If securing and sustaining community trust and inclusion is an integral part of protecting public safety, we are in trouble.
Today, the chasm between law enforcement and communities of color appears wider than ever. Over the last few years, we’ve seen incident after incident of police brutality, too often against unarmed men of color. No one should ever live in fear of violence at the hands of the very people who are sworn to protect and serve them. At the same time, officers who put their lives on the line for all of us increasingly feel like they are targets themselves.
Real transformation of our justice system will require all hands on deck—all of us working together over the long haul to make bold change possible. That is why we are deeply appreciative of Don Howard, President and CEO of The James Irvine Foundation, and our colleagues in philanthropy for responding to this pressing need by investing more than $1.3 million for the statewide expansion of an innovative model that builds trust – and reform – through police and community collaboration.
With this support, PICO California, a statewide network of 500 faith-based community organizations, will work in partnership with communities across the state to expand its Building Trust Through Reform initiative. Piloted in Oakland, this effort brings together community members and law enforcement for frank dialogue about history, bias, community voice and respect. Working together, community members and police officers are able to build trust and also craft real solutions for reform. For example, Oakland ended a 20-year pattern of, on average, one officer-involved fatal shooting every six weeks (achieving a 23-month period with zero lethal officer-involved shootings), while reducing homicides by nearly 40 percent over two years and also reducing officer injury.
PICO’s initiative is one of many important approaches that can help improve public safety by reforming our police and justice systems. At Rosenberg Foundation, we are clear that criminal justice reform is one of the leading racial justice and social justice issues of our time. Our out-of-control justice and policing systems have done real damage to our communities, especially communities of color and low-income communities, and to our local, state and federal coffers. We are optimistic that we can end decades of so-called “tough on crime” approaches to public safety and replace them with policies and investments proven to create real community safety.
Philanthropy has a critical role to play in making sure that we can all live in safe and healthy communities. It is time for us to reimagine what it really takes to build a justice system that works for all of us.