Since 2015, there have been 1,254 documented incidents of police officers shooting and killing Black people. This devastating statistic represents just a fraction of our nation’s problem of police violence—and its legacy in slavery, white supremacy, and the criminalization of Black people. Real accountability in policing is long overdue.

Vera’s Policing Program is building and implementing a robust strategy to address the crisis in American policing. This strategy is anchored by work that drives narrative change at the national level and involves close collaboration with community partners and advocates to create system change and rethink public safety at the local level. Our strategy is driven by the following core elements:

  • Collecting and making accessible data and information about police overreach in enforcement, especially against Black people and in communities of color, to address the drivers of police brutality and misconduct.

We launched Arrest Trends in 2018 to provide answers to fundamental questions about American policing. Arrest Trends organizes publicly available datasets into one easy-to-use data platform where users can access, customize, and analyze decades of policing data that previously had been disparately located and difficult to interpret. Users can explore trends in arrest, arrest demographics, clearance rates, victimizations, and data reported at both the local and national levels. We continue to add new sources of data that will enable users to analyze arrest trends and other related information in their local communities, and we are improving the current design and user interface to make it more accessible to a variety of audiences.

We are also focused on better understanding the 911 system in the United States and how this impacts police enforcement. There are more than 240 million 911 calls made each year. Responding to these calls takes up a sizable amount of police officers’ time, even though relatively few calls stem from crimes in progress. Despite their prevalence in police work, little research is available about the nature of 911 calls or how police respond. We are filling a critical gap in the field by examining 911 calls in five cities (Camden, NJ; Detroit, MI; New Orleans, LA; Seattle, WA; and Tucson, AZ) and how they are resolved so that we can better identify areas in which police response and enforcement is unnecessary and where alternative, community-based responses are needed.

  • Leveraging data to hold local leaders accountable and advocate for systemic change in partnership with advocacy and grassroots organizations.

We partner with advocacy and grassroots organizations—especially Black-led organizations and grassroots groups in communities of color—to use data to hold local leaders accountable for ending police violence and over-enforcement. Data on policing is often hidden, difficult to access, and requires specific technical training to manage and analyze. We are addressing this gap in the field by equipping community-based organizations with tools to incorporate robust research and data analysis in their messaging, advocacy efforts, and engagement with local leaders.

  • Advancing efforts to rethink public safety, divest from police budgets, and invest in communities.

We leverage our policy and research expertise to call for an urgent and radical re-envisioning of public safety in our country, one that prioritizes investment in solutions that build hope and resilience instead of punitive enforcement. There is a widespread recognition that our current police-centered approach to public safety is not set up to protect Black lives and communities of color. There is also a growing consensus that current spending on policing overall is unbalanced, strips resources away from other essential services, and is fiscally unsustainable. We are contributing to this conversation by conducting budget analyses that document local community spending on policing, using data on 911 calls and arrests to identify areas in which alternative responses are especially critical, and developing evidence-informed models for a new approach to public safety that de-emphasizes police and invests in communities.