Two police officers were shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri, police station in the wee hours of March 12. The violence marred a peaceful protest unfolding there as news broke that Ferguson’s police chief, Thomas Jackson, was resigning. Jackson is one of several local officials to leave office in the wake of a Justice Department report that found civil rights and constitutional abuses in Ferguson’s criminal justice system.
Ferguson is just beginning the hard work of rebuilding. But as the ongoing troubles attest, there is no quick fix. Restoring trust between law enforcement and the community it is sworn to serve and protect will take time and determination from all parties involved.
To help further understanding of the state of policing and community relations, the Open Society Foundations last fall co-sponsored a workshop with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The workshop was entitled Bridging the Divide: Can Police-Community Partnerships Reduce Crime and Strengthen Our Democracy?
The gathering featured leading national experts on civil rights, law enforcement and violence prevention, and helped showcase places that have developed true partnerships between law enforcement and community leaders that have resulted in safer streets and reduced violence. View excerpts from this important conversation here. You can also find a deeper exploration of the subject, and an opportunity to watch videos of the entire workshop, here.
The Open Society Foundations are committed to advancing better relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve in Ferguson and around the country. Late last year, Open Society invested in several grassroots groups in Missouri to promote police and civic accountability, and made further grants to help fund a national database on police practices, supplementing our ongoing racial justice work. We hope to build on these efforts—and those of others—to help bridge the divide, and promote more respectful and effective policing.