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Law Enforcement

A police officer talks with a young boy with a physical disability


CRS provides services to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that help communities resolve conflict. Through facilitated dialogue, mediation, consultation, and training, CRS's services help to build trust and improve partnerships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. These partnerships help to facilitate problem solving and improve communication, which reduces tensions, clarifies misunderstandings, and improves local communities’ capacity to resolve future conflict. Some ways CRS works with law enforcement are:

  • Improving partnerships and communication between law enforcement and diverse communities through dialogue and problem solving
  • Supporting efforts to reduce community conflict and tension following controversial incidents, including prosecutorial decisions or verdicts
  • Helping organizers hold safe public events through contingency planning and event marshal training
  • Improving community awareness of hate crime laws, prevention, and response
  • Improving law enforcement awareness of the customs and practices of the diverse communities they serve

Below are some recent examples of CRS's work with law enforcement. Additional case summaries may be found within CRS’s Annual Reports, located on the CRS Resource Center webpage.

Case Highlights

In August 2019, following a community forum, city officials and the Galveston Police Department (GPD) Chief of Police in Galveston, Texas, agreed to participate in a CRS Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships (SPCP) program in the Gulf Coast city. Racial tensions increased in the Black community in Galveston after police officers, mounted on horseback, arrested a Black man and led him in handcuffs by a rope behind their horses. The public compared the officers’ actions to patrols used for catching men and women who fled slavery. Community members expressed distrust in the police department for its handling of the incident.

Galveston community leaders organized a forum to allow residents to voice concerns and ask questions of a panel consisting of political candidates and local activists. Concerns raised by the 150 participants included the need for mental health resources, police training and procedures for arresting individuals with mental illnesses, and policies for filing complaints against GPD officers. CRS shared information about CRS programs and services at the forum to help reduce tensions and address its source. After the community forum, Galveston city officials agreed to conduct the SPCP program to re-establish trust with the community and partnership with the GPD. An SPCP planning group of five community members prepared for the delivery of the program. CRS facilitated the planning meetings and trained session facilitators.

In November 2019, CRS facilitated the SPCP program for approximately 100 participants, including representatives from the a local university, a local school district, NAACP, and a Hispanic American national civil rights organization. Other participants included GPD officers; youth leaders; clergy; business owners; Black, Latino, and white community members; and residents from the east, midtown, and west end neighborhoods in Galveston. The participants worked in facilitated small groups to identify the strengths of the community and areas of concern. As a full group, the participants prioritized law enforcement’s and the community groups’ primary concerns, including negative perceptions of each other, a lack of police training, and mental health, and identified potential solutions to these issues. During the program, program participants selected representatives from each small group to serve on a council to implement some of the identified solutions.

In January 2020, CRS facilitated the first SPCP council meeting, including Galveston city officials, the police chief, and the newly elected 2-member council. CRS drafted the rules of engagement to guide the SPCP council’s work, which the police chief approved and the council adopted. The council now operates independently, and CRS is available to support the council as needed.

In October 2019, Phoenix city officials and local law enforcement requested that CRS facilitate a dialogue to help restore trust and address the longstanding history of tension between police and the Latino community. Throughout FY 2019, CRS worked with Black community leaders to address similar tensions and concerns over racial targeting and the subsequently strained relations between the Black community and law enforcement.

Tensions escalated in the Phoenix, Arizona, community following the release of a video in May 2019 showing police officers arresting a Black family while using what appeared to be excessive use of force. CRS worked to coordinate the city’s first public listening session, ensuring it would be a safe space where both Black and Latino community groups felt comfortable openly voicing their concerns. At the session, Black and Latino communities expressed concerns over the city’s lack of accountability for the police officers’ actions. The participants and facilitators formed a working group, a coalition of community members, to work together on longer-term community engagement strategies and propose solutions to Phoenix city officials.

Throughout October and November 2019, CRS met with city officials to clarify core community concerns raised during the listening session, identify potential community facilitators, and discuss the format and design for an upcoming facilitated dialogue. CRS also convened concerned Latino community members and local Latino organizations to gather their feedback and suggestions on strategies to improve police-community relations. In January 2020, CRS met with a group of law enforcement representatives and Latino community members in Phoenix to share best practices and community engagement strategies for listening to and quelling concerns of the Latino community in a non-violent fashion, as well as to plan facilitator training and community dialogue in inclusive locations around the city. CRS provided facilitator training to volunteers selected by members of the planning group and the working group formed in 2019. In February 2020, in coordination with Phoenix city officials, law enforcement, and Latino community organizations, CRS facilitated dialogue with approximately 50 participants from the monolingual Latino community divided into small groups. A CRS conciliation specialist or CRS-trained volunteer facilitated each of the small group discussions in Spanish. Participants discussed issues, including language barriers, lack of police officer accountability, and the need for police training on diversity and culture. Participants also identified solutions, including improvements to training for police officers and changes to police policy for strengthening police-community relations and addressing concerns about unfair treatment of the Latino community.

When the newly elected sheriff in Forsyth County, North Carolina took office in December 2018, he assessed high levels of tension between law enforcement and the county’s transgender communities. The sheriff looked for ways that he and his deputies could reduce existing tensions and increase the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) community’s confidence in the county’s law enforcement officers. The sheriff had participated in the Winston-Salem City-Site Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (City-SPIRIT) that CRS had conducted in June 2018, and based on that experience, requested CRS assistance.

In March 2019, CRS trained a subject matter expert from the transgender community and two police officers from the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, area to facilitate an Engaging and Building Relationships with Transgender Communities training for area law enforcement officers and create a bridge between law enforcement officers and LGBTQ communities. Local law enforcement leadership hoped the training would address the perception that law enforcement officers were unwilling to adjust their behavior and language to be more respectful of LGBTQ communities and their members. CRS facilitated the program, which included participants from the Winston-Salem Police Department and Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

The training provided an overview of issues affecting transgender communities as well as best practices, policies, and strategies for improving relationships between transgender and law enforcement communities. Additionally, the training offered scenarios of the most common interactions between members of transgender communities and law enforcement to highlight mutually respectful, professional communications. As a result of the training program, the Sheriff’s Office developed and issued a related internal policy statement.

Boston, Massachusetts, and the surrounding area faced heightened tensions due to a perceived increase in Islamophobia around the fifth anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing terror attack. Boston city officials were concerned about public safety during the April 2018 running of the Boston Marathon and deployed more than 8,000 law enforcement officers from Boston and other jurisdictions to patrol the marathon route.

In response to the threats, a local police academy contacted CRS to train its newest recruits. In light of recent threats, law enforcement leaders sought additional education, protocols, and tools that could be useful for officers serving Arab, Muslim, and Sikh communities.

The day after the 2018 Boston Marathon, CRS brought together 44 academy cadets and provided a customized Arab and Muslim cultural awareness training, designed by CRS and police academy officials to meet the unique needs of Massachusetts law enforcement officers.

Following the training, academy leaders decided to incorporate the training program into the standard curriculum.

Resources for You

Toolkit: Law Enforcement (PDF)

Police-Community Relations Toolkit: Policing 101 (PDF)

Police-Community Relations Toolkit: Guide to Critical Issues in Policing (PDF)

Contingency Planning Checklist (PDF)

Event Marshals Tipsheet (PDF)

Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum Facilitator Guide for Community Leaders  (PDF)

Protecting Places of Worship Forum Facilitator Guide for Community Leaders  (PDF)

Dialogue on Race Program Guide (PDF)

Facilitating Meetings Around Community Conflict (PDF)

Engaging and Building Partnerships with Muslim Americans (PDF)

Engaging and Building Partnerships with Sikh Americans (PDF)

Engaging and Building Relationships with Transgender Communities (PDF)

Reducing Risk During Public Events: Contingency Planning (PDF)

Event Marshals: Maintaining Safety During Public Events (PDF)

Dialogue on Race (PDF)

City-Site Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (City-SPIRIT) (PDF)

Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships (SPCP) (PDF)

Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum (PDF)

Protecting Places of Worship (PDF)

Working with Law Enforcement and Communities (PDF)

Working with LGBTQ Communities (PDF)

Additional Resources and Informational Videos

Updated January 2, 2024