Washington, DC – On Thursday, September 18, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice has awarded the National Network for Safe Communities, through John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a three-year, $4.75 million grant to launch a National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. The National Initiative will be directed by Professor David Kennedy, with John Jay College President Jeremy Travis, Professor Tracey Meares and Professor Tom Tyler of Yale Law School, Professor Phillip Atiba Goff of UCLA, and Dr. Nancy La Vigne and Dr. Jocelyn Fontaine of the Urban Institute as principal partners. The National Initiative is designed to improve relationships and increase trust between minority communities and the criminal justice system. It also aims to advance the public and scholarly understandings of the issues contributing to those relationships.
“This is one of the most ambitious and important steps the federal government has taken during my career in criminal justice,” said John Jay College President Jeremy Travis. “Addressing the broken relationships between the police and communities of color across the nation is a fundamental challenge facing our democracy. We’re honored that the U.S. Department of Justice has asked John Jay and our colleagues to do this work, and tremendously excited about what that work could mean for the country.”
The National Initiative will highlight three areas that hold great promise for concrete, rapid progress. Racial reconciliation facilitates frank conversations between minority communities and law enforcement that allow them to address historic tensions, grievances, and misconceptions between them and reset relationships. Procedural justice focuses on how the characteristics of law enforcement interactions with the public shape the public’s views of the police, their willingness to obey the law, and actual crime rates. Implicit bias focuses on how largely unconscious psychological processes can shape authorities’ actions and lead to racially disparate outcomes even where actual racism is not present.
The National Initiative will combine existing and newly developed interventions informed by these ideas in five pilot sites around the country. It will also develop and implement interventions for victims of domestic violence and other crimes, youth, and the LGBTQI community; conduct research and evaluations; and establish a national clearinghouse where information, research, and technical assistance are readily accessible for law enforcement, criminal justice practitioners and community leaders.
Professor David Kennedy of John Jay College’s National Network for Safe Communities works in troubled communities nationally and has driven innovative practice in racial reconciliation in communities. Professor Tracey Meares and Professor Tom Tyler of Yale Law School bring leading expertise on procedural justice. Professor Phillip Atiba Goff of UCLA brings leading expertise on implicit bias. Dr. Nancy La Vigne and Dr. Jocelyn Fontaine of the Urban Institute bring broad research and implementation capacity. Collectively, the partners are working with scores of cities across the United States on these issues. The initiative will be guided by a board of advisors which will include national leaders from law enforcement, academia and faith-based groups, as well as community stakeholders and civil rights advocates.
“This is the right team at the right time,” Kennedy says. “Our experience in city after city has shown us that both law enforcement and communities are far more ready for change than people think, Ferguson has galvanized the nation on this issue, and DOJ’s National Initiative will greatly enhance and accelerate that process.”