Securing Equal Justice

Building Bridges Between Police and Communities

Policing in America is facing a crisis of legitimacy and purpose. Although what the future holds is uncertain, it’s ripe not only with peril, but with potential. We can rededicate policing as a public service based in trust between law enforcement and the diverse communities officers serve and protect. This is critically important now—as we all can see—but also deep into our future as America evolves into a majority-minority nation. 

Ruptured and spoiled relations between police and many of the communities they serve—particularly communities of color—are among some of the greatest challenges facing contemporary American society. American policing’s overreliance on punitive enforcement, especially for minor transgressions, has resulted in a recurring adversarial dynamic that fans the flames of deeply rooted acrimony toward police in many communities already enduring systemic problems of racism, poverty, high crime rates, and limited access to social services. Additionally, damaged police-community relations make it more difficult for police to execute their most critical responsibility: to respond to violent crime and protect public safety.

Our work gets to the root of the current crisis: policing practices that are overly reliant on enforcement. Vera actively strives to transform policing from a profession that defaults to enforcement, to one that prioritizes community engagement and satisfaction. To achieve this, we’re working with experts nationally to nurture bottom-up policing, where whole agencies—not just special units or liaisons—are informed by, collaborate with, and are responsive to the community. Such community-informed policing understands and measures the connection between public satisfaction and public safety, applies alternatives to enforcement wherever possible, and reflects a right-sized role for law enforcement in responding to crime and the social problems that underlie it. It appreciates the role that present and historic racism has played in corroding trust and good will. At the same time, we are engaging the rank and file in developing these reforms. Their real-life experiences with community members are often not recognized, rewarded, or considered when making policy changes.

For more on this work please visit Vera’s Policing Program.

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