-community dialogues this summer.  The discussions will bring foot-patrol officers together with citizens and community leaders from within each of Baltimore’s nine police districts.

Citizens around the country are gathering to discussion the Kettering/NIF report on Safety and Justice which asks “How Should Communities Reduce Violence?”  You can view the report here (https://www.nifi.org/sites/default/files/product-downloads/NIF%20Safety%20%26%20Justice.pdf) and are encouraged to facilitate a discussion on the report within your community.
 
The report posits three approaches to enhancing safety and justice in American communities:
 
(1)  Enforce the Law Together:  Expand policing while strengthening community-police partnerships.
—How can we improve relationships to build trust between police and community?  What challenges exist?  If there was a better working relationship, would this address the crime/justice issues that most concern you?  Would hiring more police officers help?  What if we expanded neighborhood watch programs?  Does getting more citizens directly involved in promoting community safety risk an increase in vigilantism?  What can we do to ensure the civil rights of all citizens are protected?
 
(2)  Apply the Law Fairly:  Remove injustices, reform inequities, and improve accountability.
—Curtail traffic stops (which have a high risk for escalation) & “stop & frisk” enforcement.  Require implicit bias training for police– do you think this would be helpful?  Why or why not?  Could we find ways to make enforcement and sentencing more equitable?  Are long jail terms a deterrent to habitual criminals?  Do they protect the community?  How would your community react if petty criminals and drug dealers were released back into your community?
 
(3)  De-escalate and Prevent Violence:  Address the causes of violence and take direct actions to disrupt conflict.
What are some ways by which citizens could directly interrupt violence?  If we trained more citizens in conflict mediation/resolution, how might this help to interrupt violence?  Does it help if citizens challenge police use of force directly, i.e., filming the interaction or asking if everything is alright?  If we did more to address mental health in our communities, how and where might this reduce violent encounters?  How could police officers be trained to de-escalate interactions with citizens?  Are police too militarized?  Would this approach address your most serious concerns about safety and justice in America?
 
Kettering will be hosting A Public Voice event on Capitol Hill on May 9 to talk with Congressional staffers and other Federal officials about what facilitators are hearing from citizen forums in which the Safety and Justice guide is being discussed.  It will live stream from 1-3pm.  You can register to be part of the live stream here (https://www.facebook.com/events/1408787599162774/) and can learn more about Kettering’s A Public Voice approach here (https://www.apublicvoice.org/history/).  
 
If you would like to participate in a nationwide Zoom (face-to-face interaction online) discussion of the Kettering/NIF report on Sunday, May 7, from 4 – 5 pm EST, please contact Sue Lea at email hidden; JavaScript is required.  

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