Law enforcement has a storied past in communities of color creating a tremendous trust deficit. The recent events of Ferguson, New York, & Baltimore brought a national spotlight to this present reality. Emerging movements have presented a variety of community-based narratives for response that are rooted in seeking accountability through protest. Meanwhile, local police departments have discussed new training tactics and strategies to avert misconduct. Neither of these two responses are positioned to effectively address the widespread trust deficit that preceded the current fallout. Failure to attend to the root causes of this broken trust increases the likelihood that the great chasm will only deepen and widen as time goes on and more scenarios play themselves out. Considering many of these communities are experiencing drastic levels of crime and violence, the reality of mistrust only empowers the culture of vigilantism. Community members feel, at worst, vested in taking the law into their own hands and, at best, unwilling to participate with law enforcement partners to remove criminality. Both sides yearn for safety. Neither side finds relief.
While history has authored a culture of mistrust, it will take a different kind of heroism on the behalf of law enforcement and community leaders to forge a new path. Over the last 18 months, Empower Initiative has been engaged in trust building work with Oakland Police Department through the implementation of Procedural Justice Training. Simultaneously, weâ€™ve invested time embedded in grass-roots movements on the streets in Ferguson, and across the State of California. What we have discovered is that investment in bridging the gap amidst this conflict is necessary and timely. Police officers need community compliance in order to perform their civic duties and that only happens when the community feels safe, can trust that the past history has been acknowledged and addressed, and see a brewing culture of procedural justice and accountability. These goals will ultimately keep both parties safe and create the margin for a new journey to emerge.
High profile events around the United States have shaken the trust of law enforcement to the core. Because of the strain, it can be very difficult to discuss critical issues in a way that the police and community can both be heard and glean additional understandings. Benâ€™s approach is to engage in an honest discussion about the difficult state of police/community relations, particularly in communities of color. Law enforcement needs to listen and hear these critical perspectives. Through powerful instruction, Ben is able to give voice and provide perspective to officers in a non-threatening way as he moves through the powerful material. His teaching has received some of the highest ratings of any training that I have seen. I am grateful for Ben’s work.
â€“ Dr. Paul Figueroa, Law Enforcement Leader
The conflict is grounded in the history of this nation. Unearthing itâ€™s roots will necessitate an incredible amount of inertia, but the cost of waiting far outweighs the heavy lift. At Empower Initiative we are positioned to help lead the research, development, and initiation of strategies that will contribute to the building of trust.
Empower Initiative provides a contextualized course on the Historical & Generational Effects of Policing, as well as, supporting the work of police legitimacy through community-led facilitation. This module is maximized within the Procedural Justice & Police Legitimacy Course but also renders benefit as a stand-alone training. The course seeks to build officerâ€™s capacity of understanding the historical, community perspective of policing while positioning a department to think about addressing the trust deficit.
Empower Initiative also provides Technical Assistance on the implementation of Principled Policing Training (Procedural Justice & Implicit Bias) with a community-based orientation. Invested in developing the local leadership to be engaged in community-led facilitation for ongoing Principled Policing Training, Empower works alongside local departments in recruiting strategic community leaders who can serve the process of trust building over time, develop shared partnership strategies around implementation of Procedural Justice tenets, and catalyze community-based learning spaces around police legitimacy. All of this results in building community trust, grounded in measurable reform.
Ben has been a long-time advocate for peace and justice through spiritual and community-based leadership.
Serving as an executive director of non-profit organizations and a religious leader for nearly 15 years, he moved into one of Oaklandâ€™s, difficult neighborhoods and became an instrumental partner in relaunching Operation Ceasefire, leading to a 35% reduction in homicides over two years. As a part of that strategy, Ben became the primary civilian trainer for the departmentâ€™s Procedural Justice & Police Legitimacy Course, his participation being the only expression in the nation.
Ben is currently focused on reform through policy and training leading to accountability.
Bill is a social entrepreneur providing a unique vocational fusion of justice, ministry and humanitarianism.
After retiring from a career in law enforcement, Bill worked for over a decade as an ordained pastor, catalyzed for-profit businesses, led humanitarian aid projects both domestic and international, and founded a non-profit organization focused on anti-poverty campaigns.
In 2015 Bill graduated magna cum laude with a Master of Arts in Global Leadership, emphasizing justice-based peacemaking. Billâ€™s widespread executive management experience makes him a sought after consultant and technical assistant for profit and non-profit organizations alike. Currently, his singular concentration is geared towards innovating solutions for the challenges specific to inner-city communities.