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Profiles of communities addressing community-police relations

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Two police officers looking at a discussion guideHopkinsville, Kentucky: Roughly 35% of Hopkinsville residents are people of color, yet nearly half of the prison inmates in the region are people of color. City residents became increasingly concerned with the amount of contact police have with people of color and possible racial profiling.

To address growing racial tensions, community leaders in Hopkinsville realized they needed to look for innovative solutions.

In 2009, the third round of the “Hoptown-Our Town” community dialogues focused on police-community relations to pave the way for change. Recent successes include:

  • The chief of police and sheriff signed a joint proclamation supporting the recommendations from dialogue participants.
  • Networks were established between the police department and six neighborhoods to increase communication.
  • The Hopkinsville Police Department implemented diversity training.

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Two men shaking handsNew York City: In 2006, a series of tragic shootings involving the NYPD sparked anger and protests among New York City residents. For Derrick Boykin, Associate Minister at Walker Memorial Baptist Church, he knew something different needed to be done.

Boykin formed a partnership with New York Faith & Health that ultimately led to implementing the Conversations for Change in the South Bronx.

Community members and police officers came together to strengthen relationships, promote greater representation of Latinos and African Americans on the South Bronx police force, and develop solutions to racial profiling and violence. The success of the dialogues has led to other efforts to address public health, public safety, police-community relations, and food security in the area.

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Woman at a dialogue tableStratford, Connecticut: In 2006, racial tensions rose to a tipping point in Stratford following the arrest of two African Americans – a teenager and a town councilman. To take action and ease tensions among residents, the city launched community-wide dialogues on racism.

Dialogue participants identified three action teams on racial equity in policing, education, and town leadership. Here are some of their accomplishments:

  • A Juvenile Review Board was established to divert young, first-time, non-violent offenders from the Juvenile Justice System.
  • Planning is in place to launch a Citizen’s Police Academy.
  • The Board of Education renewed its Affirmative Action Policy and Minority Teacher Recruitment Plan.
  • More people of color are being hired to fill leadership positions, including the first black deputy chief and new members of Stratford Town Hall.

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Person holding a sign that says "Justice, it has to start somewhere!"Cincinnati, Ohio: On April 7, 2001, a Cincinnati police patrolman shot and killed 19-year-old African-American Timothy Thomas, and riots broke out in the city where relations between the police and community already were strained.

A coalition led by the Cincinnati Human Rights Commission implemented dialogue and action to build trust, restore relationships and move to change through the Greater Cincinnati Study Circles Program.

Successes from the dialogues include:

  • Injuries to officers and citizens during arrests are dramatically reduced. The city has had no recurring civil disturbances.
  • A Citizens Complaint Authority was created to do independent reviews of all serious uses of force by police officers.
  • Under the Consent Decree, use of force policies were rewritten and officers have been trained consistent with the policies.

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These profiles are formatted as a two-page printable handout! Use it to inspire community members at your next meeting, or share it with potential funders to show them what's possible.

Download the handout

July 6, 2015

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Tensions between community members and police were high following the death of Timothy Thomas, a 19-year-old shot by a Cincinnati police officer. Several efforts worked to change law enforcement...

Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and we believe that our tools, advice, and resources will help foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.