In June 2020, President Obama and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBK Alliance) challenged mayors and city leaders to amplify their communities’ calls for policing reform and accountability. More than 300 local jurisdictions have taken the Reimagining Policing Pledge to review and reform use-of-force policies and combat systemic racism within law enforcement. This report documents the pledge’s inspiration, shares highlights of the participating cities’ progress, and offers next steps for building on the momentum of the pledge.
"Young people have been a cornerstone for change in fighting for freedom under the oppressive American system...I believe that the fire in our youth will unequivocally burn as long as there is injustice and barriers to further the pursuit of life...Over the summer, I watched as young people rallied, and many individuals in the crowd did not look like me. They did not share my story but they enlisted themselves to fight for my freedom, to fight for universal freedom.”
—Playon Patrick, Ohio State University student & MBK youth leader for the City of Columbus
The MBK Alliance is built on telling the truth about how widespread social inequities are byproducts of the racism that is present across our institutions. President Obama established My Brother’s Keeper in 2014 to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color. The initiative was a response to the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his murderer. A core belief of the MBK Alliance is that all children should be safe from violence. We’ve known since the launch of the MBK Alliance that we cannot discuss keeping our youth safe from violent crime if we do not discuss police violence and the broken relationship between the criminal justice system and communities of color.
Addressing broken relationships and systemic racism similarly drove the Task Force on 21st Century Policing which President Obama formed in December of 2014. Months before, in August of 2014, a police officer in Ferguson, MO shot and killed Michael Brown. Michael Brown’s death further opened the wound of racism and abuse in the criminal justice system. President Obama charged the task force with identifying concrete steps to change policing practices, rebuild the legitimacy of policing, and meaningfully address public safety concerns. As the task force did its work and published its findings, the MBK Alliance was also carrying a mantle to protect and serve young people of color. In 2017, the Alliance became a program of the Obama Foundation, and in 2020, launched the Reimagining Policing Pledge, building on years of lessons of reducing violence, providing second chances, and fostering trust between youth and law enforcement.
The Reimagining Policing Pledge, and this report, center the Black experience with public safety. The cities that made this pledge are creating spaces where more of the truth about Black communities’ well-being can be heard and considered. This report is also a resource for those looking for action steps for reimagining policing in their community. We hope that you will take the pledge and use your voice to call for accountability and action from your local leaders.