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Issues

Policing

Law enforcement must act in service to communities by promoting public safety with reverence for life and dignity, and by upholding constitutional and human rights of all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, identity, or economic status.

American policing is at a crossroads, with many challenges standing in the way of reform. Over the years, the role of policing expanded as other services were cut back, leaving the police to take on deep-rooted social problems such as homelessness and mental illness for which other community providers are better equipped to handle. Police too often rely on punitive enforcement, particularly against Black, Brown and Indigenous people, which has inflicted deep harm on the communities they serve and has led to deteriorating trust in law enforcement. A lack of transparency and accountability, along with a failure to confront both historic and current racism in policing, has resulted in a law enforcement system that is often unreceptive to change and too frequently falls short of its fundamental task of protecting and serving all communities fairly.

We believe that policing should be a democratically accountable, professionalized, public service rather than a “force.” Police departments should reduce their reliance on punitive measures such as arrest and use of force. Successful policing is community-centered and holds racial equity, inclusion, and trust-building as a core philosophy of its mission. Community members should play an active role in influencing the direction and mission of their police service, and police departments should be sized appropriately to meet community needs.

Through our Alternatives to Arrest portfolio, we seek to improve responses to vulnerable populations and reduce low-level arrests by supporting evidence-based research on arrest alternatives, eliminating racial disparities in enforcement tactics, and dismantling legal and regulatory barriers to reform. Our emerging portfolios focused on gun violence research and reducing violent crime seek to treat violence like a public health crisis, building the evidence base for effective strategies to reduce violence and promote effective policing. We are also working with policymakers, practitioners, and advocates to explore opportunities to increase police accountability and transparency, improve diversity in policing, and promote lasting culture change.

Image: Officer Jim Lopez of the Camden County Police Department talks with Omar Headen, 13, during a Camden County Police Day of Action. The new Camden County Police Department was officially created in May 2013 after the unionized Camden Police department was disbanded in an overhaul that was considered unprecedented. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

>209M
Estimated number of calls to 911 each year, a majority of which are unrelated to emergencies or crimes in progress
80%
Proportion of the 10.7 million arrests made in 2016 that were for low-level offenses
1 in 3
Americans who will experience arrest by the age of 23; the rate among Black American men is almost 1 in 2
53%
Proportion of murders of African-Americans over the last decade that never led to an arrest, across 52 of the nation’s largest cities

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