Beginning with its work in bringing communities and police together to shut down drug markets, the National Network has been both exploring and applying processes of police-community reconciliation. This work involves law enforcement partners and communities directly engaging with one another in order to address past and present harms, air grievances, and address narratives that keep both sides from moving toward their shared goal of improving public safety. The reconciliation process typically includes frank discussions between law enforcement and community stakeholders about how traditional law enforcement has been both ineffective and damaging, about how communities can do more to communicate clear norms against violence and other serious crime, and about how to work together to develop a safer community. This process has proven powerful. It can be an uncomfortable step, but it is often necessary for forming a true partnership and rebuilding trust.
The aim of the process is that communities and law enforcement come to see that 1) they misunderstand each other in important ways, 2) both have been contributing to harms neither desires, 3) in crucial areas, both want fundamentally the same things, and 4) there is an immediate opportunity for partnership that can concretely benefit both the community and the authorities that serve it. The process allows strong community standards to emerge and law enforcement to step back. These conversations begin to uncover common ground, and disaffected communities usually feel strengthened to articulate norms against crime and violence, in part because they are less angry with law enforcement and are eager to try a new approach. As a result of this process, law enforcement gains legitimacy in the eyes of the community, the community is freed to set its own public safety standards, and enforcement actions can be kept to a minimum. So far applied mainly at the neighborhood level, the National Network is actively exploring ways that reconciliation can be expanded.
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