This blog is the first in a series written by our subject matter experts that will explore key topics in reimagining policing in America. Click here to subscribe to our blog and receive the latest updates.
It made no difference on May 25 whether you were a police officer, political leader or community member, nor did it matter your race or ethnicity: watching what occurred during the arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis absolutely shocked our collective conscious. Floyd’s death did not need to happen. And while there has been much improvement within some progressive departments to advance professional policing models through the concepts of community policing, more needs to be done if we are going to change the outcomes we want and expect from our police departments.
Changing the way we police cannot be a desire. It must be an imperative. We will only succeed if police departments and the communities they serve come together to redefine what public safety looks like in America.
The Future of Policing in America
Policing is about delivering critical public safety services to all – and we need a strategy that ensures this process occurs fairly, equitably and with the utmost professionalism. This is the call that is reverberating in our country today. Too many in our communities, particularly those of color or socioeconomically disadvantaged, do not believe that public safety services are there to help and address their needs. The Co-Production of Public Safety is an emerging, visionary strategy that seeks to change this dynamic surrounding the delivery of critical public safety services by transferring structure, voice and authority to the community based on identified community needs.
What is Co-Produced Public Safety (CPPS)?
The CPPS model places the delivery of public safety services into a shared decision model – one that assigns the public joint decision authority in establishing policing strategies within their communities. CPPS relies upon certain tenets of community-based policing but moves the theory further by calling for shared ownership, responsibility and voices in establishing how public safety services are delivered. It facilitates collaboration between community members and police about what services are needed and how those services should be delivered. The goal is strategic policing in support of public safety as agreed upon by the communities being policed. Police as well as other agencies that have particular expertise in a variety of social services provide public safety through shared responsibility.
Co-Production of Public Safety Goes Beyond Traditional Community Policing
Providing community members with a real voice, authority and responsibility in defining and overseeing public safety strategies for their neighborhoods is what is needed in our society today and allows for the alignment of a range of services and public safety strategies that align with community concerns. The result is social equity and justice in police services, public safety strategies that are holistic and structures that provide support for true community participation and engagement. Ultimately, Co-Production of Public Safety means safe and thriving communities that are founded on shared vision, responsibility and ownership of key concerns.
Under CPPS, community members are not just ad-hoc participants in policing, but active and engaged partners with city and police leadership. Under a CPPS model, public safety is just that: co-produced and shared through collaborative relationships. Police officers have the support of social services and other professionals who are experts in responding to certain situations (e.g., domestic violence, mental health issues) and can provide specific, essential services. They are considered a budgetary essential – and the public receives better services as a result.
Ownership, Not Oversight
CPPS establishes key policies to be mutually owned and agreed upon by the community and its police department. This is a comprehensive approach, one that articulates the goals for the police department and its mission and methods for policing, as determined in conjunction with its community. This approach sets guidelines on how the policies will be implemented, includes measurements for evaluating the effectiveness of the policing plan and establishes a mechanism for resolving problems as they arise. This collaboration is vital given there are fundamental issues that can be better managed and mitigated by the adoption of the CPPS model.
The Fundamental Issues Supporting the Adoption of Co-Produced Public Safety
Use of force training, an essential part of policing skills, must focus on prioritizing interventions that rely upon de-escalation and intervention ahead of a use of force decision. Our nation is having a public conversation about use of force, specifically lethal force. Training needs to continue to focus on providing negotiation and de-escalation skills with a similar priority to that now used for force training. De-escalation of force becomes both a principle and a practice focused on the minimization of force as a professional skill integral to policing. The emphasis on sanctity of life must be instilled in all cases.
Changing culture requires establishing a duty to intervene. Police officers face intense, stressful and often life-threatening situations, and they can respond in ways they wouldn’t when confronted with this immense pressure. If officers are trained and policies demand them to intervene when they witness inappropriate behavior by a fellow officer, they can de-escalate a situation, provide better services for the community and foster a policing culture in which officers support each other.
Both of these initiatives and the associated training will be tied to outcomes. Mechanisms like regular performance evaluations can track how an officer is implementing the skills they learned in training, and as a result, the training can be modified and/or the person can receive further guidance on a particular topic.
In a CPPS model, stakeholders recognize that racial bias exists in American society, and will work to mitigate and eliminate that bias among policing personnel. Racial bias can be exacerbated in the policies and procedures that dictate policing services. This is evidenced historically and, in recent incidents, both video recorded and not. In a CPPS model, policing personnel remain accountable for their actions that exhibit discrimination and bias – there are already mechanisms in place that seek to ensure this is the case – and community members, particularly black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), have the opportunity to speak to their personal experience to ensure the services they receive are free of bias.
Internal bias is addressed to improve policing strategies overall. The CPPS model recognizes that departments cannot equitably serve the community if they struggle with existing, tangible biases within their own culture.
Communities should have a voice in police funding priorities. We would be remiss if we did not mention the calls to “defund the police” in public discourse; Minneapolis City Council recently announced their plans to disband the police entirely. In reality, “defunding the police” as a phrase means different things to different people. Police personnel are essential – but cannot be expected to fulfill every service need for their community. They can partner with experts in specific fields and collaborate with their community members to create a holistic approach to public safety.
In these situations, defunding should mean reallocating funds to agencies and professionals that can create a more holistic approach to public safety in a community with its own unique service needs, while removing the responsibility from the police to own the entire process. One example is found in the success of Family Violence Centers where police detectives, social service workers, non-profits employees, district attorney representatives and others are brought together in one physical location to address all of the needs of those working to assist victims of domestic violence and child abuse.
Being the Change the Public Wants to See
Co-Produced Public Safety, unlike many of its community-based policing counterparts, is about completely re-envisioning what the future of policing looks like in the United States. CPPS represents a paradigm shift in how police departments interact with the communities they serve. Not only will Co-Produced Public Safety increase trust, legitimacy and transparency, but it will foster the environment in which police departments and their communities will be equally responsible for public safety.
The public wants to see change in policing. CPPS is a new and progressive idea rooted in fundamentals about policing that have demonstrated tangible, positive outcomes. It is the future.