Reimagining Policing: Progress to Date

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City Highlights

The Reimagining Policing Pledge was issued at the municipal level because city leaders like mayors are uniquely positioned to address public health, safety, and policing policy. Residents should also be able to hold these leaders accountable for their experiences with local law enforcement and other institutions.

For the first several months of the pledge, the MBK Alliance collected reports from city leaders about their progress. We tracked city progress in the following four areas. Click to jump to each sector or just continue scrolling.

Engaging Residents
City leaders are reaching out to hear residents’ concerns and create new opportunities to engage directly with the community.

Reviewing and Updating Use of Force Policy
Cities initiate reviews of the use of force policies, as well as other relevant public safety policies.

Creating New Programs
Cities are reducing the footprint of policing by creating new roles within their public safety infrastructure.

Reforming Budgets
Cities are changing how they fund and create public safety.

Leaders and organizers can look to these activities for next steps in reimagining policing and public safety. The MBK Alliance continues to collect updates and best practices from cities in the Reimagining Policing Pledge network.

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Engaging Residents

Engaging with the community is an important part of the Reimagining Policing Pledge. To fulfill the pledge, cities are using existing channels, from department websites and newsletters to media platforms, to collect public comments from residents. Leaders in cities like Beaverton, OR, and San Antonio, TX, are leveraging virtual and in-person community forums, listening sessions, and small group meetings to engage with community members. As the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings continue to drive community events online, Oakland, CA, is expanding its use of virtual platforms to connect with residents and making it easier for residents to offer public comments. In Columbus, OH; Madison, WI; and Pasadena, CA, municipal leaders are also creating and leveraging civilian review boards to offer oversight of police departments, improve community trust, and hold jurisdictions accountable for the negative impacts of public safety policy.

“We have to completely transform our public safety systems because that’s the only way we are going to get different outcomes... There are ways to organize police department operations to actually function fundamentally differently than this traditional model that we have of policing. This is a pathway to not only increase safety, but police legitimacy, which is fundamental to positive police-community relations.”

— Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change

     
  • Beaverton, OR, held a community listening session to center BIPOC residents’ concerns and determine whether the city’s priorities reflect their experiences. Thirty-two local organizations participated in the event; the final recommendations included a call to action for city leaders to commit to addressing systemic racism and white supremacy.
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  • In June 2020, the City Council in San Antonio, TX created a series of listening sessions to gather recommendations and comments about policing in San Antonio. Through the sessions, the Public Safety Committee collected ideas on police reform, reallocating budgets, and collective bargaining agreements.
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  • Albuquerque, NM, Burlingame, CA, and Knoxville,TN have used virtual tools to organize town halls, live-stream public meetings, host Q&A sessions, host listening sessions, collect public comments, and meet with political groups to discuss use-of-force policy.
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  • The City of Oakland, CA, commissioned Raheem, a non-profit police violence reporting service, to survey residents and collect stories and data about the Oakland Police Department’s use of force. Raheem surveyed 1,372 residents and collected stories about police encounters from 220 people.
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  • City councils in Columbus, OH, Madison, WI, Des Moines, IA, and Pasadena, CA, approved the formation of oversight boards to conduct reviews of civilian complaint processes, use-of-force policies, training policies, and more.
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  • Washington, DC added five civilian spots to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Use-of-Force Review Board; prior to this change, the board had only included MPD staff. New board members must have personal experience in a use-of-force incident, expertise in criminal justice policy, or expertise in law enforcement oversight and use-of-force policy.

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Reviewing and Updating Use-of-Force Policies

The second phase of the Reimagining Policing Pledge, reviewing use-of-force policy, builds on the foundation of community engagement. Inspired by public outcry and communities’ feedback, cities are reframing use of force by finally classifying actions like intentionally pointing firearms as force. West Des Moines, IA, banned chokeholds outside of deadly force situations and is requiring supervisors to respond to use-of-force incidents as well as complaints. Cities like Richmond, VA; Los Angeles and Culver City, CA; and Orlando, FL, are reevaluating policies on pressure on the neck or head, neck restraints, chokeholds, and shooting at moving vehicles. Cities, like Culver City, CA, are also using the pledge as an opportunity to update their processes for reviewing use-of-force policy. Cities like Easthampton, MA; and Highland Park, NJ, are focusing on increased transparency and posting use-of-force data on their websites. Policy changes have extended into the criminal justice system as well. For example, in Columbus, OH, the mayor’s office issued an executive order to require an independent investigation of all uses of fatal force and deaths in police custody by the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

     
  • In West Des Moines, IA, a Mayor’s Pledge Task Force began meeting weekly with the Des Moines Police Department to review training, hiring, and use-of-force policy.
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  • In June, 2020, the Richmond, VA police department and mayor’s office updated the language of their existing ban on chokeholds to clarify that contact with and pressure on the head and neck were potentially deadly techniques. On June 8, 2020 the Los Angeles Police Department banned officers from using carotid restraints (Los Angeles Times). Culver City, CA, and Orlando, FL, both moved to prohibit no-knock warrants and ban chokeholds and neck restraints.
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  • Culver City, CA, approved a process to review use-of-force policy that includes administrative review, input from the city’s Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) team, public listening sessions, public comments, and discussion of community feedback.

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Creating New Programs

While the Reimagining Policing Pledge does not require cities to hire new personnel, new hires and new programs are a capacity building strategy. Washington, DC, is building capacity to address violence through the appointment of the first-ever Director of Gun Violence Prevention. Cities are also building their emergency response capacity by piloting and implementing public safety programming that can shrink police departments’ “footprint”. These programs adopt a human services lens for public safety, and are alternatives to requiring law enforcement officers to intervene in situations that would be better handled by a trained well-being service provider. This type of approach can reduce the frequency of police responses to mental health, housing, and conflict resolution emergencies. One of the well-known examples of alternatives to police responding to crisis intervention is the White Bird Clinic’s CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) program in Eugene, OR. Other cities like Beaverton, OR, and Monterey, CA, are investigating replicating this model for addressing social and human services calls. Following an assessment of the current public safety system and public safety demand, Ithaca, NY, is proposing to create a new Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety that would take over the roles currently held by the Ithaca Police Department. This new department would employ unarmed Community Solutions staff and armed Public Safety staff and would represent a $12.5 million shift in public safety spending.

     
  • Washington, DC appointed its first Director of Gun Violence Prevention in January, 2021 (Washington Post).
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  • Madison, WI, began testing the Community Safety Work Pilot Project to provide navigation services for residents interacting with the social services system.
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  • In Beaverton, OR, the mayor and the police department support developing a crisis intervention plan that includes human services experts as responders.
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  • The City of Monterey, CA, implemented its own social and behavioral service-based program called the Multidisciplinary Outreach Team (MDOT). This team pairs the Monterey Police Department Community Action Team (CAT) officers with social workers, staff from the County Behavioral Health department, and counselors for emergency response calls.
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  • On February 22, 2021, the City of Ithaca and Tompkins’ County, NY released a draft report that proposed building a new Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety in place of the Ithaca Police Department. The current police department has 63 members and a budget of $12.5 million (Reimagining Public Safety Report).

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Reforming Budgets

A city’s budget is a reflection of its priorities, and the Reimagining Policing Pledge’s change strategy emphasizes city leaders aligning their spending with reform priorities. Cities in the Reimagining Policing Pledge network, like Madison, WI; Washington, DC; and Orlando, FL are using municipal spending to fund public safety priorities like violence prevention and response units for behavioral health emergencies. In addition to complementing reallocated responsibilities with new public safety spending, cities are reallocating portions of their policing budgets. The Austin, TX City Council reallocated $150 million from the police department budget toward social services, including mental health response support. Springfield, MA funded the newly formed Office of Racial Equity under the Office of Health and Human Services. Oakland, CA set aside funding for a pilot emergency response program at that same time that it set a target for reducing the police department’s budget. Cities like Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, have also reduced the budgets for their police departments. These cuts make more funding available for other elements of public safety—like affordable housing—and reduce the overall footprint of policing by reducing expenditures like overtime spending (The Baltimore Sun).

"Bold moments call for bold change. Budgets are moral documents and they should reflect the courage of legislators to invest in people, not institutions that continue to prove harmful and ineffective, like bloated police departments, and jails and prisons."

— Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Activist and Writer

     
  • The mayor and county executive for Madison, WI proposed $250,000 in the 2021 Dane County budget for a Violence Prevention Unit in the Public Health department. In November 2020, Madison passed a budget for 2021 that included the Violence Prevention Unit, as well as an alternative crisis response team for behavioral health emergencies. Orlando, FL also included a co-responder program in its approved 2020-2021 fiscal year budget.
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  • On August 13, 2020, the Austin, TX City Council voted to reduce the police department’s budget by $150 million and reallocate that money to social services (Austin Police Department Budget).
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  • Springfield, MA, reallocated $125,000 from the police department budget to fund the newly formed Office of Racial Equity under the Office of Health and Human Services.
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  • Oakland, CA, set a goal of reducing the police department’s General Purpose Fund budget by 50 percent. The city also set aside $1.35 million for a pilot emergency response program called Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO).
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  • On July 1, 2020 the Los Angeles City Council voted to reallocate $150 million dollars from the Los Angeles Police Department’s budget. This change should reduce the size of the police force and create additional funding for social services (The Eastsider). On June 15, 2020 the Baltimore, MD city council adopted a budget that would shift $22 million from the Baltimore Police Department and State’s Attorney’s office and leave in place BPD’s awarded grants (The City of Baltimore Community Guide to the Budget).
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