The goal of Vera’s Redefining Public Safety program is to shrink the footprint of American policing and advance racial equity. We provide data and tools in support of grassroots and community-led movements and blueprint approaches that prioritize community needs. We approach our work by focusing on areas in which disparities and biases exist, making enforcement data widely accessible, and uplifting community-based solutions.

Police officers are the most visible manifestation of the criminal legal system, and their actions have a profound impact on the lives of millions of people every year. From its inception, American policing has harmed and disproportionately targeted communities of color—and Black communities in particular. Despite its legacy of violence and racism, policing today lacks transparency, and officers are rarely held accountable for their actions. As a result, police legitimacy is at an all-time low and communities across the country are questioning what role, if any, police should play in 21st century America—and why elected representatives are funding police departments over other essential public services. To date, the voices of those who are most impacted by police have been excluded from decisions about policing. This is despite the fact that enforcement numbers in the United States are staggering (with more than 10 million arrests each year) and that racially disparate enforcement patterns have caused significant harm to communities of color. Further, although the collateral consequences of punitive enforcement for individuals and communities are well documented, police still remain the default first responders in most places—responding to a range of social, economic, and health issues that would be better resolved within the community—and often in ways that exacerbate existing disadvantage.

Our current projects build on Vera’s position as a national justice reform organization and our capacity to gather and analyze data, communicate with diverse audiences, and engage both government stakeholders and grassroots organizations.

Related Work

Photo by Shantré Pinkney

Daniela Gilbert Knows Community Is Central to Addressing Gun Violence

The recent rise in gun violence has encouraged leaders and activists to amplify solutions like community violence intervention (CVI) programs. These strategies work to reduce homicides and shootings by building relationships with people at the center of gun violence, and they can save cities millions. More cities are investing in these programs, wh ...

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  • Nazish Dholakia
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September 17, 2021
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Community Violence Interventions—Not More Police—Are the Future of Public Safety

Gun violence is rising across the country—in big cities and rural communities, in red states and blue ones. Especially hard hit are Black communities and other communities of color that have experienced decades of disinvestment. But more policing isn’t the answer. Our overreliance on the tools of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration has harmed co ...

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  • Nazish Dholakia
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September 01, 2021
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Arrest Trends in Action

What the data tells us about police practices

Data is an important component of the critical examination of police practices. It can be used to understand systemic racism and injustice and to identify places and situations where intervention is urgently needed. In these reports, Vera presents data from Arrest Trends—a tool that collates and visualizes arrest, victimization, and demographic dat ...

Publication
  • Daniel Bodah, Mary Fleck, Aaron Stagoff-Belfort, Frankie Wunschel
May 25, 2021
Publication

Changing Police Practices Means Changing 911

Three questions every community should be asking

Each year, people across the country make approximately 240 million calls to 911. That’s an average of 7.6 calls for service every second. But only about 1 percent of 911 calls in major cities are to report violent crimes in progress. Instead, 911 has become the default option for many people seeking support for a broad array of problems—such as d ...

Blog Post
  • Jim Parsons
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September 29, 2020
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Understanding Police Enforcement

A Multicity 911 Analysis

With more than 240 million 911 calls each year, a sizable proportion of police officers’ time consists of responding to calls for service. Despite the importance of the 911 call system, little information exists on the nature of calls for service, how they are handled, and how police respond. The Vera Institute of Justice partnered with two police ...

Publication
  • Rebecca Neusteter, Megan O'Toole, Mawia Khogali, Abdul Rad, Frankie Wunschel, Sarah Scaffidi, Marilyn Sinkewicz, Maris Mapolski, Paul DeGrandis, Daniel Bodah, Henessy Pineda
September 29, 2020
Publication