A Progress Report on Redesigning Public Safety in St. Louis

By , CPE Staff

CPE just released its Redesigning Public Safety in the City of St. Louis: A Progress Report, a summation of the most recent stage of public safety redesign efforts in the City of St. Louis. In the report, we discuss the scope of work undertaken by CPE since our 2022 Reimagining Public Safety in the City of St. Louis: A Vision for Change report: the progress so far, the continuing activities, and our plans for the future.

When police in suburban Ferguson killed Michael Brown in 2014, the region’s Black communities had already been long engaged in addressing the systemic racism and public safety challenges that the shooting laid bare. We were honored to be asked to join those efforts, beginning our involvement with a study of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department's (SLMPD) policing practices, behaviors, and outcomes.

The first report we produced for the City of St. Louis, National Justice Database Study Findings, was released in 2021 and captured seven years (2012-2019) of data and rigorous analysis, with an eye toward transformational public safety redesign. We believe that what can be measured can be changed, but first, it must be measured. Our analysis found significant and persistent racial disparities in the SLMPD's policing—just as St. Louis' Black residents have been saying for decades.

We then expanded our relationships in the city and established partnerships with the Office of the Mayor, the Department of Public Safety, the Office of Violence Prevention, the SLMPD, Forward Through Ferguson, the St. Louis Violence Prevention Commission, activists, residents, and other stakeholders to assess the city's public safety systems more broadly. In Reimagining Public Safety in the City of St. Louis: A Vision for Change, we offered evidence- and community-led recommendations for meaningful and lasting redesign of those systems. 

The next stage of this process was to begin the implementation of key report recommendations, for which the City of St. Louis requested CPE’s continued partnership. To date, this stage of our collaboration has included:

  • Developing a robust community engagement strategy
  • Standing up a community-led, data-informed public safety program that is now hosted by the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and led by community leader Farrakhan Shegog in the role of Trusted Broker
  • Coordinating a community-led approach to create a new use of force policy for review by SLMPD and the Department of Public Safety
  • Supporting a community-led approach to provide a behavioral and mental health response policy recommendation for review by SLMPD and the Department of Public Safety
  • examining key gaps in domestic violence (DV), intimate partner violence (IPV), and family violence support services

Through 2023 and 2024, CPE will continue to partner with the city: 

  • Collaborating with the Office of Violence Prevention to support alternative, community-informed responses to behavioral and mental health calls for service (911 calls)
  • Supporting data-informed community engagement and the work of the Trusted Broker, as well as continuing to fund the use of the software underlying that work
  • Supporting the implementation of select DV/IPV recommendations
  • Creating a comprehensive community awareness campaign
  • Creating and analyzing a city-wide survey that captures sentiments around public safety

More can be learned about CPE's work to date in St. Louis and our intentions for the future in Redesigning Public Safety in the City of St. Louis: A Progress Report.

At all stages of public safety redesign, however, we must bear in mind that the goal is not, nor has it ever been, data collection, the production of analysis, assessments, and recommendations, the establishment of working groups, the publication of reports, or even implementation. The goal is and must always remain what those things make possible: Public safety systems that are just, equitable, and responsive to community needs; systems of care in place of systems of punishment; and communities in which Black people are safe in their streets and homes, places of work and worship, from cradle to grave. 

The unthinking assumption that law enforcement is the only tool available to us to meet our public safety needs is not only unfounded, it has always proven deadly for Black people. Our communities have lived through enslavement, violence, disenfranchisement, disinvestment, abuse, neglect, and the generational traumas each has produced—we know what our public safety needs are. We know how best to meet them. CPE's work in St. Louis is rooted in and guided by that expertise, and we are ever mindful that the work isn't done until those needs are recognized and consistently met.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the people in and around St. Louis, the entire region is much closer to that goal than it was during the 400 days of protest and direct action that came to be known as the Ferguson Uprising but there remains a long road ahead. CPE is proud to stand beside and with the people of St. Louis, and we are wholly committed to reaching that brighter day, together.

In case you missed it, read our previous blog post about our work in St. Louis here: St. Louis Redesigns Public Safety

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