Strong and healthy communities require public safety systems that meet their public safety needs. And governments that deliver safety services need meaningful guidance on how to best deliver them. Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) is an expansive effort to learn about, and support, jurisdictions redesigning public safety systems. Our goal is to support strong, healthy, and safe communities and end an overreliance on the police. We are learning in five cities – Minneapolis, Denver, San Francisco, Tucson, and Chicago – and leading a national effort to design new systems.
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:
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:
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?
We partnered with the Minneapolis Foundation to learn from local community leaders about perspectives and priorities for public safety and reform.
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:
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.
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?
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:
We will share insights, guidance on leveraging local data and community perspectives, and issue templates as we go.
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!
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