As communities across the country grapple with the relationship of police to the communities they're meant to serve, New York has set an April 1 deadline for jurisdictions to adopt reform plans.
"This is your last chance, or pepper spray is going into your eyeballs." That was a police officer in January, threatening someone in an apparent mental health crisis. Moments later, a 9-year-old girl in Rochester, New York—already in handcuffs and yelling for her father—was pepper-sprayed in the face.
Jurisdictions across the country are grappling with the relationship of police to the communities they're meant to serve. But even where the street-level organizing and political will exists to make real changes, efforts have often quickly bogged down, encountering the resistance of the status quo, and the reality of how much police are currently asked to do.
In New York, the state has set an April 1 deadline for jurisdictions to adopt reform plans. At the Center, we've long focused on concrete measures to shrink the role of police. We work with communities to help implement locally-driven alternatives to police—such as credible messengers who interrupt violence before it occurs, and paid community members and volunteers who address harm through restorative justice programs.
We've summarized a lot of what we've learned in our recent publication, 'Shrinking the Footprint of Police: Six Ideas for Enhancing Safety.' These ideas aren’t meant to be comprehensive, but a place for jurisdictions to start as they develop their plans, and a way for communities to demand change.
A new vision of community safety is being built in ways big and small across the country, but it's not the work of a moment. Share our ‘Six Ideas’ publication to help promote change.