Two Common Narratives and Our Alternative One

The current public debate focuses on two competing narratives, one focusing only on police accountability and the other focusing only on personal responsibility.  Although each narrative has valid points, both are limited and keep us stuck in finger pointing. We are offering something broader and bolder: a narrative of partners for community safety. 

Police Accountability OnlyPersonal Responsibility Only
This narrative argues that a set of policy changes that can hold Police accountable to a high enough standard that will prevent Police misconduct.This narrative argues that Black men and the community need to bear the responsibility for crime and thereby avoid Police use of force.

Examples: Oversight boards, body cameras, changes to policies and procedures, and ongoing bias training.Examples: Call for “law and order” and cooperation with Police. Accusing the community of not emphasizing civilian violence in the same way it responds to state violence.
Partners for Community Safety
This narrative focuses on a shared goal of community safety. All people want to feel safe and free. Rather than focusing on punishment, the community and any state agent who engages with the community is focused on the overall goal of safety.

Examples: Officers who live, work and play in the community, and who are in proximity to the community and foster mutually respectful relationships. The Police Department and community partners work together to promote the necessary conditions for safe communities, including better housing, jobs, education, and health care. These changes benefit everyone – community and Police alike – because Police are part of the community and we all want safe lives for ourselves and our families.

Limitations of the Police Accountability as the Main Narrative: It’s not collaborative, often adversarial, leads to specific policy shifts rather than major cultural changes, does not address the larger forces that create unsafe communities — and many communities are still unsafe even if Police change.

Limitations of the Personal Accountability as the Main Narrative: Fails to recognize the larger forces that create unsafe communities, and doesn’t invite Police changes.

Advantages of the Partners for Community Safety Narrative:  Police and Black men are allies to help the community become safe, developing closer relationships so that Black men feel safer with Police, Officers’ jobs are easier, and working together could lead to systemic changes needed for safe communities.