ISSUING THE PLEDGE
In June 2020, the Obama Foundation called on cities to use their ability to quickly identify priorities and shift resources to change how their residents interact with police. President Obama issued the Reimagining Policing Pledge on June 3, 2020 during the Reimagining Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence virtual town hall. The event, hosted by My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and broadcast live on major media outlets, took place eight days into the nation-wide protests that affirmed, educated, and reminded the world about the ongoing fight for civil rights. It was clear that policymakers needed to hear the specifics of how to understand the history of police violence in the United States, to take responsibility and accountability for public safety policy, and to build new or better relationships with communities of color. Activist and organizer Brittany Packnett Cunningham moderated the conversation between President Obama, former U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, President of Color of Change, Rashad Robinson, Minneapolis City Councilmember, Phillipe Cunningham, and MBK Columbus, OH Youth Leader, Playton Patrick.
As you continue to read this report you will find new reflections from these panelists on the progress that has occurred since the summer and the work that remains.
Last Summer was not new or novel; it was the latest chapter in a protracted freedom struggle, and transformation took deeper root over the last year. More and more people are realizing that this is not a question of bad apples but of rotten systems; and they’re believing more in our power to transform them.”
—Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Activist and Writer
A Call to Action
With 2.7 million online viewers, the town hall and its call to action helped drive mayors, elected officials, community members, and policymakers to revisit police use-of-force policies and track their progress. The Reimagining Policing Pledge has four elements: Review, Engage, Report, Reform.
Alongside this multi-phase process, city leaders were invited to participate in workshops and events with policing reform subject matter experts, researchers, and advocates. Since June, 337 cities have taken the Reimagining Policing Pledge. The pledge remains open to cities and municipalities that want to engage with the MBK Alliance and its partner organizations, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Cities United.
The Four Steps of the Reimagining Policing Pledge:
Cities will review their police use of force policies and/or ways to redefine public safety and combat systemic racism within law enforcement
Cities will engage with their communities and include diverse input, experiences, and stories in the process.
After the review, cities will share the findings with their community and seek feedback.
Cities will change their use of force policies to determine ways to redefine public safety and combat systemic racism within law enforcement.
Last summer was a singular moment in terms of wide-scale protests in the streets. But a full decade of building the infrastructure that escalated our organizing power and cultural power, which preceded that moment and made it possible, has ensured that the window for reform remains wide open. The mere potential of people taking to the streets again has changed the calculus for mayors, prosecutors and even police chiefs when it comes to holding police accountable. That’s real power.”
—Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Cities United work alongside My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to support the participating cities. Founded in 1950, The Leadership Conference is dedicated to expanding opportunity and fairness, fighting discrimination, and protecting and advancing both civil and human rights for every person in the United States. Cities United is a network of mayors and elected officials committed to reducing violence and creating supportive communities for Black men and boys. Both organizations have a long history of advocacy and regularly create and share resources related to policing, public safety, police violence, and supporting Black youth. As participants in the Reimagining Policing Pledge process, both organizations tracked and reviewed cities’ progress and connected cities with opportunities to learn about public safety reform.
You can have all the best policies on the books, but culture eats policy for lunch. And so, without training at the front end and accountability at the back end, none of these policies will make a difference. ”
—Vanita Gupta, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Ongoing Learning for Cities
The Leadership Conference and Cities United worked with My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to create programming for city leaders and share best practices for engaging the community, collecting data, supporting law enforcement leaders, and maintaining focus on meaningful reform. The three organizations hosted an initial five-session workshop series for participating cities as the centerpiece of their ongoing support. The workshops educated participants on persistent problems in policing and accountability, additional frameworks and options for public safety, and advice on how to implement best practices in using data to drive reform. They were also spaces where city leaders, members of law enforcement, and advocates could speak directly and honestly to one another. City leaders were also invited to engage more deeply on their unique challenges through one-on-one sessions with The Leadership Conference and Cities United.
What are the meaningful insights you actually derive from the data? It's not enough to just have it and then release it to the public or to whomever but what are you actually learning from it? And that's where I think some interesting tools like visualizations can be really helpful.”
—Merisa Heu-Weller, Senior Director, Justice Reform Initiative, Microsoft
Tracking Cities’ Progress
Cities that took the Reimagining Policing Pledge also committed to track and report their progress through the four phases. Of the 335 pledged cities, 39 submitted progress updates after multiple requests. The MBK Alliance monitored cities’ progress by collecting stories from communities in pledged cities, media monitoring, and compiling reports from city leaders. The MBK Alliance and the Obama Foundation also shared updates on cities’ activities, progress, and best practices via social media and the Obama Foundation website.
Photo Credit: Allison C Bailey/Shutterstock
The Reimagining Policing
at a Glance
To date, there are 335 cities that took the Reimagining Policing Pledge. These cities represent 43 states and the District of Columbia. There are participating cities in every region of the United States and some of the nation’s most populated cities are committed to the process. Crucially, the mayors who signed the pledge represent more than 13 million Black people across the country.
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.”
—Minneapolis City Councilmember Phillipe Cunningham