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January 2022 | Volume 15 | Issue 1

In 2012, the COPS Office and Not In Our Town (NIOT) kicked off the Working Together for Safe, Inclusive Communities Initiative. Through this strategic collaboration, we developed more than 30 resources and facilitated partnership building between communities and law enforcement to stop hate; address bullying; and build vibrant, diverse cities and towns for everyone. Almost 10 years later, we look back on the accomplishments and the resources that continue to be useful as well as looking to the future.


An Overview: The Resources

Through the COPS Office and NIOT project, the following films were produced:

These films highlighted law enforcement agencies and communities collaborating to improve engagement and responses, bring attention to the hate crimes reporting gap, support victims and survivors, and build trust among one another. Most of the films had at least one associated viewing guide to help drive the conversation after the screening in a productive and collaborative manner. In all, 10 films, 14 action guides, and two web extras were developed through this project, in addition to Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness – A Guide for Law Enforcement; Building Stronger, Safer Communities; Preventing and Addressing Bullying and Intolerance: A guide for law enforcement; and Stop Hate & Build Inclusion: Resources for Law Enforcement and Community Partners (flash drive).

In addition, a Law Enforcement Leaders Network was created that included law enforcement personnel from across the United States. By the end of the award, 175 leaders were a part of this network.

A Retrospective

In the close to 10 years since this project was initiated, more than 13,375 DVDs of the project films were distributed, the films have been viewed online in their entirety almost 9,000 times, and more than 19,000 project guides have been distributed or downloaded. More than 1,000 copies of the flash drive have been distributed. The films have been screened in more than 800 cities with one of the films broadcast on public television to more than 19,302 viewers.

As shown in NIOT’s evaluation data, the films have helped to both create awareness about the target issues and in motivating viewers to act. For example, of more than 1,500 respondents who completed surveys after viewing the project film Waking in Oak Creek, 94.6 percent indicated they would seek ways to improve relationships between community leaders, interfaith groups, and law enforcement, and 93.8 percent indicated they would be more likely to take action to address hate and intolerance in their community. Regarding the personal impact, surveys from those who viewed the project film A Prosecutor’s Stand also provided very favorable responses:

  • 90.9 percent indicated they did have more information or tools they could use in their work.
  • 100 percent indicated they better understand the need to support hate crime victims.
  • 91.2 percent indicated they now have better ideas for building relationships between diverse groups in their community.1

The Waking In Oak Creek Educator Lesson Plan has been viewed more than 3,500 times on

Action Steps

Some key lessons learned under this initiative were the following:

  • Films and storytelling can help law enforcement agencies understand the need and strategies for hate crime reporting.
  • Hate crimes reporting gap data gave law enforcement and communities the impetus to improve reporting. Stories highlighted in the NIOT/COPS Office films articulated what was at stake and key issues to consider when reporting and prosecuting hate crimes.
  • Successful ongoing actions on hate crime prevention have required shared participation by law enforcement and diverse community leaders. NIOT has provided a new model for law enforcement to build trust with their community that engages civic and community leaders as well as school administrators, faculty, and students.
  • Films and convenings provide ways to envision new relationships of trust between law enforcement and community members. Both community members and law enforcement can use these resources to build bridges so they can report and address hate crimes when they happen.
  • Communication between campus police and city law enforcement can create a transformative model of community policing that serves a dynamic campus community population.

These lessons learned are still applicable to the prevention and response of hate crimes. We hope that these tools will continue to help communities and law enforcement address hate crimes.

Nazmia E.A. Comrie
Senior Program Specialist, The COPS Office

Patrice O’Neill
Filmmaker and CEO, NIOT


1. NIOT (Not In Our Town), Working Together for Safe, Inclusive Communities Initiative Impact Report and Evaluation of Data (report delivered to the COPS Office in partial fulfilment of award requirements, 2017).

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