In addition to our various themed speaker series (e.g., Reimagining Community Safety or Myths of Public Safety), we also host occasional events on special topics which allow us to benefit from presentations from scholars/researchers/practitioners/community organizers/activists whose work lies outside of these specific topics.

A Reimagined Public Safety: The Case of the Bromley-Heath Tenant Management Corporation

Jasmine Nicole Olivier, Researcher, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago 

April 19, 2023

Jasmine OlivierThis event was recorded and the video will be posted here soon.

Following high-profile incidents of police brutality across the United States, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers have called for a reimagining of public safety. In cities, such as Milwaukee (WI), Portland (OR), Los Angeles (CA), Minnesota (MN) and NY (NY), public safety reform has taken various forms, including the development of offices of violence prevention, grassroots-led efforts by community-based organizations, and the establishment of mobile crisis response teams. Importantly, however, these various public safety efforts differ in how much agency historically marginalized communities have over the decisions and the policies that impact their safety and quality of life. This is especially pertinent in partnerships between marginalized communities and the government, which have been historically rooted in distrust. To understand how to enhance community-centered public safety within marginalized communities in the present, it is imperative that scholars and policymakers examine the successes and limitations of past efforts. 

Drawing on interview, archival, ethnographic, and police administrative data collected over the course of 24 months, Jasmine Olivier, a Researcher at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, explores how Boston public housing residents developed community-centered approaches to public safety from the late 1960s to the early 2000s in direct response to local government neglect and police violence. This sociological examination of community-centered public safety within Boston public housing centers on the case of the Bromley-Heath Tenant Management Corporation (TMC) (1971-2012), which controlled managerial functions and formed its own security patrol at Mildred C. Hailey apartments. The study of the Bromley-Heath TMC argues that while not a perfect solution to the public safety concerns, community controlled public safety has the potential to lead to significant improvements in neighborhood safety, community empowerment, and quality of life within marginalized communities. 


We Live Amongst Each Other: Small-Town Policing and Acquainted Marginality

David Showalter, Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Sociology Department 

March 29, 2023

David Showalter

This event was recorded and the video will be posted here soon.

In rural and remote places, law enforcement officers often live in close proximity to the people they police and may be personally acquainted with them. In their current research, David Showalter adapts Erving Goffman’s analysis of face-to-face interaction to conceptualize this condition as “acquainted marginality,” which helps law enforcement gather information about potential suspects through everyday interactions and overlapping social networks. Showalter illustrates how acquainted marginality influenced the behavior of law enforcement as well as people who used illicit drugs using interviews and ethnographic fieldwork in a small and remote California town. Despite limited organizational capacity, acquainted marginality helped law enforcement investigate and arrest several members of the drug scene, which interrupted some people's attempts to use drugs more safely. These findings show how acquainted marginality can be a resource for law enforcement but also an obstacle to public health efforts.


The Ethnographic Realities of Police Reform: Scenario Trainings and Police Common Sense

Jessica Katzenstein, Harvard Inequality in America Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow
February 1, 2023

This event was recorded and the video will be posted here soon.

Jessica Katenstein

Police reform advocates often press police departments to shift away from fear-laden “warrior” survival trainings and toward reality-based or scenario trainings, which involve immersively role-playing scenarios such as making an arrest. Scenario trainings promise to teach officers to suppress fear, counter racial bias, and calibrate “reasonable” uses of force. Drawing on 16 months of ethnographic research with police officers in Maryland, Jessica Katzenstein explores how physical and virtual scenario trainings shape and even intensify officer fear rather than suppressing it. Police learn to “think threat first,” even in the most ordinary situations, and to assert command presence, an embodied language of authority whose ultimate object is the poor Black civilian. Moreover, scenario trainings that use virtual reality technology—often vaunted as a cutting edge of police reform—tend to produce an airtight certainty that threat could have been present, rendering inevitable the force required to stop it. Jessica argues that scenario trainings recruit officers into what she calls “police common sense,” a nominally colorblind framework that transforms anti-Black police violence into a mere technical concern and asserts the primacy of officer survival. We discussed why police training reforms often fail to accomplish their goals, and even worsen the problems they aim to solve.


Program in Criminal Justice Graduate Student Research Showcase

January 25, 2023

This event was recorded and the video will be posted here soon.

Chika Okafor and Nicolette Bardele

On January 25 we hosted a panel discussion with two of the recipients of  the 2022 Program in Criminal Justice Graduate Student Research Grants. The award process was open to PhD candidates from any of the units on Harvard’s campus conducting research to address questions related to the criminal legal system. Priority was given to students whose findings have the potential to shape policy.  We were joined by Chika Okafor to discuss his research “Exploring Prosecutor Behavior and Its Impact on Society" and Nicolette Bardele, who is looking at “Spatial Variation in Community Supervision and Probation/Parole Agents’ Work Experiences.” The discussion was moderated by Sandra Susan Smith, Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice.