The Bumpy Road to Police Abolition

Protesters and activists have categorically changed the national conversation about public safety. Now they have to figure out how to change public policy.

by Ted Alcorn
The Appeal
June 22, 2020

A protester holds a homemade sign during a peaceful protest walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on June 19, 2020.

… New York City has made as deep a commitment to community-based approaches to public safety as any U.S. city. Since 2014 it has spent more than $100 million to establish a system of neighborhood residents trained to mediate disputes and interrupt violence before it escalates, youth mentorship and employment programs, and microgrants to bolster community cohesion.

Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research & Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, whose evaluations of violence interrupters were instrumental in legitimizing the approach, worries about the public’s fickleness when it comes to criminal justice. Those supportive of reform may be quick to reverse themselves out of fear of being cast as soft on crime, so new initiatives need to be protected with solid evidence. If a city wanted to radically reduce expenditures on policing, Butts said, “I would totally back it, but I would be terrified we would squander all the good energy by not being fully prepared.”

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