About Reimagining Public Safety (RPS)

Strong and healthy communities require public safety systems that meet their needs. And governments that deliver safety services need meaningful guidance on how best to deliver them. That’s where we come in. Reimagining Public Safety is a project of the Policing Project at New York University School of Law, designed to support strong, healthy, and safe communities, and end an overreliance on police. We are an expansive effort to learn about and support jurisdictions redesigning public safety systems. We are currently learning across several cities – Denver, San Francisco, Tucson, and Chicago – and leading a national effort to design new systems.

The NYU School of Law’s
Policing Project partners with communities and police to promote public safety through transparency, equity, and democratic engagement.

Learning with Communities

A community gathering

All RPS efforts are built on a foundation of working with and learning from communities – especially Black and Brown communities and others most impacted by policing. Members of these communities have the lived experience that will best inform the new approaches that are needed to strengthen our public safety systems.

Our community team is leading a series of conversations and interviews with residents in each of our research cities to understand better:

  • What are community public safety needs and priorities?
  • What are community experiences with, and perspectives on, current public safety systems?
  • What are community perspectives and priorities for how services could and should change?

To begin the work, we hosted both national and local roundtables with communities and advocates to understand better their perspectives on reimagining public safety and how best to achieve it.  Here are two examples:

First Convening Report

We partnered with Yale’s Justice Collaboratory to gather dozens of community advocates and policymakers to learn: what is public safety and how is it achieved best?

Convening of Minneapolis Community Leaders

We partnered with the Minneapolis Foundation to learn from local community leaders about perspectives and priorities for public safety and reform.

Learning with Practitioners

Three photo collage: Police standing in train station, woman at control center, man talking to two elderly people

Many jurisdictions are exploring alternative public safety models in response to calls for reform, but there is very little evidence on how best to redesign systems that center and meaningfully address community needs. Our research explores these new approaches to understand what is needed, what works, and might yet be tried.

We are doing this work by looking at quantitative data and conducting extensive interviews with government officials, alternative responders, police leaders and line officers, emergency call center staff, public health officials, and others to learn:

  • Why do people call 911 for help, and what do they seem to need when they call?
  • What are promising practices to meet those needs?  
  • What challenges do governments and communities face when implementing new approaches?
  • How can we understand and assess the risks associated with various calls and response types?

We kicked off the work by hosting a national roundtable with some of the country’s leading police executives and mid-career officers to  better understand their perspectives on public safety and how best to achieve it.

Logo for The Justice Collaboratory
Second Convening Report

We partnered with Yale’s Justice Collaboratory to gather dozens of police executives and mid-career officers to learn: are there points of commonality between community and police on public safety? what do those mean for the best way forward?

Designing a Framework for Change

A boardroom meeting

How can cities adapt their public safety services to address community safety needs and reduce reliance on police?

Many communities and governments are interested in this but are at a loss about how and where to start. We engaged a panel of national experts in social services, local government, policing, and community advocacy to answer those questions.  

We are producing a comprehensive framework for reimagining public safety services. Our toolkit will walk governments and communities through:

  • How to conceptualize public safety
  • How to use data and community engagement to understand community needs and the benefits and limitations of current public safety services
  • How to think through alternative responses to common needs
  • How to build alternative models sustainably

We will share insights, guidance on leveraging local data and community perspectives, and issue templates as we go.

The Moonshot: Transforming First Response

A rocketship flying in front of the moon

Current alternatives to traditional police response are promising, but limited. Many are designed only to respond to certain call types. The most prominent alternative today is for individuals in mental health crisis or facing substance issues or experiencing being unhoused.  But people call 911 for a wide variety of other reasons, and many would benefit from a public health approach or other alternative response.

At the same time, failing to send police when they are needed, or sending them when they are not, carries inherent risks of harm.

What if, instead of carrying on the same way we always have, we rethought first response entirely? What if we developed a system of holistic first response – responders trained to deal with the full range of reasons people call 911, and to help solve the problems?

We’re just in the beginning stages of designing a new model of first response to do just that. We are seeking support and thought partners to join us in pursuing this unprecedented mission. If you are interested in contributing to this transformative work, please connect with us! 

With Us

Sign up to learn with us, by becoming a part of our Community of Practice of leaders nationwide interested in coming together to collaboratively problem-solve and share information about reimagining public safety.  Joining gives you exclusive access to the growing range of resources we share, including the latest research, relevant updates in the field, and invitations to special events.

Join us!

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