Amid increasing calls to reimagine public safety and reallocate funding from law enforcement to other social service departments, localities across the country have begun exploring how best to pursue these changes. Such reforms would potentially reduce targeted policing in Black and Latinx communities, which especially affects adolescents and young adults, in favor of non-criminalizing responses to violence. In 2020, the City Council of Oakland, California, for example, approved the formation of the Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce, which will develop and propose a plan to redirect 50% of the current police budget toward alternative responses to root causes of violence and crime that will increase public safety in the community and address pressing social issues. With this grant, the Taskforce will partner with an interdisciplinary working group at UC Berkeley to ensure that its recommendations to the City Council are informed by research. The working group will identify alternatives to law enforcement that are responsive to community needs and address the root causes of violence and crime. Focal topics include violence reduction and prevention approaches that do not rely on law enforcement, as well as mental health responses and housing supports for unsheltered communities. The literature review will incorporate peer-reviewed social and behavioral science journal articles on the impacts of and alternatives to policing published within the past decade; research reports and evaluations of violence prevention and law enforcement alternatives, including Oakland-based efforts; early-stage findings on promising transformative justice solutions; and interviews with local experts in mental and public health. In addition to a formal synthesis, the working group will provide its partners on the Taskforce with digital media, visualizations, and other shareable content that will be used to inform their deliberations and ultimately to build support among the City Council, community members, and local social service administrators. Finally, the partners will convene Bay Area academics, activists, and artists to share strategies to inform local and national campaigns to transform systems of public safety, and will share the working group’s findings with affiliated youth-serving organizations nationwide.
In collaboration with the City of Oakland’s Reimagining Safety Taskforce, a UC Berkeley working group will identify alternatives to law enforcement that are responsive to community needs and address the root causes of violence and crime.