The law enforcement/community forums are not the end, but are rather a vehicle for community directed change to guide how law enforcement protects the communities they serve. Specifically, by bringing together community members, leaders, and law enforcement to solve problems relating to the specific and defined barriers to more-effective and responsive policing in those communities, we will foster better police community relations. By having forum participants develop and commit to implementing action plans to collaboratively address those barriers, we will gain further commitment to effect that change. Further, by providing long term support and useful resources to help participants implement their action plans, we will help implement those necessary changes.
This model is unique in NJ because it works at the local, regional, state, and federal levels. Local community leaders and members can meet with their local police officers and leaders to identify, discuss, and address community level problems. Regional civil rights leaders and community representatives can meet with regional law enforcement leaders to discuss regional issues. Similarly, state and federal civil rights leaders and representatives could meet with state and federal law enforcement to address similar problems existing on those levels. Even early in this process New Jersey Communities Forward has engaged civil rights and law enforcement leaders at all of these levels and the appetite and excitement for this model has been palpable.
We are in the early days of this effort and continue to adjust the model in response to feedback from participating individuals and organizations. As it matures, we are hopeful that this approach will change the culture of aspects of our civic discourse. Much of our discourse is based largely upon ideas of conflict and confrontation (including reflexive resort to litigation). This approach, based more on problem-solving and partnership, would move us more to a less wasteful and more effective model of consensus-building and cooperation.
We would welcome your thoughts on how we can raise resources to institutionalize the effort and make it sustainable.