Christine Cole, Executive Director

In the last six months, CJI released four reports connected to police reform. Three of the four took a local focus – working with police departments in Baltimore, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. Our fourth report examined federal consent decrees nationwide to provide police executives and stakeholders an opportunity for self-assessment in policy, training, supervision, and data collection.

CJI’s policing team selects projects that elevate good governance and management and that ensure data drives policy, practice, and decision-making at all levels. Our work focuses on oversight and accountability, both of which are ever important to increase the legitimacy of police within the communities they serve; engaging communities with this work is equally important to build trust and improve public safety.

Read more about CJI's recent policing publications and how we approach our policing work below.

This quarter, we're also highlighting the recognition of a staff member selected for a fellowship, juvenile justice policy and practice implementation in new states throughout 2019, a comprehensive presentation of criminal justice data in Tennessee, and efforts to reduce the jail population in Michigan – find out more in the CJI Highlights section below.

We look forward to sharing more with you in January!


Police agencies can celebrate many recent successes such as continual declines in crime rates and increased competency with technology such as body-worn cameras and in-car reporting. The policing sector also bears many challenges, including limited funding in an era of shrinking municipal budgets, recruiting the next generation of police officers, fraught community relations, and serving as a safety net for many social ailments. All of these challenges exist in the context of a decentralized system of over 17,000 police agencies.

So, how can we collectively raise the bar?

Given the growing national attention on police, CJI intends to be an important part of the conversation by continuing to study, cultivate, and share best practices, deliver timely content to the field, and elevate positive changes occurring in the policing sector.
Building on its many years of criminal justice experience, CJI is in a position to link policing practice with research and data by translating evidence-based research into realistic solutions that can work effectively for police agencies. Recently, CJI released a new resource to help law enforcement leaders strengthen their departments through a constitutional lens . CJI reviewed 21 consent decrees and, from those, identified the most common issues of unconstitutional policing. The resulting report presents those issues in an accessible format for law enforcement leaders and includes a tool for departments and stakeholders to conduct an assessment. Better police practices in use of force, interactions with community members, and stops, searches, and arrests can lead to better community relations, improved safety for communities and police officers, and increased confidence and trust in the police.

CJI extracts lessons and shares applicable and replicable information while keeping transparency and community perspectives at the center of all of our policing work. Feedback from officers is critical to ensure rank-and-file officers' perspectives are included in efforts to improve department practices and better serve communities.
For example, CJI recently prepared a report for the Baltimore Police Department Monitoring Team to provide the important perspective of officers. In focus groups led by CJI, officers raised concerns about low morale, strained community relations following riots in 2015, confusion about what Baltimore’s 2017 consent decree requires, and anxiety that any use of force – even appropriate force – will lead to punishment or dismissal. Officers also suggested strategies to boost morale, including better communication from command staff, recognition for exceptional work, and changes to the way officers are deployed in Baltimore. 
CJI understands and supports the idea that building trust and understanding between communities and police is vital. The public deserves to understand what police do, how things work, and what is happening in the field. For example, police should provide an opportunity for early feedback from the community on the general values and philosophy of a new policy in a way that includes engagement, increases understanding, and ensures that the policy best represents the values of the community. CJI is currently working with the City of Milwaukee towards compliance with a court ordered settlement agreement regarding Milwaukee’s police practices . Key elements of that agreement include data collection efforts and improved accountability mechanisms. Such efforts demonstrate opening up the activities of the police to the community.
Finally, CJI recently co-authored the comprehensive after-action review from the 1 October mass shooting at the 2017 Route 91 Harvest music festival with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD). The report takes a detailed look at how police responded effectively and what areas can improve so the LVMPD and others across the country can better prepare for any future incidents. Reports like these are a prime example of how it is important to learn from situations in a way that feeds knowledge and learning back to the field. Then, law enforcement leaders can update policies and practices that are better for both their police departments and the communities they serve.

Alongside the impactful work of many leaders and institutions in the policing field, CJI’s policing work is critical to making our criminal justice system more fair and just and is key to improving public safety. While the challenges are notable, we are excited about the opportunities for change and growth.
Thanks to our many partners and funders who help us make this work happen. Read more about the Arnold Ventures , Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) , National Institute of Corrections, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) , and Pew Charitable Trusts.