These resources offer two arguments: first, as former Dallas (TX) chief of police David Brown said, “We’re asking police to do too much in this country.” Second, there are proven, community-based programs and support systems that do a much better job than police in making communities safe, with huge benefits for communities and everyone involved. The success of these programs is always dependent on democratic engagement, making sure that communities are involved in shaping programs.
- Beyond Policing: Investing in Offices of Neighborhood Safety, Center for American Progress.
This report offers a great summary of how cities came to rely too much on policing to solve social problems and offers a detailed study of one possible solution: Offices of Neighborhood Safety, “hub[s] for all nonpunitive approaches to public safety,” staffed by civilians and targeted at violence prevention, mentorship, conflict resolution, and other community-based interventions. Includes about a dozen examples of these offices from across the country, with data on success rates and cost.
There are decades of strong evidence for how successful these programs are in reducing violence and improving life outcomes for people who are at risk. The report offers lots of practical advice for city officials, from budgeting to hiring and personnel considerations, to the need for a democratic process to shape public safety policy. Offices of Neighborhood Safety are one part of a “long-term strategy for ongoing partnership with and accountability to the community.”
- Behavioral Health Crisis Alternatives: Shifting from Police to Community Responses, Vera Institute of Justice
“Police themselves have been saying for years that they are asked to do too much. Why do we continue to ask them to respond to crisis calls that health professionals could address more safely and effectively?” This report describes trends in crisis response and the importance of community-based solutions. Includes detailed case studies of three highly successful programs.
Describes the shortcomings of community policing: “Some communities have introduced crisis response programs designed to address urgent concerns….The resulting programs…often involve ongoing collaboration among police, advocates, and health and social service providers; extensive crisis scenario training for officers that includes de-escalation practice; and diversion from arrest to appropriate services and supports….Unfortunately, many existing programs are hindered by an over-reliance on police, limited community collaboration, and under-investment in community-based resources. Communities must pursue new approaches that minimize trauma and distress, promote dignity and autonomy, and reduce repeat encounters with police for people who experience behavioral health crises. Reducing law enforcement involvement in crisis calls is a critical step toward these goals.“
This booklet describes a “real safety” paradigm and addresses the most challenging questions around re-imagining public safety. “More people than ever are coming to face the reality that police do not solve violence in our communities: they bring violence… We propose no less than the creation of a ‘real safety’ paradigm in our communities. If we do not shift government investment paradigms now–away from control and towards human thriving–then [looming Covid-related] austerity measures will further harm our people and our communities, and lead to greater criminalization in response to the fallout of the economic crisis.“
- An Alternative To The Police That Police Can Get Behind, The Atlantic
“In Eugene, Oregon, a successful crisis-response program has reduced the footprint of law enforcement—and maybe even the likelihood of police violence.” CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets) is one of the longest-running and most successful civilian responder programs in the United States. The program succeeds in large part because it relies on trained peers to provide appropriate interventions in crisis.
“TransformHarm.org is a resource hub about ending violence.” Their website collects articles, links, and toolkits related to community-based, non-punitive approaches to ending cycles of violence.
- The Case For Violence Interruption Programs as an Alternative to Policing, Data for Progress & The Justice Collaborative Institute
“Violence interruption programs, used in cities throughout the United States, provide a proven, community-led, and cost-effective solution to reducing gun violence. Whereas police depend on force and violence to do their jobs, often making things worse, these programs use community engagement to stop lethal violence before it occurs, prevent its spread by interrupting ongoing conflicts, and develop community norms toward avoiding violence. In many cases, violence interruption programs include peer-based mentorship, job training, and other community support designed to help people overcome the oppressive socioeconomic inequality that breeds violence in certain communities.”
Over 3,000 cities worldwide use participatory budgeting to shape how public money is spent. The process takes many forms, but it’s always about democratic control over your government’s budget.
A 4-minute introductory video about participatory budgeting.
- PB Can, Participatory Budgeting Project
PB Can explains participatory budgeting and shows how it can “involve communities in solving their most urgent issues, while deepening equity and civic engagement at the same time.”
- Participatory Budgeting, Participedia
Short introduction to the history and process of participatory budgeting.
- Putting in Their 2 Cents, New York Times
A profile of participatory budgeting in New York City.
PBP is a national non-profit organization that offers lots of information about participatory budgeting: what it is, how it’s been used, and how to run participatory budgeting in your own town. “The Participatory Budgeting Project empowers people to decide together how to spend public money. We create and support participatory budgeting processes that deepen democracy, build stronger communities, and make public budgets more equitable and effective.”