In response to incidents of violence between police and communities of color across the country, seven California foundations are committing more than $1.3 million to an initiative that aims to improve public safety by building trust between law enforcement and communities of color. Participants in the funding effort include The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, Rosenberg Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Weingart Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
The funds are awarded to expand the “Building Trust Through Reform” initiative led by PICO California, a statewide network of 500 faith-based community organizations. With this support, PICO California will work in partnership with communities and local efforts across the state, building on a program piloted in Oakland that fosters trust among law enforcement and communities of color by building a shared commitment to reform.
“While there’s much work to do, we’ve seen encouraging results from bringing together community members and law enforcement to increase trust and public safety through honest conversations about history, bias, community voice, and respect,” said Rev. Ben McBride, deputy director for PICO California. “As we work together to unlock long-term solutions that protect community members and the police officers who serve them, an ecosystem for trust is more accessible for everyone.”
As a faith leader with Oakland Community Organization (OCO), an affiliate of PICO California, Rev. McBride helped train 700 Oakland Police Department officers on the historical effects of policing, how to better listen, see other’s perspectives, and maintain trust throughout interactions. The OCO training team used community participation and perspectives as a centerpiece of their curriculum.
In Oakland, community and law enforcement worked together to identify specific policy changes, such as eliminating foot pursuit into residential backyards, a leading factor in frequent officer-involved shootings. By regularly bringing together law enforcement and community members and activists, 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.
The program will expand to Sacramento and Stockton; Richmond, Berkeley, and San Francisco; Fresno, Modesto, and Bakersfield; Los Angeles County; San Bernardino and Riverside; and San Diego. The expansion, based on the new grants, will begin now and continue over the next two years.
The program helps build bridges by jointly training officers and community members on a number of issues, including unconscious bias. Community members who earn certifications will then train 3,000 officers across the state. PICO California will also organize 120 regional meetings with law enforcement and community members, including formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, to identify and implement concrete policy solutions for improving police and community relationships.
“The tragedies and tension we have collectively witnessed between communities of color and law enforcement call out for collective action – and new approaches,” said Don Howard, president and CEO of The James Irvine Foundation, which is providing the anchor grant for the effort. “While the escalating violence and mistrust is profoundly disturbing, we find hope in the promising efforts of PICO California and others to help create safer communities for everyone.”
The PICO California project, among other work, is part of ongoing collaboration between PICO California and the Rosenberg Foundation, which supports advocacy to dismantle barriers to opportunity in the areas of criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, economic justice, and civic engagement in California.
“Too many Californians live in fear – of violence in their communities but also at the hands of law enforcement that is supposed to protect and serve,” said Tim Silard, president of the Rosenberg Foundation. “At the same time, officers who put their lives on the line increasingly feel like a target. We are deeply appreciative of The James Irvine Foundation and our colleagues in philanthropy for supporting this important effort to advance a shared vision of safety for our communities.”