February 7, 2023

Fair and Just Policing for All

Crime Lab shares the need for policing management training to help improve policing.

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Like all of you, we were devastated by the killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee. Similar to the murders of George Floyd, Laquan McDonald, and too many others, Nichols’ death has underscored that in America, two distinct conversations are happening about policing.

One focuses on how the harms of policing disproportionately impact people of color, particularly Black men. The other focuses on gun violence, which also disproportionately harms Black men. The public conversation often swings between the two, with calls to reform policing or calls to make policing more effective. The implicit assumption is the two are intrinsically in tension. But the data tell us this “zero sum” view is wrong. We can, and indeed must, address both simultaneously.

WHAT THE DATA SHOWS: Researchers have found that fair policing – policing built on transparency, sound management, and community trust – is critical to reducing crime and violence. Here’s what we know:

  • Police violence reduces 911 calls: Researchers have found that publicized cases of police violence reduce the number of 911 calls due to lack of trust, which ultimately makes entire cities less safe.
  • Positive police-community interactions help reduce crime: Ensuring front-line officers treat people with dignity and respect has been shown to improve public attitudes towards and cooperation with police, and helps improve the effectiveness of police efforts to reduce crime.
  • Effective police managers understand the intersection: When police leaders prioritize building trust through better management systems and data-driven decision making, research shows that shootings and violent felonies can decline. That’s what happened in NYC and Los Angeles over the past 30 years, where murder rates plummeted; in Los Angeles, community support for the police also doubled.

WHAT WE’RE DOING: If we want to reform policing and address gun violence, then we need more police leaders to understand that policing fairness and policing effectiveness go hand-in-hand – and then put that reality into practice. That’s why we’re making a big bet on policing management.

This year, the first cohorts of the Community Safety Leadership Academies will come to the University of Chicago, where we aim to train and professionalize the next generation of public safety leaders. A first-of-its-kind initiative, the academies will provide six months of hands-on training for police and community violence intervention (CVI) leaders nationwide – the two groups on the front lines of keeping American communities safe. We’ll train leaders responsible for the highest violence police districts in the country, and we’ll conduct a randomized-controlled trial to evaluate our success in increasing safety and trust on the ground.

Our hope is to pave the way for a systemic shift toward fair and just policing that keeps all communities and people safe. That goal cannot be more urgent and important.

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