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Following a surge in civil unrest and protests in the wake of officer-involved shootings, a mid-sized police department required an independent review to understand officers’ interactions with communities and align its operations and culture with national best practices.

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The Problem

In 2020, as the United States wrestled with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other officer-involved shootings, one city’s police department was challenged to respond to a surge in civil unrest and protests. “Help us understand how our police interact with several communities in particular,” city leaders asked. They referenced Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC); people experiencing homelessness or behavioral health crises; and protestors, crowds and general civil unrest. “And help us align our operations and culture with national best practices in this arena.”

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The Solution

We began by conducting an internal employee survey. We then reviewed relevant policies on use of force, handling complaints, crowd control management, and interacting with individuals experiencing homelessness and behavioral health crises. Next, we reviewed the agency’s community policing and training programs. We approached each point with particular attention to the organization’s interactions with BIPOC and other marginalized communities. We also analyzed the social, political, cultural and economic environment at the organization and in the city. We then interviewed leadership and key stakeholders and held community group discussions to gain insights from the source.

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The Results

We determined the organization needed meaningful improvement in several areas, including refocusing its mission and vision on community policing; centralizing education, training, and outreach around understanding and working with BIPOC communities; and enlisting assistance from the city government and supporting organizations to help solve citywide issues, such as mental health assistance and working with unsheltered individuals. To achieve these lofty goals, the organization needed to conduct a staffing analysis and hire significantly more staff, including professionals who specialized in the areas of concern.

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