Policing And Communities We Work and Live In
Posted by Rooflines on January 27, 2015
When the conversations surrounding the Michael Brown and and Eric Garner cases were at their strongest late last year, Shelterforce conducted a survey, asking our readers how they felt about the relationship between law enforcement and the communities in which they work and live.
The answers we received ran the spectrum, from, “Police presence is always a good thing,” to police interaction is, “One of our biggest areas of calls, complaints from people seeking help.” But what was most interesting were the responses in the middle; from people working in community development who said they need and appreciate the protection police provide to residents, but have seen firsthand the sometimes unequal and unfair treatment their constituents receive in their dealings with police. The majority of respondents said they felt "conflicted” about the police’s presence in their neighborhood/service area.
“The police can be the first point of contact for a person needing help. They can also be the worst nightmare for people experiencing homelessness.” –Unidentified respondent
“We've witnessed unlawful policing right in front of our community center, but we have also called the police when fights broke out in our neighborhood.”—Unidentified respondent
There was a nearly even split among respondents who said that police violence affected their work (46 percent said it did; 34 percent said it did not).
“I am a fair housing advocate and I see police violence and racial profiling as an issue that impacts housing choice. African American parents of teen age boys are concerned about moving into predominantly white neighborhoods because their sons are likely to be stopped and harassed.”—Stella Adams
Finally, a few respondents said their organizations had taken steps to educate local law enforcement about the community through cultural sensitivity training and crisis intervention training, while others had formed neighborhood watch groups and other programs that encourage and involve increased police presence.
Thanks to all that took a moment to complete the survey and give us a window to their experiences. Lessons can be learned, even from a small, unscientific survey, namely, that when strategies are working, we should share them. One respondent said:
“We work in a community much like Ferguson, but the police force is totally different—it reflects the population and spends a lot of energy building relationships in the neighborhood. Our political structure, while deeply flawed, also reflects the Memphis community.”—Steve Lockwood, Frayser CDC