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Please visit our YouTube channel for recordings of many of our past events.

12/1/21: Reimagining Community Safety: Why did voters reject plans to replace the Minneapolis Police Department? with Michelle Phelps

Across the country, grassroots efforts are underway to try to replace police departments with departments of public safety. Although the changes being considered differ across contexts, they have in common an interest in moving away from armed officers who focus on crime to civilian forces that take a holistic approach by focusing on the root causes that bring about concerning and harmful behaviors. In Minneapolis, considerable support seemed to exist for such a change, but a recent ballot initiative fell short of achieving this goal. Why did Minneapolis voters decide against replacing their police department with a new Department of Public Safety? And what does this defeat tell us about the hurdles that exist not only to potentially transformative police reform, but also to our understanding of what public safety is and how best it is achieved?   Michelle Phelps, Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, joined us to share her unique insights about how dynamics rooted in race, class, and space converged to produce unexpected patterns of voting on this important and potentially game-changing issue.

11/17/21: Reimagining Community Safety: Reducing Racial Disparities by Removing Police from Traffic Enforcement with Sarah Seo

Last month, citing strong racial disparities in traffic stops and arrests, Philadelphia’s city council voted to bar police officers from conducting pretextual stops and searches for low-level motor vehicle infractions. It is the first city in the nation to do so, but Philadelphia is hardly alone. Measures to decriminalize driving-while-Black are spreading, slowly but surely, and have major implications not only for racial disparities in traffic stops, but also for disparities in police use of force. To better understand this complex issue and its rich history, we spoke with Sarah Seo, Professor of Law at Columbia University, author of Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom.

11/3/21: Reimagining Community Safety: Challenges to Reform with Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker and Police Chief RaShall Brackney

Charlottesville, Virginia reckoned with its own history of systemic racism by electing Nikuyah Walker as its mayor and appointing Dr. RaShall Brackney as its Chief of Police, both Black women committed to transformative change that might lead to racial equity. For her efforts, Chief Brackney has been dismissed. Frustrated by efforts to block her initiatives, Mayor Walker has decided against running for reelection. Both women joined us to discuss the promise of transformation and the challenges faced by those promoting policy changes that have the potential to bring about safe, just, and healing communities for all.

10/20/21: Reimagining Community Safety: Police Accountability with Deborah Ramirez

One of the central concerns about how to produce more equitable and just outcomes has been how to make the police accountable for their misconduct. Deborah Ramirez, Professor of Law at Northeastern University School of Law joined us to discuss her four-part solution, which includes restricting police union’s collective bargaining and narrowing qualified immunity by using professional liability insurance, efforts that should save lives by detecting, preventing, and deterring police misconduct. (See her 2021 article, "Policing the Police: A Roadmap to Police Accountability Using Professional Liability Insurance," for more information.)

4/28/21: Reimagining Community Safety #21: What Role Can Mayors Play?

It would appear that mayors are well-positioned to help create safer communities, reimagined in the current moment. Not surprisingly, however, this is no easy task, and mayors across the country are struggling to reform systems that have defied real change for decades. We were joined by  Joseph CurtatoneMayor of Somerville, MAKathy SheehanMayor of Albany, NY; and Randall WoodfinMayor of Birmingham, AL.

4/21/21: Reimagining Community Safety #20: The Role of Public Defenders

Public defenders play a key role in advocating for people impacted by the criminal legal system, not just on the individual level but for entire communities as well. Hear from a panel of four experts in public defense from around the country, engaging in a discussion on how to reduce harms and increase public safety for communities most negatively affected by enforcement, legal, and penal system policies. Panelists discussed their specific efforts in the Bronx New York (Porsha-Shaf’on Venable), Alameda County California (Brendon Woods), and Massachusetts (Anthony Benedetti).  Harvard Law School Professor Dehlia Umunna was the Guest Moderator.

4/14/21: Reimagining Community Safety #19: A Discussion about Puente Human Rights Movement with Phoenix City Councilor Carlos Garcia

The Puente Human Rights Movement has a lot in common with the Anti Police-Terror Project. It offers extensive assistance to families impacted by police violence while also advocating for the abolition of police. Phoenix City Council Member Carlos Garcia, a former Executive Director, joined us to discuss Puente’s work as well as the strategies that community members have taken to achieve community safety without a heavy reliance on police.

4/7/21: Reimagining Community Safety #18: The CAHOOTS model with Tim Black

Most agree that the police are asked to do far too much, including tasks that they are not trained to do and so are ill-equipped to do well. The CAHOOTS model is an exciting one. It alleviates the police from undertaking tasks for which they are ill-equipped, especially those related to mental health crises, it does so effectively and without force/violence, and it does so far more cheaply. We invited Tim Black to learn more about CAHOOTS, how it got started, what they do and how they do it, and why this might be a critical option for other jurisdictions across the country that are trying to address public safety issues without such a heavy reliance on police.

3/31/21: Reimagining Community Safety #17: Black Visions Collective co-founders Kandace Montgomery, Miski Noor & Oluchi Omeoga

Grassroots organizing is key to transformational change – a necessary, if not sufficient, ingredient. Since George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police, this was never more evident than in the efforts undertaken by community activists to defund the police, an effort that at least initially garnered substantial local political support. For this reason, we invited  Kandace Montgomery, Miski Noor, and Oluchi Omeoga, the co-founders of the organization that was key to pushing for transformative change in Minneapolis, with grassroots efforts that inspired and educated residents – the Black Visions Collective. They spoke about the nature of their efforts, what outcomes their efforts have produced, how to scale up, and where BLVC goes from here. It was a provocative, insightful, and inspiring discussion.

3/24/21: Reimagining Community Safety #16: A Discussion with Wendy Still, Alameda County Probation Chief, about Progressive Probation Reform

We have heard a great deal about progressive prosecutors, whose work on the front end of criminal case processing have long lasting effects on individuals, their families, and their communities. Probation Chiefs also have outsized influence on those who have contact with the criminal legal system, but rarely do we speak to or about the progressive chiefs among them. Wendy Still, Chief Probation Officer of Alameda County, has been this figure for over two decades. She joined us to detail the changes she’s made to San Francisco and Alameda Counties to achieve justice and public safety by reducing the harms done to those in her charge, with an extended discussion about the cultural change she promoted in the organization to achieve the remarkable results observed under her leadership.

3/11/21: Racially Charged: America’s Misdemeanor Problem – Film Screening and Panel Discussion

On March 11, 2021 we co-hosted a live stream screening and panel discussion of Racially Charged: America’s Misdemeanor Problem, inspired by HLS professor Alexandra Natapoff’s book Punishment Without Crime: How our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal

The panel included:

  • Alexandra Natapoff, Lee S. Kreindler Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Robert Greenwald, Director, Brave New Films
  • Rachael Rollins, Suffolk County District Attorney
  • Udi Ofer, Director, Justice Division and Deputy National Political Director, ACLU
  • Sandra Smith, Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice & Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Chris Lollie, musician, St. Paul, MN, featured in the film
     
3/10/21: Reimagining Community Safety #15: A Discussion with MA State Senator Will Brownsberger about Police Reform

On December 31, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law “An Act Relative to Justice, Equity, and Accountability in Law Enforcement in the Commonwealth,” which is intended to bring about increased accountability and transparency within state police agencies. Senator Will Brownsberger was a key player in creating the bill and negotiation around amendments. He joined us to discuss this effort and the likely impacts it will have on Massachusetts and beyond.

3/3/21: Reimagining Community Safety #14: Anti Police-Terror Project with Cat Brooks

For low-income communities of color, police engagement can produce more harm than good. Indeed, a growing body of research indicates that aggressive policing tactics lead to poor health, educational, and employment outcomes for adults and children. The Anti Police-Terror Project, a San Francisco Bay Area organization, supports families that have survived police terror with resources, referrals, and opportunities to heal. Importantly, it also seeks to eradicate police terror in their communities. We spoke with Cat Brooks, co-founder of APTP to learn how and what outcomes their efforts have produced. 

2/24/21: Reimagining Community Safety #13: Cure Violence with Charles Ransford

For some years now, Cure Violence has been top of mind for those interested in ways to reduce violence in communities that struggle mightily with this issue. Similar to ROCA, Inc., Cure Violence meets young people where they are, establishing relationships of trust, shaping norms and attitudes, and intervening to head off problems before they escalate. Evidence suggests that when the Cure Violence model is adopted as prescribed, rates of violence decline significantly. We spoke with Charles Ransford  about how and why Cure Violence interventions work and what this has meant for communities that have benefited from this model.

2/17/21: Reimagining Community Safety #12: The Roca Model with Chris Judd and Carl Miranda

To create safer neighborhoods in communities beset by high levels of violence, multiple approaches are needed. Roca, Inc, offers one such approach. Roca  seeks out young people who are at risk of engaging in violent acts, engages them in meaningful relationships that build trust, offers them opportunities to learn a set of skills and competencies that might lead to behavioral change, and support them in living into their own dreams. It’s an approach that works, and Chris Judd and Carl Miranda joined us to explain how.

2/10/21: Reimagining Community Safety #11: The ACLU's Campaigns for Racial Justice with Rahsaan Hall

The ACLU of Massachusetts has been reimagining community safety in Massachusetts for decades through its campaigns to work for criminal law reforms to "end our reliance on incarceration, eliminate racial disparities in the system, and reinvest in public health and human needs." Rahsaan Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program for the ACLU of Massachusetts, has been a major part of their work. He joined us  to discuss their efforts to make the criminal legal system more fair and just for all of Massachusetts.

2/3/21: Reimagining Community Safety #10: JP Hub with Keyla Jackson and Isaac Yablo

One approach to addressing issues of public safety is to prevent crises before they happen. This is what the HUB is about. It brings together two key stakeholders – local law enforcement and community organizations – to address the immediate, long-term, and unique needs of community residents, including housing insecurity, health care access, substance abuse, mental health concerns, and more. Keyla Jackson heads up the Jamaica Plain Hub and joined us along with Isaac Yablo, PhD candidate and researcher at UMass Boston, to share about JP Hub’s efforts, hurdles, and successes toward building a safer Jamaica Plain.

12/2/20: Reimagining Community Safety #9: A Discussion with Tracie Keesee

Some contend that at the heart of safe communities are strong partnerships between community members and the police that are founded on trust. From this partnership, community safety is co-produced. We invited Dr. Tracie Keesee, Senior Vice President of Justice Initiatives and Co-Founder of the Center For Policing Equity (CPE), to explain what conditions are needed to allow for such partnerships to develop and co-production of safety to emerge, to the benefit of all communities, including those that have historically been marginalized.

11/18/20: Reimagining Community Safety #8: A Discussion with Alex Vitale

For many, reimagining community safety means reimagining communities that achieve safety without the assistance of police. Alex Vitale, Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College and author of The End of Policing, joined us to discuss what community safety, reimagined, might look like, as well as the extent to which and how this can be achieved without police as central players.

11/16/20: 5 Big Ideas in Inequality: Justice

Part of the Harvard Inequality & Social Policy "5 Big Ideas in Inequality Series."

01:48 | Idea 1 - Danielle Allen--The principle of association
10:06 | Idea 2 - Monica C. Bell--From policing to public safety: Toward a research agenda that denaturalizes policing
18:39 | Idea 3 - Cornell William Brooks--A Hippocratic form of policing: Do no harm
30:42 | Idea 4 - Vesla M. Weaver--De-police youth
46:15 | Q&A    - Sandra Susan Smith

#BlackLivesMatter Across the Americas: Black Youth Organizers and the Struggle for Racial Justice

October 29, 2020

In the second event in the What Justice Looks Like series, we spoke with activists from Black youth-led movements from the US and Latin America, leading the struggle against racial injustice, from police violence to structural racism and disparate effects of the COVID pandemic on racialized and low-income communities.

10/28/20: Reimagining Community Safety #6: A Discussion with David Garland

Even if the penal system were transformed in such a way as to eliminate racial disparities rooted in racism, racial disparities in criminal legal outcomes would almost certainly persist. To better understand why, we invited David Garland, Arthur T. Vanderbilt Professor of Law at the NYU School of Law and also Professor of Sociology in NYU’s Department of Sociology, to remind us of the institutional foundations of strong, vibrant, stable and safe communities.

10/21/20: Reimagining Community Safety #5: A Discussion with Barry Friedman

Calls to reimagine community safety have been driven by the knowledge that, for low-income communities of color, at least, policing inflicts harms that are consistent, persistent, and seemingly resistant to change. To help us imagine alternative approaches to policing that might significantly reduce the harms currently inherent in policing, we invited Barry Friedman, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Policing Project at New York University School of Law, author of the forthcoming article, “Disaggregating the Police Function.”

10/14/20: Reimagining Community Safety #4: A Discussion with Rachael Rollins

When reimagining community safety, we most often think in terms of the police (whether or not or when to rely on them) and policing (reforms that might improve community members’ sense of safety). Prosecutors, however, are critical to our experience of community safety. To the extent that they help to create more effective accountability measures and co-produce community safety with the communities that they serve, they are central actors in bringing about the type of change that historically marginalized communities crave. We were joined by Rachael Rollins, Suffolk County (MA) District Attorney, who has established a reputation as a progressive prosecutor who is committed to reforming the penal system in ways that could help realize greater fairness, justice, and equity for those directly and indirectly affected by the system. 

October 8, 2020

The first event of the “What Justice Looks Like” discussion series was a conversation with mothers from across the Americas who, after losing children to police and state violence, have become powerful activists fighting for justice and institutional changes to end state violence affecting Black, indigenous, and low-income youth.

10/7/20: Reimagining Community Safety #3: A Discussion with Brian Corr

Civilian oversight review boards have become a central topic in discussions about police accountability. But although there are a few models of such boards, there is little compelling evidence that any lead to the type of accountability wished for or that they improve community confidence. To better understand the role that civilian oversight review boards can play, we spoke with Brian Corr, Former President of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) and leader of the Cambridge, MA Police Review & Advisory Board.

9/30/20: Reimagining Community Safety #2: A Discussion with Lisa Holmes

In the wake of the recent killings of Black and Brown men and women, more attention has been paid to how police are trained, since poor training, at least in part, is thought to be one of the foundations of such devastating outcomes. How should police officers be trained to significantly reduce the likelihood of brutality and other types of racial and ethnic inequities? If we were to rethink police training from the ground up, how would training in the police academy be different? To address this question, which has been central to debates about community safety, we invited Lisa Holmes to the Reimagining Community Safety speaker series to share insights rooted in over 35 years of exceptional service in Boston law enforcement, including her role as Boston Police Superintendent and Head of the Boston Police Academy. 

9/23/20: Reimagining Community Safety #1: A Discussion with Ronald Davis

The first speaker in our Reimagining Community Safety speaker series was Ronald Davis, Former Director of the USDOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office); currently Partner of 21CP Solutions, an organization that seeks to empower communities across the country to develop and implement equitable and integrity-driven public safety grounded in trust and strong relationships.