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Redefining Public Safety in America | CBPS Collective Report

A National Scan of Community Based Public Safety Initiatives

In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, “safety” is the second tier of human needs, just above food, water, and shelter. In the United States, we are currently faced with the realization that the very institution we have anointed to create safety - policing - makes many Americans feel very, very unsafe. In fact, for many people, including Black men, LGBTQ+ youth, undocumented people and more, police are associated with fear and harm. Police misconduct and racism has been rampant since the dawn of the profession, yet, as a result of recent incidents that were both videoed and so barbaric that they could not be dismissed, we are now thrust into a national dialogue around reforming police practices that includes a call to “defund the police.” The conversation around “defunding the police” lacks concrete alternatives for where funding can be reallocated. The response for many is, “If we defund the police, how will we be safe?”

Police reform is essential, but it does not remedy all of the problems associated with aggressive (and often violent) over-policing of communities of color. Police reform or defunding the police both fail to address the desperate need to reduce violence in the communities that are also harmed by the police. If while reforming police practices, we do not simultaneously reduce violence, continued violence will immediately be blamed on the police reforms, despite the fact that violence existed pre-reform.

We do not need to create new solutions to those dilemmas; most cities in America already have experts on creating safety and healing the trauma that underlies violence without relying on the criminal justice system. Those experts are Community Based Public Safety professionals.

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