Christine M. Cole, Executive Director

The guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin does not put an end to the long and difficult struggle for racially just policing. Officers continue to kill people with alarming frequency – so far this year 319 people have died in police encounters.

Every instance of police violence takes an immeasurable toll on individuals, families, and our society. And this toll is disproportionately borne by communities where a majority of people are Black, Indigenous, or people of color.
If we have any chance of moving toward racially just policing, we need authentic action from all levels within law enforcement and elected leadership – local, state, and federal. Police and law enforcement must commit to changing attitudes, changing behavior, changing norms, and embracing neighbors.
In addition to redistributing police resources to better serve communities, I believe the following areas can increase community confidence and improve police-community relations if done effectively:
Police departments must be true partners with the communities they swear to protect and serve. They must commit to establishing and strengthening meaningful partnerships in communities, especially in communities of color. Departments need to demonstrate their commitment and engage time and again, including going beyond photo ops. An important step is for officers to listen to residents’ concerns, both about public safety and about police actions and behavior. As importantly, commanders must respond to the anger, fear, and distrust that community members feel about policing. Sustained and authentic engagement where community members are true partners in producing safety in their neighborhoods can help build trust, create a path to healing, and prevent future harm.
Police departments’ recruitment, policies, and training must reflect community values and a commitment to fair and equitable policing. Leaders need to ensure policies and training clearly articulate community values. For example, policies that promote de-escalation tactics or expressions of valuing life, and policies that prohibit unacceptable behaviors, such as participating in militias or extremist groups, could be informed by community input. Training on and the supervision of stops, searches, and arrests must, at a bare minimum, meet Constitutional standards. This means ensuring that bias in police behavior is addressed through relentless supervision, coaching, and discipline as needed. It is imperative that leaders confront bias in their officers’ actions and deploy strategies to reduce it. Police personnel should also better reflect the communities they serve by prioritizing efforts to increase the hiring and retention of women (such as the 30x30 Initiative), people of color, and people who can effectively connect across cultures and engage community members.
Police departments must publicly report on their activities and areas for improvement and encourage the community to engage and provide feedback. The public should know exactly what police departments do and how to be involved in any changes. Continuous engagement places a burden of responsibility on community members, yet such dialogue and openness facilitate changes that are supported by those most affected. For example, departments should debrief with community members as equal partners following large events or protests with heavy officer attendance to understand what works and what doesn’t. Additionally, departments should regularly share data on every use of force incident with the public so it’s easy to access, understand, and question those incidents. Department leaders must also use their authority to hold officers accountable by identifying and correcting problematic behavior and disciplining or terminating when appropriate. Swift responses to unacceptable behavior are good for the community as well as the officers on the street.
Please see the highlights section below for several policing resources.
These steps are only the beginning of an extensive process that’s long overdue. Let’s be innovative and engaging, not defensive nor reticent. It’s critical that department leadership embrace the need for change and set the right tone inside the department and with the community.
Police departments must show us all that they can do better. And what better time than now to leverage the surge of energy about policing and more deeply engage in collaborative work to chart a new course moving forward. 

  • The Tennessee Senate voted unanimously to send comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation to Gov. Bill Lee. These bills are the result of careful study and analysis by Tennessee leaders, with support from CJI as a part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a public-private partnership between the Bureau of Justice Assistance and Pew Charitable Trusts. The bills advance proven strategies that reduce recidivism and protect public safety. The legislation will expand alternatives to incarceration, restrict the use of incarceration for technical violations of supervision conditions, streamline parole release and expand reentry support.

  • The Council on Criminal Justice Task Force on Policing has now released a total of 12 reports, with more forthcoming in the next few weeks. The mission of the task force is to identify the policies and practices most likely to reduce violent encounters between officers and the public, and to improve the fairness and effectiveness of American policing. CJI is providing research and writing support for the task force.

  • CJI and the Pew Charitable Trusts will continue to support the Michigan Jails Task Force and its 2021 legislative priorities. The policies stem from the task force recommendations advanced in 2020, several of which passed late last session. The policies aim to improve pretrial decision-making, divert people with behavioral health needs away from jails, and expand investment in services and supports for victims of crimes.

  • CJI updated its Coming Home Directory, a compilation of resources in Greater Boston available to individuals who were previously incarcerated that connects them to services that help build stability and success. This year’s updates include service changes caused by COVID-19.

  • The City of Milwaukee hired CJI in 2018 to help the city achieve compliance with a court-ordered agreement, conduct data analyses, and serve as a technical advisor after a group of plaintiffs alleged the police department was engaged in racially disparate and unjustified stops and frisks. CJI recently released two reports: the second interim report, which includes updates on the requirements that CJI found to be non-compliant, and a report in a series that assesses adherence to standards for individualized, objective, and articulable reasonable suspicion in justifying discretionary police encounters.
A new training will help probation and parole officers successfully implement core correctional practices (CCP) and greatly impact the community supervision field. CJI designed the “Facilitating Behavior Change With Persons Under Community Supervision” curriculum in partnership with the National Institute of Corrections (NIC).

NIC plans to offer this curriculum nationally to a field that’s already adopting more evidence-based practices and moving toward a more advanced application of behavior change principles. Because the training will be offered at no additional cost, a wider audience can access and benefit, including departments that may have interest in the material but trouble finding funding to support this kind of training. NIC intends to model the deployment after their successful Thinking for a Change cognitive behavioral treatment facilitation curriculum.

Using research and years of experience, CJI developed the Facilitating Behavior Change curriculum to teach front-line corrections and community corrections staff about CCP and improve supervision practices.

“It’s critical to have this training,” said Vince Newton, probation officer with Virginia’s Division of Adult Pretrial Services. “The training provides a map and directions to use with clients, and the training book is something every probation or parole officer will be grateful to have when they do their job. Everything taught in the curriculum reaffirms what I’ve learned in my 30 years working in probation.”

“CCP is beneficial not only to clients but also to the staff,” said Kristen Thompson, field services training manager at the Wyoming Department of Corrections. “CCP can build professional rapport while offering cognitive behavioral interventions in less than 30 minutes. CCP allows staff to teach and coach, and clientele to hone in on areas that they need added tools in.”

Thanks to our many partners and funders who help us make this work happen, including Arnold Ventures, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), National Institute of Corrections, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Pew Charitable Trusts, and several state, regional, and local jurisdictions.