Last year, at the Future of Alternative First Response convening co-sponsored by the Policing Project and the Center for Innovations in Community Safety in Washington, DC, a number of speakers and attendees referred to a shared goal: for alternative first response to one day be the standard first response. Polling data suggests that the public supports non-traditional public safety responses – but there remain gaps in the public understanding of alternative first response.
As part of the Policing Project’s Community of Practice series, we hosted the Public Perceptions & Narrative Change webinar. We heard from leaders who have shifted public narratives in their own fields and collectively brainstormed how to apply lessons from those movements to alternative first response.
The webinar was co-hosted by the Policing Project at NYU Law School and the Center for Innovations in Community Safety at Georgetown Law. It was moderated by Jennifer Carnig, President of Spitfire Strategies and a member of the Policing Project’s advisory board. She spoke with Spitfire Strategies Vice President Michael Crawford, who played a central role in Freedom to Marry’s Love is Love campaign; Dr. Quintin Williams of the Joyce Foundation, who discussed public perceptions of alternative response; and Chris Alexander, the inaugural Executive Director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, who played a leading role in changing public perceptions of marijuana use and legalization in New York State.
This was an interactive conversation, and participants had the opportunity to ask the panelists and moderator questions about narrative change and social movements.
Michael Crawford, Vice President, Spitfire Strategies
Michael Crawford is a Vice President at Spitfire Strategies. As director of marketing at MoveOn, he focused on cultural strategies to engage new and diverse audiences; built creative partnerships with celebrities, influencers and advocates; and crafted messaging for top-tier advocacy campaigns. At Freedom to Marry, he led the digital and creative team, which oversaw the organization’s brand, websites, social media, online fundraising and digital content. He played a central role in shaping the narrative around same-sex couples and helped to win marriage nationwide. As associate field director at Human Rights Campaign, he led the organization’s work to advance civil rights legislation at the state level to protect LGBTQ people and worked to elect endorsed candidates.
Dr. Quintin Williams, Program Officer, The Joyce Foundation
As the program officer for the Gun Violence Prevention and Justice Reform program, Dr. Quintin Williams leads reform initiatives addressing racial equity, reentry for formerly incarcerated citizens, and police reforms. He comes to Joyce with more than a decade of experience as a criminal justice reform policy advocate, researcher, coalition builder, manager of reform campaigns, and community organizer. Dr. Williams previously worked at Heartland Alliance where he led that organization’s Fully Free Campaign, and worked on state level reforms that would end “permanent punishments” and restore rights to people with criminal records. Dr. Williams holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University, and masters and doctoral degrees in sociology from Loyola University. His dissertation examined how housing insecurity affects formerly incarcerated people reentering society.
Chris Alexander, Executive Director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management
Chris Alexander is the inaugural Executive Director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management. Appointed by Governor Kathy Hochul in September 2021, he is charged with the implementation and oversight of New York's cannabinoid hemp, adult-use, and medical cannabis programs. Mr. Alexander is the architect of the Start SMART NY campaign to end marijuana prohibition and the lead drafter of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, New York's marijuana legalization bill. He is a native of Hollis, Queens and the son of immigrant parents who came to the United States from the Caribbean Island of Grenada. He has previously worked as the Government Relations & Policy Manager for a multi-state cannabis company, as an Associate Counsel for the New York State Senate and Policy Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance. He has also worked as a staffer in the House of Representatives during the 113th Congress and has led political campaigns on the state and local level.
Jen Carnig leads Spitfire’s day-to-day operations and guides implementation of the firm’s overall strategy and vision for a future born from the struggle for freedom and justice. She is one of the nation’s leading strategists on the issues of policing and police accountability, community safety and the fight to protect our rights and humanity in the face of new technologies like artificial intelligence. A trusted advisor to leading social change activists, philanthropies looking to live their missions and mission-driven organizations, Jen has more than 20 years of experience leading major campaigns and seeding movements. An award-winning journalist, she previously led communications at the New York Civil Liberties Union for a decade. At Spitfire, Jen takes a particular joy in training the next generation of progressive communicators and is dedicated to creating a space where diverse leaders can hone the skills they need to lead the movements of tomorrow.
Jennifer Carnig, President, Spitfire Strategies