CRS supports communities across the United States and its territories as they respond to race-based tension and conflict. Race-based tension and conflict can be on the basis of actual or perceived race or because of personal characteristics associated with race. Below are a few examples of the support CRS can provide:
- Discussing perceived inequities and allegations of racially-biased policing with law enforcement agencies, community leaders, and all levels of government
- Sharing best practices for developing policies and procedures for alleviating community tensions
- Assisting law enforcement professionals and community members with resolving tensions and strengthening police-community partnerships when conflicts based on race arise
- Helping law enforcement professionals, community representatives, city officials, and demonstration organizers ensure safe and lawful assembly when rallies and demonstrations are planned in response to racial tension
- Facilitating dialogues with administrators, staff, educators, and students at schools and universities to increase cross-racial understanding and to address bullying and hate issues
Below are some recent examples of CRS's work assisting communities experiencing race-based tension and conflict. Additional case summaries may be found within CRS’s Annual Reports, located on the CRS Resource Center webpage.
In April 2020, a police officer fatally shot a 33-year-old Black man who was carrying a baseball bat around a local superstore in Northern California. The officer later received charges for felony manslaughter. The victim’s family stated that he lived with schizophrenia and bipolar depression and had experienced a mental health crisis the day he died. Black civil rights advocates, community leaders, and a local civil rights group requested CRS consultation and facilitation services to address community members’ concerns over the impact of the shooting, allegations of excessive use of force by law enforcement, and the role of race and mental illness in the incident. The victim’s death sparked community protests alleging the excessive use of force was unjustified and racially biased.
To open lines of communication and facilitate the voicing of concerns surrounding the shooting, CRS facilitated dialogues in April and May with city officials, law enforcement officials, a national civil rights organization, Black community leaders, civil rights advocates, and community organizations. During an April meeting, a police official discussed the release of the official police video that captured the sequence of events leading to the shooting to increase transparency with the community throughout the process. Meeting participants from a local civil rights group agreed to assist in rumor control by educating their members about the incident as captured on the video and clarifying any questions surrounding other videos circulating on social media.
In May 2020, CRS facilitated a virtual dialogue with city officials, law enforcement, Black community leaders, and civil rights advocates. The 40 participants identified issues, such as the need to address the trauma and mental stress on the Black community caused by the shooting, and solutions, including racial sensitivity training for the police, training for interactions with individuals suffering from a mental health crisis, and a moratorium on protests by community advocacy groups until the completion of the police investigation.
In subsequent sessions in August and September, the parties continued identifying concerns, discussed ways to improve police-community relations, and formed four sub-working groups, led by a local civil rights group, focused on: the city, including rebranding efforts and retelling the story of the community; local youth, including advising the city on youth-related topics; police reform policy; and contingency planning for responding to future protests.
In the aftermath of the facilitated dialogues surrounding the shooting of the victim, coupled with the growing tensions nationwide over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, community members began working toward longer-term changes in the city and the police department. Following the CRS-led facilitated dialogues, the city became the first in its county to implement the pilot program, the “Community Assessment Treatment and Transport Team,” or CATT, as a new county policing model. These teams of mental health crisis professionals and emergency medical technicians dispatch work alongside law enforcement and other first responders, as needed, to help individuals suffering from a mental health crisis as part of a mobile crisis response system. In addition, to continue working toward changing negative perceptions associated with the city, city officials began rebranding and updating the city’s website to highlight its positive aspects, including its history and diversity, and to retell the story of the city.
In March 2019, CRS met with local leaders after receiving a request from Zionsville Community Schools for assistance responding to concerns resulting from bias incidents based on religion and race. At the time, Zionsville Community High School (ZCHS) officials were investigating a photograph posted on social media in February 2019, which showed several students using a Nazi salute. After becoming aware of the post, the Zionsville Community Schools superintendent condemned the photo in an email to parents, staff, and faculty.
Several bias incidents had occurred at Indianapolis area schools during the last several years, including alleged incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti and social media posts that included racial slurs at local schools, heightening tensions in Zionsville. In 2016, high school students were photographed holding a German flag and using the Nazi salute. In 2018, a high school student allegedly yelled profanities and racial slurs while wearing a Nazi flag, and there was a separate incident related to a viral social media post depicting a white student wearing blackface to bully a Black student.
Following these incidents, CRS met with Zionsville city officials, law enforcement, and ZCHS leadership. After discussing CRS’s services that could help ease racial tensions at ZCHS, the leaders decided to hold a CRS School-Student Problem Identification of Resolutions of Issues Together (School-SPIRIT) program. CRS met with a newly formed SPIRIT planning group in September 2019, composed of the Zionsville Community Schools superintendent, ZCHS principal, and other school administrators, to develop a successful SPIRIT process for the school.
In October 2018, at a local state university, African American student organizations and student civil rights organizations alleged that the university failed to properly respond to perceived bias-based issues on campus, including white supremacist activity and racist incidents in classrooms. The groups also alleged disparate application of campus policies by university officials toward majority African American student organizations. The student organizations requested CRS’s assistance to address the allegations and identify possible remedies.
CRS provided consultation services to a student planning group that organized a student forum on bias and race at the university. During the planning process, CRS helped the students, and professors acting as the student’s advisors, prioritize their concerns and narrow the list of potential forum topics. Participants identified several priorities, including hiring a full-time Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; creating space for a Cultural Diversity Office; and requiring cultural sensitivity and diversity training for faculty and employees.
In November 2018, CRS facilitated a student forum. During the forum, students gave candid accounts of specific experiences of perceived race-motivated bias on campus, inequities in the application of campus policies toward black student organizations compared to white student organizations, and alleged police harassment. Black students also discussed the need for a university Office of Diversity and Equity to address complaints and concerns. During the forums, students prioritized issues and decided to form a committee which would present solutions to the university administration.
The fatal police shooting of a well-known musician in February 2019 caused sustained protests in the city of Vallejo, California. Police allegedly found the African American man asleep in his car with a gun on his lap in the drive-through of a fast food restaurant in Vallejo. Police body cameras captured the shooting; the footage shows police requesting him to put his hands up and then firing 55 rounds into the car.
In the weeks following the shooting, the community protested and expressed outrage at the city and police department. The city requested CRS services to ease the racial tension and strained law enforcement-community relations. In May 2019, CRS provided consultation services to city officials to begin discussing best practices in response to the fatal police shooting.
CRS formed a working group with representatives of the city’s diverse communities, including faith leaders, community organizations, educators, local business leaders and the arts community. The working group developed the “Unite Vallejo” initiative to address a range of community concerns, including race and policing, in a way that would bring the community together. As a part of the initiative, CRS facilitated seven dialogue sessions, including geographically distributed racial dialogues to gain feedback on community perceptions on policing. The city planned to use the feedback from the dialogues to inform the search for a new chief of police.
After the initiative launched, CRS provided additional consultation services to city and police officials to help ensure the sustained success of “Unite Vallejo” and to discuss the initiative’s next phase, which included hiring the new chief of police. As a part of the implementation of this next phase, CRS facilitated listening sessions with residents, during which they identified the skills and experience they believed necessary for a new chief. These skills included expertise with internal affairs, community policing, and diversifying law enforcement. CRS also facilitated dialogues with city leaders to identify their needs for the new chief of police, which included experience with news media.
Resources for You
Dialogue on Race (PDF)