The protracted “movement moment” of the past few years has been sparked by the tragic and well-publicized killings of people of color by law enforcement officers and targeted by “vigilante” civilians. The movement has been sustained in large part by young people of color who have put their lives and liberty on the line through direct action and protest. The world was put on notice. Philanthropy must follow suit.
In 2016 the foundations that comprise the EA’s Justice Reform and Public Safety Collective Action Table (Justice CAT) developed a strategic alignment that centers movement-building and smart activism as keys to sustained focus and impact on police reform. The Justice CAT has identified several opportunities for investment in the fields of national and local police reform, where recent public attention has created momentum, but where organizations often lack the capacity and infrastructure to leverage outrage and immediate action into longer-term change.
To address this challenge, EA staff and consultants have supported member foundations in developing and refining strategies. A number of foundations have expressed particular interest in a project spearheaded by Lenny Noisette, Director of the Justice Program at Open Society Foundations, to develop of a centralized entity or “hub” to provide expertise and research to local police reform campaigns on the best practices, data, and research needed to promote a new, community-driven vision for public safety. In developing the hub, Noisette has sought input from organizations involved in local reform campaigns. “We are finding a real interest in learning about practices and strategies that actors in other jurisdictions have used, a desire for communications support, and a need for general resources for organizational and capacity building,” he said.
Additional participating foundations include the Public Welfare Foundation, the Rosenberg Foundation, Ford Foundation, and The California Endowment. The exchanges among funders help to both identify potential co-investors and develop a trusted circle of thought partners who have helped refine the strategy. It also revealed a complementary need—direct funding for local police reform coalitions to sustain their work and enable them to best leverage the expertise from the hub. This awareness led to a proposal for a dedicated funding pool for local organizations.
EA staff and consultants have also assisted member foundations on other police reform projects, including creating a Community Justice Toolkit designed to hold local law enforcement accountable, developing better police training curricula that includes components of implicit bias training, and providing direct support to select local police reform and accountability campaigns that can serve as national models. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Rosenberg Foundation have supported this project, which is being led by the Center for Policing Equity and PolicyLink.