Healing Communities From Resources to Technical Assistance

We condemn ourselves to shackles once more if we fail to answer those who wonder if they’re truly equal in their communities or in their justice systems or in a job interview. We betray the efforts of the past if we fail to push back against bigotry in all its forms. . . . For however slow, however incomplete, however harshly, loudly, rudely challenged at each point along our journey, in America we can create the change that we seek. All it requires is that our generation be willing to do what those who came before us have done: to rise above the cynicism and rise above the dear, to hold fast to our values, to see ourselves in each other, to cherish dignity and opportunity not just for our own children but for somebody else’s child1

President Barack Obama, December 9, 2015

When a community is impacted by distrust of law enforcement or by violence or hate from others in the community, it is vital to foster healing and inclusion and empower community members to work in collaboration with law enforcement.2 Following recent events, it is important for communities and law enforcement to join forces and build relationships and trust. A strong community successfully responds to a crisis but also takes the necessary steps to prevent hate and intolerance.

Community policing enables law enforcement and communities to build relationships before a serious problem occurs but also to build the trust to help the community heal. It is important to develop and strengthen partnerships within the community, especially with stakeholders that are representative of the community. Bringing together law enforcement, schools, civic leaders, victim advocates, faith-based organizations, business associations, media, community organizations and members, and other stakeholders ensures that everyone is involved in the solution and the response. Community engagement should not be initiated after an incident and during a crisis’ it should be in place before the incident takes place and the crisis develops.

Before a crisis, law enforcement and communities should focus on coordinating a community discussion. Perhaps pull together a discussion around a specific topic, around an event in the community, or around a documentary. Spark a conversation and open dialogue in the community. One tool provided by the COPS Office to help build relationships is the Building Relationships of Trust toolkit. The Not In Our Town project resources include free films and guides to help build safe, inclusive communities.

However, once a situation or incident happens, certain responses are needed. Encouraging dialogue and providing resources for the community will create the first steps of healing. Transparency, accountability, and open communication ensure that trust is secure and long-lasting. Recognizing that it will take time, all efforts should focus on a long-term path rather than short-term bandages for a gushing wound.

It is also important to know what resources are available for your community from the COPS Office. We provide a website dedicated to Healing Communities and a Resource Center that covers topics from hate crimes to gangs and use of force.

In addition, the COPS Office provides assistance to law enforcement agencies that are looking for targeted on-site assistance for incidents, events, or sensitive issues through the Critical Response Initiative or for a long-term, holistic strategy to improve trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve by providing a means to organizational transformation via the Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance. To Read more about the COPS Office technical assistance offerings or contact the team.

By working together, law enforcement and community members can mend the pain and strengthen the ties to prevent future crises.

Nazmia E.A. Comrie
Editor-in-Chief and Senior Social Science Analyst
The COPS Office


1 “ Healing Communities,” Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, accessed December 18, 2015, http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/Default.asp?Item=2814.

2 “ Remarks by the President at Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment ,” The White House, last modified December 9, 2015, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/12/09/remarks-president-commemoration-150th-anniversary-13th-amendment.

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