The Cautionary Instruction: DOJ unveils National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice

Friday, 11 April 2014 12:06 AM Written by  Matt Mangino

justicedepartmentlogo 150The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a major new initiative aimed at enhancing public safety by strengthening relationships between law enforcement and communities. The DOJ has established the National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice.

For years, criminal justice practitioners have advocated for better relationships between the police and the public. Eight years ago, Police Chief Magazine suggested, “By building trust with the community, police officers can persuade citizens to come out of their houses and businesses to talk about problems.”

A better police community relationship serves four important objectives. First, it enables police officers and community prosecutors to develop a plan for solving problems and finding solutions. Second, it provides invaluable information that law enforcement can use to develop witnesses. Third, it builds the trust in the criminal justice system that is necessary to cultivate potential jury pools. Fourth, citizens who feel that their problems are taken seriously become part of the problem-solving process, providing the court with victim impact statements on how crime affects them.

The new DOJ initiative will expand the base of knowledge about what works to improve procedural fairness, reduce bias, and promote racial reconciliation. The initiative will help communities address the challenges arising from suspicion, distrust and lack of confidence in our law enforcement agencies.

Tony West, Associate Attorney General of the United States recently said that the creation of the National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice is in response to President Barack Obama’s initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, a call to action to invest in collaborative, multi-disciplinary approaches to build opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color.

The DOJ initiative will encompass a broad range of areas in which fairness and trust are implicated—from stops and searches to wrongful convictions. A team of cross-disciplinary experts will fuel the initiative by conducting research, piloting and testing innovative ideas, developing models for rigorous evaluation, and disseminating the latest research and best practices to the field in the form of community policing strategies.

Community policing is an essential part of any effort to build trust within communities. The initiative will bring the collective experiences of police chiefs, community activists, civil rights organizations and civic leaders from across the country to bear on this problem, identify ways in which law enforcement and the community can work together to strengthen relationships and enhance public safety.

U.S. Attorneys will lead coordination efforts of the National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice with five pilot sites that will implement and test policing strategies.


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His book The Executioner's Toll, 2010 is due out this summer.

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