Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $1,000,000)
Across the country, law enforcement agencies are navigating unprecedented circumstances produced by converging public health, public safety, and social issues. Facing civil unrest, rising crime rates, and a crisis in public confidence and trust in police, agencies are challenged to identify innovative strategies that employ equitable practices to enhance police-community relations while also effectively addressing crime. These considerations are particularly salient in communities of color that simultaneously appear underserved but overburdened by law enforcement activity.
Seeking to assist law enforcement agencies in their efforts to enhance police-race relations and address the recent increase in crime, this proposal outlines the development of an innovative training program and national initiative—titled The 54th Mile Policing Project—to support law enforcement in connecting with minority communities in their jurisdiction, enhance trust and perceptions of fairness within those communities, and foster cooperation among community members. The training program and initiative will be founded upon a powerful 17-minute film documenting the journey of three Black police leaders as they retrace the steps of the historic 54-mile civil rights walk from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The film acknowledges that to build safe and healthy communities, it is critical to address the deeply entrenched issues of inequity and disparity in the criminal justice system to ensure all persons receive equal treatment under the law. The proposed training and national initiative, created to complement this film, aim to promote racial equity in police practice and to remove barriers to access and opportunity for communities of color.
The proposed work is organized across four interrelated areas to be completed over 24 months and will include the development of a training curriculum and train-the-trainer materials, the pilot test of the training in two locations, and a process and outcome evaluation of training development and implementation. Additionally, this project will develop an online platform and social media presence to engage the policing field and share resources to support agencies in enhancing connections with the communities they serve. Collectively, this proposed work aims to address increases in crime through the development and evaluation of an innovative training curriculum and national initiative designed to promote fair and equitable police practices in the communities they serve. Furthermore, this work seeks to improve relationships between communities and the criminal justice system by building trust and confidence in the police, increasing access to justice, and improving perceptions of police fairness.