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In Pursuit of Peace

Building Police-Community Trust to Break the Cycle of Violence

Editor’s note: This report was originally published January 2020 and updated September 2021.

The vital nonfiction work Ghettoside opens with a detective returning a pair of shoes.

The detective steps into a small living room crowded from wall to wall with photos, trophies, awards, and stuffed animals—mementos to a murdered boy named Dovon. The boy’s mother greets the detective wearing a loose t-shirt with Dovon’s face printed on the front, and gets choked up at the sight of her son’s shoes. They had been held in an evidence locker for nearly a year after Dovon was shot in the head by another boy at a bus stop at the age of 15.  

The mother has diabetes and her doctor has been urging her to get out and walk more. But Dovon was shot to death just a few blocks away, and she has been too frightened to leave her home. Instead, she spends many days lying in the dark, unable to will herself to move or speak.  

When the detective hands the mother her son’s shoes, she takes them into her arms and leans back against the wall. She slowly lifts one shoe to her face and presses the open top against her mouth and nose, desperate for a trace of her son. She inhales the shoe’s scent with a long, deep breath, closes her eyes, and sobs. Her knees give out; she slides down the wall and collapses to the floor, her face still pressed into the shoe of her dead son.  

A year before, she had dragged the detective to Dovon’s bedside at the hospital, determined to make him see her son as more than an anonymous statistic. “I want you to meet him,” she told the detective. “I want you to see his face.” And he did. 

Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The hard truth, though, is that we—our nation, our politicians, our media, our laws, law enforcement, our justice system, and our national movement against gun violence—have overlooked and failed families like Dovon’s with catastrophic frequency and consequence. Murder commonly leads the local evening news, and our TV dramas, podcasts, and books are filled with stories about mass violence, cold cases, and celebrity homicides.

Yet too often, our society turns a blind eye to the ways murder typically impacts American families and life. It too easily ignores the raw agony that shootings impose on the thousands of Americans every year who are left, ravaged by grief, to collect their loved ones’ shoes.  


It is not possible to talk meaningfully about gun violence’s devastating impact on our country without talking very specifically about racial inequality, because a large majority of those empty shoes belonged to men and boys of color. In 2019, the parents of a Black teenage boy like Dovon were as likely to lose their son to gun violence as nearly every other cause of death combined.1 More than two thousand Black teenage boys died in the United States that year: 258 (12%) were killed in motor vehicle or traffic accidents; 211 (9%) died by suicide; 61 (3%) died of cancer, and 1,097 (49.4%) were murdered, nearly all of them (1,068) killed with a gun.

This crisis is one of the starkest examples of racial inequality in America today: in 2019, homicide was responsible for 5% of deaths among young white men and boys aged 15 to 24,2 a number that would be unheard of in nearly every other high-income country on earth.3 But homicide was responsible for 13% of deaths among Indigenous or Native American men and boys, 17% of deaths among Hispanic or Latino men and boys, and nearly half, 48%, of deaths among Black men and boys in this same age group.4 Nearly all of these young lives were taken with guns. For many communities of color, especially for young Black men and boys and their loved ones, shootings are not just a leading threat. They are the threat that dwarfs all others.  

This catastrophic loss of life is undoubtedly the result of policy failures. Reckless and profit-motivated gun laws have flooded our communities with increasingly lethal modern weaponry, easily accessible to people with histories of violence and hate. Federal law has effectively hindered law enforcement’s ability to investigate the gun industry and traffickers profiting from murder epidemics. Many states have prevented their cities from regulating the carrying of weapons in public streets and spaces. At the same time, leaders in most jurisdictions have largely failed to invest in effective community-based violence intervention and prevention programs. 

But it’s also time for the gun violence prevention movement to recognize that our country’s failure to protect so many Americans from murder is a failure not just of policy, but also of policing and the justice system. To understand the devastating toll that gun violence takes on our poorest and most segregated communities, we must address the priorities, strategies, and effectiveness of those public agencies tasked with protecting and serving all of us.  

The status quo is failing so many, and the stark choices presented by TV talking heads and in much of popular culture—between policing that is just and policing that is effective—are false choices. The evidence is clear: community-oriented policing that builds community trust and participation, prioritizes accountability and harm reduction, and refocuses law enforcement time and resources on protecting people and solving homicides is effective at preventing cycles of violence.

This report touches upon broad, interwoven topics—inequality, racism, poverty, policing, and guns—but its premise is simple: police-community trust is a gun violence prevention issue.

To deliver public safety and protect people from shootings and murder, law enforcement agencies need active cooperation from the communities they are meant to serve. The research, and the recent experience of many of our nation’s cities, show that when police departments lose this trust, a dangerous, downward spiral of disengagement ultimately leads to spikes in violence and vigilantism that threaten the safety of residents and officers alike.  

This downward spiral occurs when community members’ distrust of law enforcement deepens, witness cooperation and engagement with officers diminish, policing becomes less informed and less effective, more shootings and murders go unsolved and unpunished, and more people seek vigilante justice in the streets. Fear and gun carrying spread like a contagion and make everyone in the community, including the police, toxically stressed and quicker to pull the trigger. And both the community and law enforcement become more cynical about the other’s motives and worth.  

All of this creates a continually destabilizing feedback loop of distrust, disengagement, and fear that can leave whole communities scarred by the violence of a desperate few.5

And so, to meaningfully address our gun violence crisis, we must understand how cycles of distrust and cycles of violence work. We must understand that a deep, generational lack of faith in law enforcement has kept many Americans from actively engaging with their police force—or even calling 911. We must understand that one of the most dangerous things a police force can do, for both its officers and citizens, is to lose the trust and partnership of the community it serves. And we must understand that building earned and durable trust between communities and law enforcement is critical to stopping shootings and saving lives.

Police-community trust is a gun violence prevention issue.

Our aim in this report is to explain why, as a gun violence prevention organization, we must be engaged as allies in efforts to build community trust, reform harmful policing practices, and refocus public safety efforts around just, effective, and proactive responses to community violence. While a comprehensive plan for criminal justice and police reform is beyond this report’s scope, Giffords will continue to publish research and analysis about this and other topics related to the intersection of gun violence, policing, and the administration of justice, as well as expand our efforts to support partners and allies who have been doing important work in this space for years, including the National Network for Safe Communities, Faith in Action, the Urban Institute, the Urban Peace Institute, the Community Justice Reform Coalition, Cities United, and the National Police Foundation.   

This report condenses the leading recent research in the field to explain how cycles of distrust and disengagement fuel cycles of violence—to show how police officers’ brutalization of one man in Milwaukee led to increased shootings and homicides across his city for over a year, and how similar patterns of distrust and violence play out in cities around the country with disturbing frequency.

This report also offers the hopeful truth that progress is possible. In 2015, the national blue ribbon Task Force on 21st Century Policing prepared a comprehensive report containing recommendations for law enforcement agencies and policymakers to build trust and better protect our communities. By implementing such reforms and refocusing law enforcement efforts, a number of police departments and community leaders across the country have contributed to meaningful, lifesaving reductions in gun violence in a short period of time. 

In places like Camden, New Jersey, cities have implemented real reforms, built trust between communities and police, reversed cycles of violence, and saved lives. Camden Police Chief J. Scott Thomson spearheaded an overhaul of his city’s police force that focused on earning community trust, and helped the city achieve a 67% reduction in homicides between 2012 and 2018.6 These and other models described later in the report are examples of progress underway—of lifesaving efforts that are working but unfinished. It is critical that we hold them up as examples of what could be in cities across the country.

Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

It’s especially important that the gun violence prevention movement speak out now. In May 2020, five months after this report was originally published, 46-year old father of two George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Video of his murder captured by a horrified teenaged eyewitness sparked a national outcry, and in combination with news of the killing of other Black men and women—including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, Rayshard Brooks, and so many others—prompted what was likely the largest mass protest movement in US history.7

Millions mobilized and marched with the Black Lives Matter movement, calling for more just and effective approaches to public safety. These protests, and the severe and disproportionately violent law enforcement response they encountered in cities across the country, prompted communities and lawmakers at all levels of government to reexamine policing—from the tactics commonly used by law enforcement, to laws governing oversight and accountability, to the ways in which traditional policing strategies and priorities have failed to protect the life and safety of every person. 

Concurrently, 2020 also saw the largest one-year spike in homicides since the US began recording these numbers.8 Though many factors likely contributed to this increase, including a record boom in firearm sales and the economic and emotional instability caused by the coronavirus pandemic, declines in law enforcement’s perceived legitimacy and trustworthiness also likely played a role in this record spike in homicide, as this report will explore in detail.9

The nation has been crying out for action and a considered policy response. In June 2020, Representative Karen Bass introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a comprehensive measure to reform policing practices, strengthen oversight and accountability mechanisms, and promote transparency and data collection regarding policing and racism in the justice system.10 The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed the US House of Representatives in two different sessions, but as of this writing, is still awaiting a vote in the US Senate. 

Also awaiting a vote in the Senate is the Break the Cycle of Violence Act, which would make historic and long overdue investments of at least $5 billion in community-driven violence intervention programs that work to proactively heal and protect people at highest risk of violence. These measures would represent critical steps toward reducing harm in policing and the criminal system, transforming ineffective and unjust public safety approaches, and finally, meaningfully addressing the national crisis of gun homicides, especially for America’s young men and boys of color.

Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Murder Misconceptions

In communities where violence is rare, people may imagine that murder and the justice system follow a familiar Hollywood script. A murder occurs; witnesses come forward to share what they know; a detective follows a lead; a perpetrator is identified, arrested, and convicted; a devastated family and community begin to heal. In this script, law enforcement officers are envisioned as combat-ready SWAT team warriors or modern-day versions of Sherlock Holmes with high-tech CSI tools. One study found that across 730 episodes of “Law and Order,” over three-quarters of murder victims were white while only 10% were Black, and nearly every murder led to an arrest and conviction.11

But this Hollywood script is not the story of most murder in America.  

In the real world, more than three-quarters of American homicide victims are people of color, and nearly 60% are Black. Large numbers of shootings are never reported to the police,12 not because victims and witnesses don’t feel terrified or outraged, but because they often do not view their police force as capable of or interested in keeping them safe. Nationwide, a majority of Black victims’ killers are never even arrested, let alone convicted.13

For families grieving a murdered or injured loved one in cities across the country, the jarring truth is that the justice system usually fails to deliver justice. It fails to remove people who have taken or threatened human life from their victims’ communities. This reality helps explain why a desperate few decide to take justice into their own hands, meeting violence with violence and fueling cycles of retaliatory shootings that can last for generations.  

To be sure, not every perpetrator is also a victim, and not all violence is retaliatory. But for far too long, our country has viewed the overwhelming concentration of shootings and trauma in our poorest and most segregated enclaves as an intractable mystery—or worse, as evidence that whole communities or races of people are tolerant of “thuggishness” or a “culture of violence.” We have often structured our criminal justice and policing priorities around uninformed or racist diagnoses that see entire communities as filled with problems and perpetrators, instead of partners and survivors desperate for both justice and safety. 

Traditional policing practices often fail to reflect the reality that most violence is perpetrated by a very small segment of any given community. Recent research has confirmed that even in the neighborhoods with the most gun violence in America, a majority of shootings are perpetrated by people within a small, high-risk population involved with street groups, and that these group members constitute a fraction of 1% of the population. (This research is discussed in greater detail later in this report.)

Well over 99% of the people living in our nation’s cast-off “murder capitals” are survivors and victims of the violence around them—not perpetrators. They are key witnesses to the cycle of shootings occurring outside their doorsteps and key partners in efforts to stop it. But they have to be seen, treated, and protected accordingly.

Our country’s most effective police departments know better than anyone that to be successful in interrupting cycles of community violence, law enforcement officers “must have active public cooperation, not simply political support and approval.”14 They need witnesses to trust them, come forward with information, and risk their own safety by testifying. They need to be able to work closely with community organizations and service providers to intervene and prevent violence before it occurs. They need grieving victims to trust that the justice system will deliver justice and keep them safe, so a desperate few don’t resort to vigilante forms of justice instead.  

Many cities’ shootings are public events; they are perpetrated on populated streets to send a retributive message.15 For law enforcement, the task of solving these cases is therefore usually “not a job for Sherlock Holmes”16 or SWAT teams—it is something much more challenging. Homicide detectives frequently struggle to draw out what everyone in a neighborhood already knows but cannot or will not say to them or in an open court. They work on a very personal level to solicit tips and testimony from terrified and distrustful witnesses who have often felt over-policed and under-protected for years. When law enforcement fails to solicit that witness participation, vigilante justice and shootings become much more common.17

The challenge of soliciting that cooperation is made much more difficult by the state of our justice system—by the fact that many law enforcement agencies prove brutally zealous in enforcement of minor infractions in communities of color, and at the same time powerless to accomplish their most vital public safety task: keeping people safe and alive. Nationwide, our police forces arrest more people for possessing personal quantities of marijuana than for all violent crimes combined.18

Meanwhile, recent analyses estimate that on average, officers in urban police departments spend just 4% of their time responding to serious violent crimes and less than 1% of their time handling homicides and shootings.19 This over-enforcement and under-protection are two sides of the same coin.20 Both devalue the lives and priorities of communities of color, and both reinforce a destabilizing lack of trust that undermines public safety.  

This lack of trust means the tangible loss of the information and relationships that actual, non-Hollywood police work is built on—the witness tips, testimony, and partnerships that allow law enforcement to do its job, remove shooters from their victims’ communities, protect those at risk, and replace street justice with formal justice. As discussed further later in the report, in cities across the country, lack of trust in law enforcement has made these partnerships difficult, and both law enforcement and communities bear the consequences.

Gangs Vs. groups

When law enforcement is not trusted to protect and serve a community’s interests fairly and effectively, cycles of community violence and retaliation take root. These entrenched cycles of violence claim an enormous number of lives and also impose both physical and invisible wounds on much larger numbers of people.  

Young people in impacted neighborhoods often suffer devastating and traumatic effects from growing up in a climate where life is precarious and they experience chronic exposure to shootings, bloody injuries, and death. Living every day in fear takes a terrible toll.21 More than half of young people exposed to violence suffer some form of PTSD,22 and experts at the National Institute of Justice have noted that “youth living in inner cities show a higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder than soldiers” in our wartime military.23 Young people who are exposed to violence can become hypervigilant about their surroundings and perceived threats, and many exhibit severe PTSD symptoms such as disturbed sleep, chronic illness, fatalistic thinking, hopelessness, anger, impulsivity, and feelings of powerlessness.24

Over-enforcement and under-protection are two sides of the same coin.

Despite these adverse traumatic experiences, the vast majority of these young people positively adapt and resiliently persevere, especially with the support of their families or communities.25 As discussed below, the vast majority do not respond to this trauma by perpetrating violence themselves.

Some battle the sense that they are defenseless by taking on roles typically reserved for adult health and safety professionals: in Chicago, teens formed an anti-violence group called GoodKids MadCity, which, among other things, trains other teens on how to tend gunshot victims’ wounds before an ambulance arrives.26 A July 2019 NBC News story about the group featured a 14-year-old boy whose brother, an anti-violence activist in his community, was fatally shot at 19; the boy mentioned that a bystander with emergency training could have saved his brother’s life, and talked about learning how to apply a shoelace tourniquet to his own wounds in case he is shot too.27

Others attempt to battle feelings of defenselessness or powerlessness by carrying weapons, often illegally.28 When the Urban Institute surveyed young people between the ages of 18 and 26 in Chicago neighborhoods with the most violence, they found that young men were 300% more likely to have carried a gun if they had been shot or shot at in the past year.29

Finally, a relatively small number of people choose to battle feelings of defenselessness or powerlessness by joining informal cliques of other young people, usually young men. These groups offer the perception of safety in numbers and the promise of pursuing vigilante justice on group members’ behalf.30 People who have been victims of or witnesses to violence are particularly likely to join these groups.31 Researchers have also found that being shot, shot at, or witnessing a shooting doubles the probability that a young person will commit a violent act themselves within two years.32

In the popular imagination, there is a persistent myth that most “inner city” shootings are perpetrated by large, highly organized, even transnational criminal gangs involved in vicious turf wars around illegal drug markets.33 Some groups do fit that definition and have captured the public’s attention. But in reality, according to leading crime researcher Thomas Abt, “most gangs in the United States are small, informal groups that have limited capacity for highly organized crime.”34

There is also no common definition for the term “gang”—different jurisdictions use different, often subjective terms. In practice, many of the small, informal groups commonly labeled as “gangs” in public discourse are little more than neighborhood cliques of young men of color.35 In other communities, a similar set of young white males whose members hang out together, occasionally get into trouble, and wear the same clothing or varsity jackets as a symbol of group identity might simply be called a “clique,” “crew,” or “fraternity.” 

But when group identity reinforces an impulse to escalate confrontations to public violence, these groups can inflict massive harm. Researchers for the National Network for Safe Communities have found that a majority of shootings in American cities are perpetrated by a small number of young men affiliated with such groups. These groups typically operate without any common hierarchy or criminal goals, but their members may identify as a loosely cohesive, self-protective clique, claim control over certain city blocks, and at least occasionally perpetrate violence, often in retaliation for an attack or threat against a fellow group member.36

It is often believed that people affiliate with these groups because they glorify criminality or violence, so policy and policing strategies have often prioritized efforts to combat gang identity as a means of addressing violent crime. But in communities that suffer from rampant exposure to violence, some desperate young people join these groups because they are seeking protection from violence, not running toward it.37

In communities where most shootings go unreported and unpunished, these groups offer the perception of safety and accountability; a research review published by the US Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention notes that “youth most commonly join gangs for the safety they believe the gang provides.”38 These groups are in many ways perceived to be a substitute for law enforcement and the justice system’s failures to deliver justice or safety.39

Yet “the grim reality is that youths who join gangs in pursuit of safety only place themselves in greater jeopardy” as they become targets for retributive violence. As one group member described, “You joined up for self-defense, but then you become the dudes you hated.” Once a young person becomes publicly associated with a group and implicated in cycles of retaliation, he “can never be alone—you always have to be with your people” for safety in numbers,40 even though affiliation with those same people often makes these young men targets for violence.

As a result, violence and fear of violence often engender more of the same. Much of what news reports casually dismiss as “inner-city gang violence” is actually the horrific—yet predictable—application of vigilante justice by cliques of desperate, often violently victimized, and scared young men.

Law enforcement efforts to reduce violence by targeting gang identity therefore often have it backwards: neighborhood boys and men can become much more cohesively linked as a potentially violent “group” when they are united by a real fear of violence. By successfully reducing the threat of violence, rather than trying to directly attack gang membership itself, we can remove the primary impetus for many people to affiliate with these groups in the first place.41

Finally, while a majority of shootings are inflicted by or against group members, it’s important to note that group-related violence also has massive collateral consequences for many people who have no group affiliation whatsoever. Rival groups might treat everyone on a block as a member of the group who claims it, making everyone in the area, especially young men, targets for unfocused acts of retaliation.  

Bullets fired at group members also frequently unintentionally kill or maim neighbors who are entirely unaffiliated with them. In July 2019, a shootout between group members erupted at a block party in a public park in Brooklyn, leaving one person dead and 11 injured.42 In these ways, violence perpetrated by a tiny portion of the population clusters in certain areas, harms an astonishing number of people, and kills about as many young Black men and teenagers in this country as every other cause of death combined.

Though the harms of community violence are pervasive and devastating to the physical and mental health of many, only a tiny number of people within the community respond to this trauma and violence by perpetrating violence themselves.43 In communities suffering most from shootings and murders, the vast majority of residents are law-abiding citizens desperate for a just peace in their streets.

The “Culture of Violence” myth

Unfortunately, the myth that shootings erupt in neighborhoods where residents tolerate criminality and violence is pervasive.44 In this “classic subcultural perspective, lower-class communities [are seen to] generate a distinctive moral universe that glorifies and legitimates aggressive behavior, particularly among male juveniles.”45

This narrative is so prevalent that it is sometimes casually reported as fact. In a 2019 report ranking US cities with the highest murder rates, Forbes Magazine suggested, without any further explanation, that Memphis’s high murder rate was related to the city’s “stubborn criminal culture.”46

It is critical to emphasize then that researchers have found that neighborhood rates of “homicide [are] unrelated to resident attitudes toward deviance and violence,”47 and that “residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods are no more likely to tolerate violence than are residents of advantaged neighborhoods.”48 In other words, communities with devastatingly high rates of shootings and murders are no more tolerant of violence than safer neighborhoods, and communities with devastatingly high rates of poverty are no more tolerant of violence than wealthier ones.  

This research is bolstered by researchers’ findings that a majority of shootings in our nation’s most impacted cities are perpetrated by a small subset of group members, and that less than 0.6% of the average city’s population is involved with groups.49 It is hard to credibly claim that a dominant culture of violence exists in communities where the population expresses at least as much opposition to violence as other communities and where well over 99% of residents are not involved in groups and do not perpetrate violence.

Even so, this “culture of violence” narrative persists, and is often racialized. Because community violence is disproportionately concentrated within segregated communities of color, a number of public figures have claimed that essential cultural or racial differences are to blame. 

In 2016, for instance, a noted criminologist asserted in a book about the history of crime in America that “the [post-World War] black migration to cities, especially the big cities of the north, brought a culture of violence to the urban landscape.”50 He described this as a “black culture of violence.”51 After former president Barack Obama spoke about the shooting of an unarmed young Black man in Ferguson, Missouri, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told CNN that the president “should have spent 15 minutes on training the [Black] community to stop killing each other.”52 Former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel told MSNBC that gun violence is “an urban problem … that gets put in a different value system.” He went on to say that “a piece of this is the culture … part of this is having an honest conversation, given the lion’s share of the victims and the perpetrators are young African-American men.”53

This narrative often crops up in our media too. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly asserted on-air that “[t]here is a violent subculture in the African American community that should be exposed and confronted.”54 A Black Wall Street Journal columnist wrote of community violence, “This is about black behavior. It needs to be addressed head-on. It’s about attitudes toward the criminal justice system in these neighborhoods, where young black men have no sense of … what it means to be black.”55 A former Minnesota congressman told radio show listeners that “African-Americans had an entitlement mentality, leading to violence in the community” and that it is “a cultural problem in the African-American community that is leading to this.”56

This narrative has also permeated gun lobby talking points. In response to an article about the disparate impact of shootings on communities of color, the director of The Firearms Coalition wrote about the need to address “the elephant in the room”: a “criminal culture [that] has been allowed to grow and fester in inner-city communities and has become particularly prevalent and destructive within black and Hispanic sectors of those communities.”57 Various NRATV hosts have urged audiences to “blame minorities for killing each other,”58 suggested that “if [police] really were out to kill black people, [they] would just stay home for a couple of weeks,”59 and asserted “there is plenty of proof that black culture is inherently more violent than other cultures.”60

It is critical that we address these narratives head-on because they are pervasive, destructive, and demonstrably false.  

First, we should acknowledge that this “culture” framing is almost exclusively reserved for Black and Brown Americans: white Americans are significantly overrepresented as perpetrators of school shootings,61 various financial crimes,62 drunk driving offenses,63 and abuse of heroin and other opioids,64 but those racial disparities are rarely discussed in the language of cultural deficiency or racial blame.   

Researchers have also found no support for the notion that there is “a subculture of violence” tied to race.65 Nationally representative survey data actually indicate that “white [men] are significantly more likely than black [men] to express their support for the use of violence in defensive situations,”66 and otherwise found “no significant difference between white and black males in beliefs in violence in offensive situations.”67 

Research has demonstrated that residents in high-crime neighborhoods are more likely to express support for the need to obey the law than residents of safer communities, and that “contrary to received wisdom, African Americans and Latinos are less tolerant of deviance—including violence—than whites.”68 Similar research findings were published in 1974, 1978, 1980, 1994, and 1997.69

The trope that people of color have not been persistently outraged by or mobilized against community violence is also demonstrably untrue.70 Americans of color—particularly Black Americans—consistently express the highest levels of concern about crime, murder, and gun violence.71 

A slightly different culture claim—that community violence disproportionately impacts Black families due to the relative prevalence of single-parent households—is also unsupported by the evidence.72 Rates of gun violence have substantially fallen in recent decades (notwithstanding increases since 2014) at the same time that rates of single-parent households have significantly increased.73 Young Black men are both safer today than they were three decades ago and more likely to have grown up in a single-parent household.74 Additionally, contrary to persistent stereotypes, health reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about American fathers’ involvement with their children found that “black fathers were the most involved with their children daily, on a number of measures, of any other group of fathers.”75

Finally, the culture-blaming narrative also ignores the fact that the communities most impacted by violence have consistently mobilized against that violence. On a per capita basis, the number of community-based organizations “focused on confronting violent crime and building stronger communities” nearly quadrupled between 1990 and 2013,76 as did the number of groups focused specifically on “crime prevention.”77 Research published in 2017 concluded that “the proliferation of [these] community nonprofits” was “among the most important shifts to occur in urban communities over this period,” and estimated that in the average city, the formation of 10 community-based organizations per 100,000 residents led to a 9% reduction in the city’s murder rate.78

The residents of impacted communities have also mobilized, organized, and marched to call attention to the enormous rates of violence in their communities over and over again.79 Over just a two-month period from June to July 2019, nearly every major city across the United States held locally driven peace marches against community violence. 

People suggesting that these communities are not engaged in combating violence in their neighborhoods simply aren’t paying attention. By refusing to accept the status quo and demanding change, these communities have driven reform and improvements for public safety. In Oakland, California, persistent and sustained activism on the part of community groups led the city to implement a series of reforms and invest in a comprehensive violence intervention strategy that led to a nearly 50% reduction in homicides between 2012 and 2018 alone. And as shootings and homicides dropped in Oakland, law enforcement became more effective: homicide solve rates rose from 29% in 2011 to over 70% six years later, suggesting that community trust and partnership were improving too.80

In order to replicate the lifesaving progress seen in Oakland and in other cities explored later in this report, our leaders and law enforcement need to evaluate and correct policing practices that are built around stubborn myths and misconceptions instead of the evidence. Effective public safety strategies reflect the fact that, while gun violence harms every community, shootings in America are overwhelmingly clustered within small areas of our cities, particularly among small numbers of desperate and terrified young men involved in cycles of group violence and retaliations.  

Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Understanding Murder Inequality

To craft more just and effective public safety strategies, we must be clear about how gun violence affects us and who its victims typically are. Some of the most effective violence reduction initiatives in the nation, like the group violence intervention strategy,81 are built in part on data-driven and community-oriented preventative policing. This strategy focuses on protecting the relatively small number of people and places at highest risk and working with community partners to prevent violence among groups engaged in cycles of retaliatory shootings. These strategies effectively refocus public safety and preventative resources on the relatively small number of places and people at highest risk, and reflect these critical but often misunderstood facts about shootings in America: 

First, shootings are overwhelmingly concentrated in small geographic areas within our cities. 

Second, victims of community violence shootings are overwhelmingly young people of color and especially young Black men, for whom violence is by far the leading cause of death.  

And third, most shootings are perpetrated by a tiny high-risk subset of the population involved with groups, which constitute far less than 1% of the population, even in neighborhoods with the highest rates of violence. 

neighborhood concentration

The US leads high-income nations in gun violence

The United States accounts for just 4% of the world’s population but 35% of global firearm suicides and 9% of global firearm homicides.


Mohsen Naghavi, et al., “Global Mortality from Firearms, 1990–2016,” JAMA 320, no. 8 (2018): 792–814.

Americans are 25 times more likely to be shot to death than the residents of other high-income countries.82 Our population’s ability to easily and immediately acquire deadly weapons means that Americans of every age, race, and gender, in every state, suffer vastly higher rates of gun death and injury than people in other peer nations. Through community violence, domestic violence, mass shootings, suicides, hate crimes, and unintentional shootings, gun tragedies cause enormous loss and suffering in every community.

But most interpersonal gun violence in the United States is concentrated in our cities: in 2015, half of the nation’s gun homicides occurred in just 127 cities and towns.83 Within those cities, shootings concentrate much, much more in neighborhoods marked by severe poverty, disadvantage, and stark racial segregation.84 In 2015, more than a quarter of the nation’s gun homicides occurred in city neighborhoods containing just 1.5% of the US population.85 Together, those neighborhoods would cover an area smaller in size than Green Bay, Wisconsin.86

According to an analysis by The Guardian, 4.5 million Americans live in urban census tracts that experienced at least two fatal shootings in 2015.87 (A “census tract” is a geographic area designated by the US Census Bureau that is “roughly equivalent to a neighborhood” and typically encompasses between 2,500 to 8,000 residents.)88 People who lived in these areas were about 400 times more likely to be shot to death than the average person in other high-income countries.89

Many Americans don’t realize just how geographically concentrated this violence is. In recent years, political commentators have often highlighted the city of Chicago as “the poster child of [the recent] big-city homicide rise,”90 and former President Trump repeatedly compared the city to war-torn Afghanistan.91 But when it comes to gun violence, there are essentially two Chicagos. 

According to Giffords Law Center’s analysis, nearly 70% of Chicago’s population lived in census tracts with zero gun homicides in 2015, while 87% lived in areas that saw no more than one.92 The remaining neighborhoods—containing just 13% of the city’s population—suffered nearly two-thirds of all gun murders in Chicago that year.93 More than half of Chicago’s fatal shootings occurred in areas with 9% of the population, and more than one-fifth occurred in areas with just 2.3% of the population.

Mapping gun violence in nearly every other American city reveals similar stark divides, with large swathes of the city reporting few or no gun homicides, and isolated pockets suffering devastating numbers of killings. In a few cities with the highest rates of violence, such as Baltimore, New Orleans, and Memphis, gun violence is more widely distributed throughout the city. In Baltimore, for instance, an astonishing 61% of residents lived in census tracts that saw at least one fatal shooting in 2015.

The same was true for 53% of people living in Memphis, and 48% of people in New Orleans. But even in these cities, most gun violence was still heavily clustered in relatively small areas. Over half of Baltimore’s gun murders occurred in areas with less than 14% of the population, half of Memphis’s gun murders occurred in areas with less than 15% of the population, and more than half of New Orleans’ gun murders occurred in areas with less than 12% of the population.

While some cities are much safer than others as a whole, this data shows that there are typically much larger disparities in violence within different neighborhoods of the same city than between different cities. This is true even in places like Chicago and Baltimore that are commonly portrayed as America’s undifferentiated “Murder Capitals.”94 

The communities most heavily impacted by this concentrated violence typically share a similar history. These neighborhoods are nearly all highly segregated, low-income communities forged by past and present racial discrimination—public policies and private actions that deliberately marginalized non-white and especially Black Americans; isolated them into redlined ghettos of concentrated disadvantage; and still today often exclude them from the social, civic, and economic heart of the American city.95

Americans who live in these segregated communities have often been prevented from building generational wealth. Within living memory, Black Americans have been blocked from moving to majority white neighborhoods, obtaining home mortgages and educational loans, joining trade unions or obtaining skilled work, attending colleges or equally funded schools, and obtaining Social Security benefits.96

These neighborhood disadvantages were compounded by “white flight” to the suburbs, economic disinvestment, the disappearance of manufacturing jobs, environmental hazards like chronic lead exposure, and mass incarceration fueled by a “War on Drugs” that has been applied most broadly and severely against young Black men, a population that does not use or sell illegal drugs at a higher rate than their white peers.97 These disadvantages have persisted in the same neighborhoods for generations.98

Encumbered by the lack of a family safety net, even higher-income people of color may still struggle to afford to move to wealthier and more integrated neighborhoods.99 Research shows that Black families making $100,000 per year typically live in the kinds of neighborhoods inhabited by white families making $30,000.100 This helps to explain why Black men with postsecondary degrees are 30 times more likely to be killed by firearms than white men with similar levels of education.101

Disparate racial impact

In America, the toll of gun violence falls overwhelmingly on people of color, especially young Black men and boys and their loved ones. In 2019, violence was responsible for 5% of deaths among young white men and boys aged 15 to 24,102 13% of deaths among Indigenous or Native American men and boys, 17% of deaths among Hispanic or Latino men and boys, and nearly half, 48%, of deaths among Black men and boys in this same age group.103


Gun homicides and assaults disproportionately impact historically underserved communities of color. Black Americans are 12 times more likely than white Americans to be killed in a gun homicide.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2020 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released in 2021. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2020, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at on Mar 17, 2022. Calculations were based on five years of the most recently available data: 2016 to 2020

The parents of a Black teenage boy were as likely to lose their son to violence as nearly every other cause of death combined—every medical condition, cancer, virus, and infection; every act of nature, suicide, and car crash; every drug, toxin, and opioid; every fall, fire, drowning, choking, and accident. Combined.

And that statistic is a national average: In poorer, segregated city neighborhoods where violence is most heavily concentrated, violence is responsible for even more deaths. This violence is almost exclusively gun violence. Nearly all homicides killing young Black men and boys—95%—are committed with guns.104

This violence doesn’t spare young children caught in the crossfire: Violence is the second leading cause of death for Black boys between ages 10 and 14, and is responsible for 12% of deaths among all Black children ages one to nine.105

Law enforcement officers have dangerous and often trauma-inducing jobs.106 But statistically, being a young Black man in America is even more dangerous: Black men and boys ages 15 to 24 are nearly 11 times more likely to be shot to death in a homicide than officers are to be shot and killed in the line of duty.107 

Extreme murder inequality is a national phenomenon. Black men and boys comprise less than 7% of the US population but 43% of the nation’s murder victims and 51% of those murdered with a gun.108 Gun safety laws have a protective effect for all Americans, but Black Americans are still murdered in some of the nation’s safest states at a higher rate than white Americans in the most dangerous states in the country.109

There are at least 22 states where Black men are more than 10 times as likely to be murdered with a gun as white men.110 And some states have even more extreme firearm homicide disparities: from 2010–2019, Black men were 50 times more likely to be shot to death in New Jersey than white men the same age, 46 times more likely in Illinois, 39 times more likely in Wisconsin, and 31 times more likely in Michigan.111

These enormous racial disparities are even starker at the city level. As discussed above, violence within each city is geographically concentrated in certain neighborhoods and blocks. Those impacted neighborhoods are usually overwhelmingly segregated communities where the vast majority of residents—including, logically, the neighborhoods’ victims, survivors, and perpetrators of violence—are people of color.

Baltimore, for instance, saw gun homicides spike in 2015 up to what was, at that point, an all-time high.112 But in the heavily segregated city,113 predominantly white neighborhoods were “almost completely exempt from the rising violence.”114 Black men comprised 92% of the city’s gun murder victims that year.115 Similar racial disparities were evident in cities across the United States.

In Chicago, a majority of the city’s murder victims in 2016 were young Black men between the ages of 15 and 34, even though that group comprised just 4% of the city’s population.116 While these racial disparities in murder rates exist nationwide, researchers have found that they are significantly larger in more racially segregated areas, even after other markers of racial inequality are accounted for, including unemployment, poverty, income, wealth, and single-parent families.117

It should be noted that this staggering level of violence and murder inequality exists after a generation of improvements. Murder rates across demographic groups used to be even higher. From 1993 to 2014, murder rates among Black Americans fell by more than half. They also fell by 18% among Native Americans, 37% among white Americans, and a remarkable 70% and 72% among Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander Americans, respectively.118 Though murder rates have begun to rise again since 2014, Americans, and especially Americans of color, are safer today than they were a generation ago.  

Despite these decades of progress, many white Americans may take for granted a degree of safety that has not been afforded to many predominantly communities of color. As leading sociologist and researcher Andrew Papachristos wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, “America’s haves and have-nots are divided not just by how much people earn, where they went to school or what car they drive, but more fundamentally by whether they feel safe when they tuck their kids in at night.”119 This safety gap is one of the starkest examples of racial inequity in America today. 


Because shootings are so disproportionately concentrated in isolated neighborhoods, these communities are often described in broad strokes as violent themselves. People living in the same city may see whole neighborhoods as no-go zones and hear about them only in the context of crime and disorder. The data tells a very different story. The communities most impacted by violence are not “lost zones” filled with hardened, organized killers. The most dangerous streets in America, the places abandoned and written off as “bad neighborhoods” by so many, are nearly entirely populated by law-abiding people who are survivors and victims of the violence around them, not participants.

In the most comprehensive analysis of this subject to date—a study from the National Network for Safe Communities titled The Less Than 1%: Groups and the Extreme Concentration of Urban Violence—researchers demonstrate that a majority of homicides and shootings in our cities occur among a tiny fraction of the population, even in cities with the nation’s highest rates of violence.120 Researchers looked at data from nearly two dozen cities and found that on average, at least 50% of homicides and at least 55% of nonfatal shootings involve people—as victims and/or perpetrators—known by law enforcement to be affiliated with “street groups” involved in violence.121 Researchers found that members of those groups constitute less than 0.6% of a city’s population on average.122

Within that small high-risk population, the number of people who actually perpetrate violence is much smaller still. Violence intervention experts have estimated that in an average-sized “group” involved in violence—typically involving 25 to 30 members—“generally only two or three members will reliably pick up a firearm and use it when there is a conflict.”123 Others within the group may rely on that small number of people to settle scores or defend them, but the actual number of active or would-be shooters in the average city is “far lower” than the 0.6% of the population affiliated with street groups.124 In some cities, an even tinier portion of the population are in these high-risk groups: researchers estimated that in Minneapolis, just 0.15% of city residents were involved in groups, and a small number of perpetrators within that population were connected to at least 54% of the city’s shootings.125

Some cities did have meaningfully higher rates of group involvement, especially within “city segments” (or neighborhood areas) that were most impacted by violence. The Eastern District of Baltimore, for instance, suffers some of the nation’s highest rates of violence and also had some of the highest rates of estimated street group involvement of any area evaluated by the National Network’s researchers. But even there, just 0.75% of the population was determined to be involved in street groups; individuals within that high-risk population were linked to at least 58% of homicides and at least 55% of nonfatal shootings126 in an area that has been repeatedly branded among “the most dangerous neighborhoods in America.”127

Every other study estimating the portion of the population involved with street groups has similarly found that less than 1% of the population, and less than 5% of people in younger, high-risk age brackets, are involved in street groups.128 While it’s true that violence is often geographically clustered around certain blocks, it’s critical to remember that “the blocks themselves are not committing the violence,”129 and neither are the vast majority of people living there. A majority of violence in our most impacted communities is perpetrated by a fraction of a fraction of 1% of the population. 

And yet, all too often, our leaders have implemented policing and anti-violence efforts—including both punitive and preventative strategies—that treat the more than 99% of people who are not involved in groups or perpetrators of violence as if they are active participants, instead of survivors, victims, and witnesses. 

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Exploring the Jude Effect

Research is clear that community trust and engagement with law enforcement are essential for public safety. To meaningfully address cycles of violence and retaliation, law enforcement needs active witness participation and testimony, and communities need trusted guardians who can justly and effectively protect them, prevent violence, and fairly hold people, including police officers, accountable for taking or threatening human life. 

The “Jude Effect” is what happens when a police force loses the trust and cooperation it needs to protect and serve effectively. When significant portions of a community give up on law enforcement as their protectors, some of the most desperate, traumatized, or alienated members of that community start taking justice into their own hands, often with impunity. The loss of trust and engagement with law enforcement fuels vigilante violence, which causes more fear, gun carrying, and retaliatory violence in turn. For too many, this is the story of gun violence in the American city. 


Frank Jude nearly lost his life outside a housewarming party in Milwaukee in October 2004.130

No shots were fired. Jude’s injuries wouldn’t appear in any analysis of gun violence incidents. But the events that transpired one October night—the particularly horrific brutalization of one young man by members of the Milwaukee police force—exacerbated a dangerous, downward spiral of distrust and disengagement that would ultimately leave many more people shot and dead across the city.131

On October 23, 2004, 26-year-old Frank Jude and his friend, Lovell Harris, accepted an invitation from two female college students to attend a housewarming party.132 The party was hosted by a member of the Milwaukee police force and many of the 25–30 partygoers in attendance were off-duty officers. The party went late into the night and, according to neighbors, involved heavy drinking.133

By the time the men and their dates arrived at the party, it was after 2:30am. They were greeted by unfriendly stares, and assumed it was because of the color of their skin. All of the other partygoers, as well as Harris and Jude’s dates, were white. Harris and Jude were not. (Harris describes himself as Black and Jude describes himself as biracial.) One of the female students with them described this as a “very uncomfortable situation,”134 so after five tense minutes at the party, the four decided to leave and returned to the truck they had arrived in.

Before they could drive away, a group of at least 10 men came out of the house and surrounded their truck. The off-duty officer who was hosting the party said his officer’s badge had gone missing from his bedroom and accused the four of stealing it. The men surrounding the truck demanded that the four get out and return the missing badge.  

When the four refused to get out of the truck, the group of men threatened them and a man in the crowd broke one of the truck’s headlights. Alarmed, Harris called out to try to wake the neighbors. A man in the crowd responded: “N*gger, shut up, it’s our world.” All four were eventually dragged out of the vehicle. One of the students called 911 and said a “mob” claiming to be police officers were going through their things and trying to grab her phone.135

The group’s search did not turn up the missing badge. But instead of concluding that the host had been mistaken, court documents later noted, “the [group of] men became enraged and violent.” Events escalated quickly and brutally. One man drew a knife and cut Harris’s face before he managed to run away. Jude wasn’t able to escape. Several off-duty officers grabbed him and held his arms behind his back while others kicked and punched him. One of the students called 911 again and told the operator “they’re beating the shit out of him.” When the men in the crowd saw her on the phone, they grabbed the phone from her and flung her against the truck hard enough to dent the truck’s metal. 

Twelve minutes later, two on-duty officers arrived at the scene to respond to the student’s 911 call. But instead of stopping the beating, one of the arriving officers joined in. When he was told that Jude had stolen an officer’s badge, the arriving officer handcuffed Jude136 and stomped on his face. Another off-duty officer kicked Jude in the groin. Another jammed a pen in his ears. Someone broke two of Jude’s fingers, bending them back until they snapped. The party’s host pointed a gun at Jude’s head. An officer used a knife to cut off Jude’s jacket and pants. Court documents later noted that Jude “never fought back” and had been too severely concussed to defend himself. 

When additional on-duty officers arrived at the scene, they found Jude half-naked in a pool of blood. They arrested him and took him to the emergency room in the back of a police car. The admitting physician decided to take photographs of Jude’s injuries because they were too extensive to document in writing.137 The missing police badge was never found. A judge later surmised, “perhaps [the party’s host] had put down the badge in the house and was too soused to remember where.”

Elsewhere in Milwaukee that night, there were other officers performing just and effective policing work to protect and serve the city’s residents. Their work often put them in harm’s way: A young Milwaukee officer was shot to death that same week during an armed robbery outside a gas station.138 But those officers’ work—and community safety across Milwaukee—was undermined in profound ways by the officers who brutalized Frank Jude, and by an ensuing response that was widely perceived to be unconcerned with the dignity and safety of people of color.

A picture of Frank Jude’s bloodied, misshapen face hit the papers a few months later, in February 2005, when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel broke the news about the beating.139 The paper published a disturbing photo that an emergency room physician had taken of Jude’s injuries, along with detailed descriptions of his wounds. The news report also documented prosecutors’ failure, up to that point, to charge any officers suspected in the beating.140

More than 100 people protested in front of the district attorney’s office four days later, many of them carrying signs alleging a cover-up by the police department.141 Three months after the beating, investigating prosecutors still had not spoken with Jude’s friend, Lovell Harris, a key witness to the events of that night.142 And multiple officers were refusing to answer questions about the events they had witnessed or participated in.143

A month later, the city’s police department dismissed nine officers and disciplined four others in connection with the beating.144 But an all-white jury subsequently acquitted the party’s host and two other officers of all criminal charges in state court.145

After thousands of people protested outside the courthouse, federal prosecutors brought civil rights and obstruction charges against eight of the officers and won convictions against seven.146 Two of those officers tearfully apologized to Jude in court. One, who admitted to stomping on Jude’s head while in uniform, cried as he told Jude, “I should have done more to protect you that night.”147

A cycle of distrust and violence

“When Frank Jude’s face hit the papers in Milwaukee, the cops’ phones stopped ringing.”148 

This story is one of an exceptionally horrific instance of brutality against one man. But Frank Jude’s injuries were not his alone; they had devastating ripple effects across much of his city.

In 2016, a team of researchers from Harvard, Yale, and Oxford published a groundbreaking study documenting the impact that Jude’s beating had on public safety in Milwaukee.149 The researchers found that news of the event intensified a longstanding gulf in trust between Milwaukee’s residents and their police force, and triggered a dramatic and dangerous decline in citizen crime reporting.   

Researchers found that after news of Jude’s beating broke in February 2005, there was a nearly 20% drop in 911 calls reporting crimes to the Milwaukee police, driven by a much steeper decline in calls reporting violent crimes from the city’s Black community.  

The heavily segregated city150 saw a small decline in 911 calls from predominantly white neighborhoods for a few weeks after the story broke, but this effect “dissipated rapidly.” By contrast, the declines in crime reporting from predominantly Black neighborhoods were “large and durable,” lasting more than one year.  

In total, researchers estimated that Milwaukee’s residents placed at least 22,000 fewer 911 calls reporting crimes to the police in the year after they learned about the beating of Frank Jude. A majority of these 22,000 “missing” 911 calls were from neighborhoods where at least 65% of the population was Black.  

The researchers also concluded that this number likely substantially underestimated the true number of missing 911 calls because this estimate was based on the number of calls the Milwaukee police force would expect to receive in a normal year, based on previous crime trends. 

But the year following the Frank Jude beating was not a normal year for crime in Milwaukee. The city’s large reduction in 911 calls occurred alongside a significant spike in violence. Homicides in Milwaukee jumped by one-third in the summer of 2005. The city would not experience a deadlier year for murders for another decade, until 2015,151 following reports that a Milwaukee police officer shot and killed an unarmed Black man during a mental health welfare check amid a disturbing spate of other highly publicized police brutality cases nationwide.  

Researchers called this observable decline in proactive citizen cooperation with law enforcement “the Jude Effect.” The study’s authors concluded that “publicized cases of police violence not only threaten the legitimacy and reputation of law enforcement; they also—by driving down 911 calls— thwart the suppression of law breaking, obstruct the application of justice, and ultimately make cities as a whole, and the black community in particular, less safe.”

While often overlooked by the public and policymakers, the primary implication of the Jude Effect study—that there is a strong link between community trust and firearm violence—has been documented by many other researchers, and for a long time.

In 2011, research supported by the National Institute of Justice sought to examine why high murder rates had persisted and even spiked in certain Chicago neighborhoods that were experiencing declines in poverty, even as rates of violence were falling across most other neighborhoods in the city.152 The researchers found strong evidence that “neighborhoods where the law and the police are seen as illegitimate and unresponsive have significantly higher homicide rates,” even after accounting for differences in race, age, poverty, and other structural factors.153 These effects were not driven by a complete neighborhood consensus; most communities hold a spectrum of views about law enforcement, with young people, men, and people of color tending to report more distrust, and older adults, women, and white Americans less distrust.154 But neighborhoods that have the most significant levels of distrust of law enforcement on average were found to have much higher and more persistent rates of violence, even after controlling for other factors.155

Decades ago, leading sociologists demonstrated that the retributive “code of the street,” involving cycles of violent vigilante justice, is actually an “adaptation to a profound lack of faith in the police and the judicial system—and in others who would champion one’s personal security.”156 They observed that this code “emerges where the influence of the police ends and personal responsibility for one’s safety is felt to begin,”157 and that “when the law is perceived to be unavailable—for example, when calling the police is not a viable option to remedy one’s problems—individuals may instead resolve their grievances by their own means, which may include violence.”158

When people don’t view calling law enforcement as a reliable tool for resolving disputes or holding others accountable for wrongdoing, they can fall into a “paradox,” where some individuals who believe in the substance of the law and oppose violence are nonetheless propelled toward violence as a form of self-reliance or vigilante justice.159

Victims of violence are especially likely to fall into this paradox: researchers evaluating variations in homicide trends across different Chicago neighborhoods found that violent victimization had a “dramatic” negative effect on people’s views about law enforcement and its role in the community.160 People who have been shot are especially unlikely to trust the police to keep them safe, particularly since, as discussed below, police departments usually fail to arrest the people who pulled the trigger. Victims of violence are then much more likely to be involved in cycles of retaliatory violence as both shooters and repeat victims.  

This is why so many urban hospitals and trauma centers see a “revolving door” of gunshot injury: Studies have long shown that in many of these hospitals, over 40% of patients treated for violent injuries such as gunshots return to the emergency department with new violent injuries within five years,161 and as many as 20% are killed within that short time frame.162

In other communities, these victims and their loved ones may be more likely to press law enforcement agencies to arrest their assailant, file a civil lawsuit, or move away from distressing circumstances. But when the formal justice system is seen as absent, abusive, or ineffective, a small number of individuals are compelled toward violent vigilantism instead. 


Over-Policing and Under-Protection in America’s Cities

In March of 2019, The New York Times Magazine published an in-depth report on “The Tragedy of Baltimore,” exploring the city’s nearly unprecedented spike in murders.163 The report ended with a scene from a community meeting in a school auditorium where Baltimore’s new police chief was introducing himself to residents of a neighborhood especially hard hit by the surge in violence.

An hour into the meeting, a woman stepped up to the microphone to describe how “bewildering” it had been to accompany a friend near a safe and tourist-friendly neighborhood downtown:

“The lighting was so bright. People had scooters. They had bikes. They had babies in strollers. And I said: ‘What city is this?’ … Because if you go up to Martin Luther King Boulevard … we’re all bolted in our homes, we’re locked down … All any of us want is equal protection.”

As the New York Times piece concluded, “the residents streaming into these sessions … were not describing a trade-off between justice and order. They saw them as two parts of a whole and were daring to ask for both.”164

But for many communities of color, law enforcement and the justice system impose enormously unequal harms while also failing to provide equal protection from and accountability for violence.

The recent public discussion around criminal justice reform has highlighted the many ways in which communities of color, especially Black and Indigenous communities, have been inequitably policed and incarcerated on a mass scale for generations. As The Sentencing Project describes, “Like an avalanche, racial disparity grows cumulatively as people traverse the criminal justice system … Once arrested, people of color are also likely to be charged more harshly than whites; once charged, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences – all after accounting for relevant legal differences such as crime severity and criminal history.”165

Multiple studies have found that police are more likely to stop and search Black and Hispanic people than their white peers, even though searches of Black and Hispanic drivers are less likely to turn up contraband.166 According to one estimate, 80% of Black 16- and 17-year-olds were stopped by the New York City Police Department in 2006, compared with 38% of Hispanic and 10% of white teens the same age.167 And though Black and white Americans use and sell drugs at similar rates, Black Americans are nearly three times as likely to be arrested for drug offenses, and at the state level, 6.5 times as likely to be incarcerated for such crimes.168

The collateral impacts on families and communities are hard to overstate. Data published in 2009 indicated that a Black man without a high school diploma had a nearly 70% chance of being incarcerated at some point by his mid-thirties,169 perpetuating a generational poverty trap for millions.170 And though people of color are disproportionately represented among crime victims, they are also often underserved by publicly funded crime victim assistance programs.171    

Regardless of the motivations or values systems of individual actors within law enforcement or the criminal justice system, the cumulative effects of these disparities are enormous, and create a system of justice that is frequently experienced as untrustworthy, abusive, racist, or illegitimate in communities of color. 

At the same time, amid this vast, sometimes brutal police presence in segregated city neighborhoods, the most serious crimes imaginable—murders and attempted murders—are a pervasive cause of death, and typically go unpunished. A recent in-depth investigation by The Washington Post found that across 52 of the nation’s largest cities over the past decade, 53% of all murders of Black Americans never led to an arrest, let alone a conviction.172 Nearly three-quarters of all unsolved murders in these cities involved a victim who was Black.173

Other investigative reporting has indicated that our justice system and law enforcement are even less likely to provide accountability for murders and attempted murders involving a gun: Researchers for The Trace found that across 22 cities, 65% of fatal shootings involving a Black or Hispanic victim never led to an arrest.174

Police also failed to make an arrest in nearly 80% of nonfatal shooting incidents involving Black victims.175 These are citywide averages; in the poorest and most disadvantaged communities within those cities, accountability for shootings and murder is even rarer still.  

This lack of accountability is no secret in communities most impacted by violence. When the Urban Institute surveyed young people from Chicago neighborhoods with the highest rates of homicide, only 14% said they thought a person was likely to “get caught” for shooting at someone in their neighborhood, and that number was even lower among young people who said they had carried a gun before.176 Unsurprisingly, just 13% said police in their neighborhood were effective at reducing crime.177

This “near-total impunity for homicides and shootings in distressed communities” is a major driver of community distrust and community violence, as it “signals that the state can’t or won’t actually protect people from the most significant harm. Where that’s true, people feel the need to protect themselves and settle disputes through other means, including private violence.”178

It should be noted that arrest rates are surprisingly low for murders and shootings of white victims too, although arrest rates are substantially higher for white victims than they are for Black victims in nearly every city.179 When the criminal justice system fails white victims, though, their families are on average more likely to have the resources they need to move away and put distance between themselves and circumstances that might otherwise make conflict and retribution more likely.180 They may also have a stronger baseline of positive previous interactions and trust in their local law enforcement and the criminal system.

People with lower levels of wealth, job security, and privilege are more likely to have had prior negative experiences with law enforcement and are also more likely to be trapped in the same invisible walls of poverty, segregation, and circumstance as the people who wronged them or their loved ones. As a result, vigilante justice breaks out more often within those invisible walls, particularly when victims know they are unlikely to see their loved ones’ killers arrested and are unlikely to be arrested themselves for committing retributive violence.  

As a spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department acknowledged, “Today’s victim is yesterday’s suspect, and today’s suspect can be tomorrow’s victim.”181 And as The Baltimore Sun observed, “Cases that aren’t cleared by police are too often cleared by the streets, leading to the type of reciprocal killings that plague [the city].”182 

In this regard, the perceived harshness of the American justice system and its inability to protect people from violence are both taken as evidence that law enforcement and society at large are untrustworthy and, at best, indifferent to the wellbeing of people of color—especially young Black men. Crime reporter Jill Leovy summarizes this dynamic: “Our criminal justice system harasses people on small pretexts but is exposed as a coward before murder. It hauls masses of Black men through its machinery but fails to protect them from bodily injury and death. It is at once oppressive and inadequate.”183 Leovy suggests to readers:

Imagine that you’re a student at a school. There are bullies at the school, and the bullies beat you up every day on the playground. But the only time the playground supervisor comes around, he or she says, “Don’t chew gum on the playground,” and walks away, and ignores the bruises and the fighting. You would be cynical. You would cease to believe in the system. In fact, you’d probably cease to believe that it’s just the bullies picking on you, but rather that the system is a bully in and of itself.184

The real-world facts bear out this analogy tragically often. A 2019 investigatory report by the Trace found that since 2001, the Chicago Police Department had made more than 600,000 arrests for possessing or purchasing drugs, including marijuana, while also “fail[ing] to make an arrest in 85 percent of the violent crimes committed with firearms.”185 A Chicago mother grieving the loss of two sons to gun violence explained to reporters that in her community, “They’ll get a person for marijuana before they’ll get a person for murder.”186

Nationally, violence kills more young Black men than almost every other cause of death combined, but our nation’s law enforcement agencies arrest more people for possessing personal quantities of marijuana than for all violent crimes combined.187

This is partly a function of where law enforcement agencies choose to direct their time and resources: from January to June 2020, police officers in New Orleans, a city with one of the highest homicide rates in the country, spent just 0.7% of their time on average responding to homicides and nonfatal shooting incidents.188

People of color are stopped and searched more, arrested more, charged more, and sentenced for longer,189 and are substantially less likely to see justice done when a loved one has been shot or killed.190 The same justice system that fails to arrest the killers of a majority of Black murder victims still hauls millions behind bars for non-violent offenses and is often not held accountable when police officers perpetrate crimes or violence themselves.  

These dynamics are further exacerbated by the fact that in cities across the country, people of color are commonly policed by officers who do not live in their community and do not reflect their community’s racial or ethnic makeup. Across the 75 cities with the largest police forces in the United States, on average, 60% of officers (and 65% of white officers) reside outside the limits of the city they serve.191 And according to Giffords Law Center’s analysis of data from 269 of the nation’s largest police departments, in 57% of departments, people of color were represented on the police force at less than half their share of the city’s population.192

Researchers have also found that police departments are much more likely to rely on revenue-driven policing in communities of color. In cities with larger Black and Brown populations, police officers are more likely to ticket and fine community members to fund their own operations, and in doing so, can criminalize poverty when they arrest those same residents for failure to pay.193

Law enforcement agencies are also more likely to utilize civil asset forfeiture⁠—whereby law enforcement agencies may confiscate and sell property they believe to be connected to a crime even in cases where the owner is not charged with any offense—when local unemployment rates increase, suggesting that policing for profit increases when economic distress in the community makes budgets tight.194 People of color often bear the brunt of these seizures.195

Unsurprisingly, researchers have also found that in cities that collect a greater share of their revenue from these fines and fees, police departments solve violent crimes at significantly lower rates.196 And cities that solve fewer homicides have much higher rates of homicide on average.197

In 2013, the US Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance partnered with the International Association of Chiefs of Police to identify best practices for improving law enforcement agencies’ capacity to solve homicide cases in order to address the concern that in many communities, “offenders were literally getting away with murder.”198 Their best-practices report included a host of practical recommendations but ultimately concluded that all of them “rely on a community who trust and support the police and are therefore willing to talk with investigators and/or voluntarily provide information to the police.”199

The report therefore identified the goal of building a foundation of community trust as the essential ingredient for detectives’ work to hold people accountable for violence: “While many factors contributed to successful homicide investigations … there was one overarching factor: all of the agencies [that were identified as successful models] had laid a strong foundation of trust with the community.”200

The report noted that a key best practice is to comprehensively canvass the neighborhood where a homicide has taken place in order to solicit tips and information. The report observed that both successful and unsuccessful agencies often employ this tactic, but: 

In the successful agencies, these canvasses were not simple “knock-and-talk” exercises but discussions with citizens that often included a community-based patrol officer whom citizens knew and trusted. In virtually every case, the neighborhood canvass yielded some type of information … that contributed to the successful investigation and case development.

In the unsuccessful agencies, the ersatz neighborhood canvasses were not always performed, and when they were, the process was superficial … The successful agencies had laid a strategic foundation in community relationships that was simply absent from unsuccessful agencies. With this foundation, the neighborhood canvass tactic was effective.201

But many communities do not have that foundation of trust. After two cities installed acoustic sensor technology called ShotSpotter to detect and record the sound of gunfire, researchers found that just 12% of recorded gunfire incidents in the city led to 911 calls reporting gunshots.202

Many victims decline to report shootings to the police even when they have been seriously injured. The US Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey indicated that nationwide, from 2006 to 2010, 29% of Americans who were seriously injured in violent crimes involving weapons did not report that crime to the police.203

Without more context and understanding, many people—including local police officers—might interpret community members’ reluctance to call 911 or actively cooperate with police investigations as a sign of apathy, “no snitching culture,” or even tolerance of violence. But researchers have consistently shown that this disengagement from law enforcement is largely borne out of distrust, alienation, and fear, which can become self-reinforcing as law enforcement agencies estranged from their own communities become even less effective at protecting them from shootings. 

As the Police Executive Research Forum has made clear, “lack of witness cooperation [is] one of the primary reasons for uncleared homicides” in many cities.204 People “are less likely to cooperate with police when they feel unprotected by the law, and police are less able to protect people without cooperation.”205

In this way, community distrust is both a cause and an effect of low violent crime reporting and witness cooperation, low arrest rates for shootings and homicides, and high levels of community violence overall.  

This dangerous spiral is made even worse when increasingly lethal guns proliferate in communities where there is typically no accountability for shootings or violence. Researchers have found that “negative perceptions of police in marginalized communities are linked to higher rates of protective firearm ownership.”206 In other words, more people arm themselves when they don’t trust law enforcement to protect them. This proliferation of guns can lead to a contagious arms race. When some people start carrying firearms, others “feel less safe, which increases the likelihood that they will in turn carry guns” for protection207 and/or affiliate with violent street groups to feel like they have safety in numbers.

Law enforcement officers may respond by militarizing their weaponry and tactics and sometimes by acting more nervously or violently. These responses are shaped both by racialized fears and genuine threats from a heavily armed civilian population. In areas with higher rates of gun ownership and weaker gun safety laws, police officers are both much more likely to be killed and much more likely to kill civilians.208

Police officers are over three times more likely to be killed in states with high gun ownership, compared with states with low gun ownership.209 After accounting for race and other variables, researchers have also found that police are significantly more likely to fatally shoot civilians in communities with more guns, which often leads to ruptures in police-community trust.210 Officers policing heavily armed communities may “find it ever more reasonable to respond to seemingly benign situations with lethal force.”211 When they do, community disengagement deepens further, violence spikes, and gun carrying proliferates more.

Researchers have also found that police are more likely to use physical force in the most structurally disadvantaged neighborhoods212 and that they are especially likely to use force, including deadly force, against Black Americans in particular. Although officers employ force in less than 2% of all police-civilian interactions, they are 3.6 times more likely to use force against Black civilians than white civilians,213 even though data from at least some cities indicates that white individuals are more likely to resist arrest.214 Researchers have estimated that on average, Americans are at least as likely to be shot by police if they are Black and unarmed as if they are white and armed.215

Fear of this violence is, predictably, a major factor in communities’ distrust of law enforcement. In 2017, the Urban Institute conducted large surveys in six cities’ most distressed neighborhoods—“street segments” that were in the bottom 10% for indicators of both crime and poverty.216 Just 38% of the respondents in these neighborhoods said they felt safe around the police.217 

As discussed below, high-profile instances of police violence have exacerbated longstanding patterns of over-policing and under-protection in many cities, fueling substantial recent declines in community trust and related spikes in gun violence.

Police shootings

A combination of  frequent interactions with civilians, both conscious and unconscious racial bias, and genuine fears of a heavily armed civilian population make American law enforcement much more likely to shoot and kill civilians than police officers in other high-income nations. According to an analysis by The Guardian, police in the United States fatally shot more people in the first 24 days of 2015 than police did in England and Wales combined over 24 years.218 Among men ages 25 to 29, police violence is the sixth-most-common cause of death in the United States.219 About 1 in every 1,000 Black men die in police killings.220

Police shootings are often the most stark and visible examples of ruptures in police and community trust. They are part of the devastating impact of gun violence in America, and can significantly fuel communities’ distrust of and disengagement from law enforcement.

In 2015, The Washington Post launched a real-time database to track lethal police shooting incidents, because, remarkably, the US government did not (and today, still does not) maintain or collect comprehensive data about the use of lethal force by public officers.221 Then FBI Director James Comey called this lack of government data about police shootings “embarrassing and ridiculous.”222 Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, one of just three Black members of the US Senate, introduced federal legislation in 2015 and 2017 to establish the first federal database of lethal law enforcement incidents and incentivize states to share this information with the FBI, but his bill has never been brought up for a vote.223 

The Washington Post database showed that law enforcement officers shoot and kill nearly 1,000 civilians per year nationwide.224 In 2015, half of civilians fatally shot by police were white, and in nearly three-quarters of the incidents, The Washington Post indicated that officers used force because they believed some degree of “attack” was in progress. Over 80% of people shot by police were armed with some type of weapon (though some had never drawn their weapons). Many of those shot were severely mentally ill and likely acting erratically, but non-violently.  

Some of the incidents were particularly frightening: The database documents instances of men lunging at officers with axes, shooting at officers, or approaching officers’ squad cars brandishing firearms. Multiple incidents occurred when officers responded to domestic violence calls and were attacked by the victim’s abuser.

But this database also documents clear racial disparities. Law enforcement officers fatally shot nearly 1,000 Black Americans between 2015 and 2018, including at least 96 who were completely unarmed. A similar number of unarmed white Americans were fatally shot by police. But because there are five times as many white Americans as Black Americans nationwide, the database shows significant racial disparities in rates of use of deadly force. This is especially true for young Black men and boys, who are 21 times more likely to be shot in their interactions with law enforcement officers than their white peers.225 

Risk of fatal police shooting if Black
Unarmed Black civilians are nearly five times more likely to be shot and killed by police than unarmed white civilians.


Aldina Mesic, et al., “The Relationship between Structural Racism and Black-white Disparities in Fatal Police Shootings at the State Level,” Journal of the National Medical Association 110, no. 2 (2018): 106–116.

Researchers have estimated that on average, across all US counties, an individual is at least as likely to be shot by police if they are Black and unarmed as if they are white and armed.226 Unarmed Black Americans are 3.5 times as likely to be fatally shot by police as unarmed white Americans.227 Researchers have also found that police shoot unarmed white Americans at particularly low rates, indicating that they are, in practice, “more discerning of armed/unarmed status before shooting a white suspect than shooting a black or Hispanic suspect.”228 A 2012 research study found similar evidence of this implicit bias: During a video-game simulation, officers “were quicker to shoot an armed black person, and slower to refrain from shooting an unarmed black person, than they were with members of any other racial group.”229

While these killings constitute a relatively small share of the overall number of Americans killed by guns each year,230 they have inflicted enormous pain on many families and communities, and are a leading driver of lack of trust in American law enforcement. 

Getty Images

Debunking the Ferguson Effect

In July 2013, a labor organizer named Alicia Garza wrote a Facebook post reacting to the news that George Zimmerman had been acquitted by a jury after fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager who had been walking home alone from a convenience store. “Stop saying we are not surprised,” she wrote. “I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter. And I will continue that. Stop giving up on black life … black people, I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.”231 Garza’s friend, Patrisse Cullors, soon condensed her post into a three-word Twitter hashtag: “#BlackLivesMatter.”232 

That three-word phrase became a popular rallying point one year later, when a police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown233 and left his body in the middle of a residential street in public view for hours.234 Michael Brown’s death prompted a wave of popular protests and tense encounters between demonstrators and Ferguson police.235   

And over the two years following Michael Brown’s death, homicides in Ferguson quadrupled.236 In the wake of these highly publicized police killings, homicide arrest rates dropped in more than two-thirds of the nation’s 50 largest cities between 2014 and 2017—consistent with a Jude Effect of decreasing community trust and engagement with police.237   

Why Gun Homicides Spiked After 2014

While fewer murders were being solved, many more people were being killed. Nationwide, rates of fatal shootings increased by nearly one-third between 2014 and 2016 alone, and they continued to rise in 2017.238 The firearm homicide rate decreased slightly in 2018, but rose again in 2019239 and then rose again dramatically in 2020, when the US suffered the largest one-year spike in murders on record, largely because of gun violence.240 Over this same period, non-gun homicide rates held almost perfectly steady, actually decreasing by 0.06% between 2014 and 2019.241 More Americans were being murdered—and that increase was due to fatal shootings. 

The victims of this increased gun violence were predominantly people of color. If US gun homicide rates had remained steady at the already horrific 2014 levels, the nation would have lost about 55,000 gun homicide victims between 2015 and 2019. Instead, our nation buried about 70,300 gun homicide victims over this five-year period, including over 2,000 more Hispanic and 8,300 more Black men and boys above 2014 levels.242   

One particularly novel study compared these recent violent crime trends across dozens of large US cities with how frequently the residents of those cities searched on Google for news and information related to police violence and misconduct.243 The study ultimately found that “violent crime was higher and rose more in cities where concern about police violence was greatest,” as measured by Google search activity.244 In other words, larger spikes in violence were likely concentrated, at least in part, in places where residents became significantly more distrustful of law enforcement.

In its 2017 review of the research about this gun homicide spike, the National Institute of Justice—the research and evaluation arm of the US Justice Department—similarly concluded that “growing community alienation and declining police legitimacy contributed to the [nation’s] recent homicide rise.”245   

But despite the strong evidence underlying the importance of community policing and trust, a dominant counter-narrative about this spike in gun homicides, called “the Ferguson Effect,” has emerged in some circles. Its proponents have asserted that “in the aftermath of controversial and heavily publicized incidents of police use of force against people of color, particularly Black Americans, the police have pulled back from proactive enforcement strategies that can reduce crime, including making arrests and stopping and questioning suspicious people on the street.”246

Author Heather MacDonald, a leading commentator and writer with the conservative Manhattan Institute, dubbed this police pull-back theory the “Ferguson Effect” after the mass protests against police violence that emerged there after Michael Brown was killed. This viewpoint aligns with long-held beliefs about policing from the Manhattan Institute, which advocated for aggressive “broken windows” policing in the 1990s, and in 1996 published a warning about a coming crime wave of “juvenile super predators” in the inner city.247 MacDonald claimed that:

Officers continue to rush to crime scenes after someone has already been victimized, sometimes getting shot at in the process. But in that large area of discretionary policing that aims to prevent crime before it occurs—getting out of a squad car at 1 a.m., for example, to question someone who appears to have a gun or may be casing a target—many officers are deciding to drive on by rather than risk a volatile, potentially career-ending confrontation that they are under no obligation to instigate.248

She and others have also more explicitly blamed the Black Lives Matter movement, the Obama Justice Department, and civil liberties organizations for placing officers under increased public or legal scrutiny and, allegedly, discouraging proactive policing.  

After targeted mass shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the theme of restoration of law and order—and support for the police—also became a central rhetorical focus for President Trump.249 The Trump administration echoed these Ferguson Effect theory talking points in word and action. Other officials across the partisan spectrum have echoed them too—including former Democratic mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, who claimed that amid public scrutiny, police officers “went fetal,” made fewer stops and arrests, and emboldened people to commit shootings.250  

In the cities where gun violence spiked most, like Chicago, there was little mystery or disagreement about when recent homicide spikes began. An examination of Chicago crime data by data analysts with FiveThirtyEight demonstrated clearly that the “severe spike in gun violence Chicago is experiencing can be dated to the release of the video in the Laquan McDonald case,” showing a police officer shooting a 17-year-old armed with a knife 16 times as he was walking away from officers.251 The same crime data analysis also showed that Chicago saw a drop in arrests for homicides and nonfatal shootings almost immediately after the video’s release. From 2014 to 2016, the number of homicides in the city increased by 85% while the percentage of homicides cleared by the police department fell by nearly half (from 50% to 29%).252   

The Ferguson Effect theory’s proponents claim that this decrease in arrests occurred because Chicago police officers became demoralized or hesitant to initiate encounters after the video’s release, allowing the city to descend unchecked into lawlessness.  

But the evidence indicates that the drop in arrests for shootings and murders and the spikes in violence seen in Chicago and many other major cities occurred not because dedicated officers systematically “went fetal” and stopped leaving their cars but because of the Jude Effect. Important segments of the community likely stopped relying on police for help and participating as witnesses in homicide and gun violence cases, which drove declines in law enforcement officers’ effectiveness and activity and encouraged some residents to resort to vigilante justice instead.  

In its January 2017 investigatory report on the Chicago Police Department, the US Justice Department similarly observed that the Laquan MacDonald shooting “was widely viewed as a tipping point—igniting longstanding concerns about [Chicago Police Department] officers’ use of force, and the City’s systems for detecting and correcting the unlawful use of force.”253 The report concluded that “trust had been broken” between the Police Department and the community and that this “breach in trust has in turn eroded [the Department’s] ability to effectively prevent crime.”254 

Proponents of the Ferguson Effect theory ignore just how concentrated and unchecked most community violence typically is, and how important community trust and participation are to effectively deterring that violence. As the president of the Center for Policing Equity explained, “If you believe not having police doing proactive stops in neighborhoods leads to immediate upticks in violent crime, that suggests that the people who live in that neighborhood are just waiting to commit acts of violence until they’re not being watched by the hall monitors that wear badges and guns.”255 In reality, in most cities, shootings are perpetrated by a tiny portion of the population, and the vast majority of those shootings typically go unpunished and undeterred, not because law enforcement officers are absent from the community but because they are not trusted to protect human life or effectively bring violent perpetrators to justice.256 

And as the Jude Effect study showed, when community trust diminishes further, witness tips and testimony can decline even more, homicide investigations suffer, and a desperate few turn toward vigilante justice, sparking cycles of violence and distrust. 

The Police Executive Research Forum observed in a comprehensive review of Chicago homicide investigations in 2019, “The absence of strong relationships of trust between the [Chicago Police Department] and residents in some communities makes it challenging for the [police] to obtain cooperation from the public in solving crimes, including homicides,” and that failure to successfully investigate homicides and nonfatal shootings in particular leads to missed opportunities to prevent and deter retaliatory violence.257 The US Justice Department’s 2017 report similarly noted that Chicago’s homicide clearance rate had precipitously declined after the Laquan MacDonald shooting, and found “broad consensus . . . that increasing community trust and confidence in [the Chicago Police Department] is necessary for [the Department] to be able to clear more homicides,” while emphasizing that doing so would be “an important factor in preventing future homicides” and promoting safety.258  

In short, it is the trust gap that in large part drove spikes in gun violence in Chicago and many other cities after 2014. This was the conclusion made by the National Institute of Justice, the research and evaluation arm of the US Justice Department, which wrote in 2017 that evidence for the Ferguson Effect was “ambiguous at best.”259 A 2018 Congressional Research Service report similarly found “little evidence of a link between de-policing and increases in violent crime,” in examining the Ferguson Effect theory.260 

The Ferguson Effect theory’s proponents looked at the right data, timing, and inflection points, and drew the wrong conclusions. 

Trust, Violence, and Justice in Ferguson

Perhaps nothing illuminates why the Ferguson Effect theory is wrong better than Ferguson itself.

In 2015, the US Justice Department published the results of its investigation into the Ferguson Police Department. The report detailed a pattern of disturbing and illegal policing practices that had made the residents of Ferguson, like so many other communities, deeply distrustful of, and often disengaged from, their police force long before Michael Brown was killed.261 The Justice Department found that Ferguson officials had repeatedly pressured the Ferguson Police Department to issue more arrests, tickets, and fines to city residents—not for any public safety purpose but to generate more revenue for the city. Police officers at all levels told investigators that “the pressure was unrelenting” to stop, cite, and arrest more people to raise cash.262  

The results were staggering: In 2013 alone, courts and law enforcement officers issued 33,000 arrest warrants in Ferguson, a city of just 21,000 people.263 This was policing for profit.264 Most of these arrest warrants were for traffic violations,265 and nearly all were issued to people of color. Black Americans made up 11% of Ferguson’s police force,266 67% of Ferguson’s population, and 90% of people issued citations by the Ferguson police.267   

For any community, this sort of pervasive and unconstitutional policing would be unfair, infuriating, and costly. But for Ferguson’s poorest residents, this sort of policing could turn minor offenses into devastating criminal matters. In one case, a Black woman illegally parked her car and received two citations, along with a fine for $151. The woman, who was poor and occasionally homeless, struggled to pay.

Over the next seven years, she was charged seven times for failure to appear in court and to pay. She spent six days in jail, was arrested twice, and paid a total of $550—all because she parked illegally once.268 Court records show that she twice attempted to make partial payments of $25 and $50, but the court returned those payments, refusing to accept anything less than payment in full. Seven years later, she still owed $541 in late fees—despite initially owing only $151 and having already paid $550.269  

The Justice Department also documented “many instances in which [Ferguson’s Police Department] had imposed unnecessary negative consequences” on people who reached out to them for help,270 including “many instances in which [Ferguson] officers arrested individuals who sought to care for loved ones who had been hurt,” as well as multiple instances in which officers ticketed domestic violence victims who called them for help.271

Meanwhile, Ferguson’s police chief complained to investigators that his officers “couldn’t get cooperating witnesses” from large portions of the community. Unsurprisingly, the Justice Department confirmed that many Ferguson residents were in fact “reluctant to report being victims of crime or to cooperate with police.”((Id. at 81.) Public safety—and Ferguson police officers themselves—suffered as a result. The Justice Department concluded that “as a consequence of these practices, law enforcement [in Ferguson] is seen as illegitimate, and the partnerships necessary for public safety are, in some areas, entirely absent.”272  

Much of the ensuing public discussion about Ferguson would focus on debates about the individual judgments, biases, and conduct of one officer and one civilian. But Ferguson’s leaders, like many others across the country, had long failed to appreciate the fundamental importance of community trust and procedural justice as foundational principles for policing. And in failing to do so, they also failed to justly and effectively deliver public safety to tens of thousands of Americans who deserve fair treatment and equal protection under the law. 

Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ferguson is no anomaly. Justice Department investigations of a number of cities, including Cleveland (December 2014), Baltimore (April 2016), and Chicago (January 2017) uncovered pervasive patterns of unconstitutional policing practices that undermined community trust and safety.273 These included widespread stops and searches of young people of color without reasonable suspicion; policies encouraging officers to make frequent arrests for minor offenses; aggressive tactics that unnecessarily escalated tensions and endangered residents; excessive use of force, especially on mentally ill people and in predominantly Black neighborhoods; and lack of accountability when unlawful or inappropriate practices were brought to light.274 Each of the Justice Department’s investigatory reports about these cities emphasized the damage these practices inflicted on community trust and engagement, and on law enforcement’s ability to effectively prevent violence as a result.

The Justice Department’s investigation into the Chicago Police Department (CPD), for instance, noted that “trust and effectiveness in combating violent crime are inextricably intertwined,” and concluded that “It is imperative that the City rebuild trust between CPD and the people it serves, particularly in [neighborhoods “disproportionately ravaged” by gun violence].”275 The Justice Department’s report into the Cleveland Police Department similarly found that the police force “too often policed in a way that contributes to community distrust and a lack of respect for officers – even the many officers who are doing their jobs effectively.”276 The report concluded that “this level of distrust between the police and the community interferes with [the Department’s] ability to work with the various communities it serves to effectively fight crime and ensure the safety of the people of Cleveland.”277 These Justice Department investigations led to substantive policy changes in some places.  

After the Justice Department’s damning report on Ferguson, for instance, the State of Missouri initiated legislative policy changes to discourage agencies from relying on traffic stops as a means of generating municipal revenue. Researchers subsequently found that those policy changes made some difference: As a whole, Missouri law enforcement agencies started making fewer traffic stops, especially in cities with larger Black populations, and their “hit rates” from those traffic stops increased, suggesting that officers were making better targeted stops more likely to uncover contraband in drivers’ vehicles.278 Importantly, researchers found that these “changes in police behavior were neither statistically nor substantively related to changes in crime rates,” and that—contrary to Ferguson Effect theory talking points—any “pullback in police activity had not led to more crime.”279  

Other cities more significantly curtailed mass misdemeanor arrest or stop-and-frisk policing practices over this period. Some, including Chicago, began doing so before spikes in violence began,280 others after. Some also bucked national trends and became notably safer: for instance, from 2011 to 2018, the New York City Police Department reduced its number of stop-and-frisk encounters by more than 98%281 and from 2013 to 2019, reduced its number of arrests for low-level offenses (such as substance use, sex work, loitering, etc.) by 62%.282

New York reinvested some of the funding it previously allocated to these mass suppression approaches in targeted community-based violence intervention efforts, focused gun crime units, and community policing efforts instead.283 Contrary to many alarmist warnings about the consequences of this police “pull-back,”284 felony and misdemeanor crime rates fell, and in 2018, New York City achieved a nearly 70-year record low homicide rate,285 while the NYPD cleared nearly 90% of homicides.286   

Overall, most of the nation’s largest 100 cities reduced arrests for low-level offenses between 2013 and 2019.287 Data analysis published by FiveThirtyEight in 2021 compared crime trends in those cities that saw the largest reductions in low-level arrests, compared to cities where law enforcement increased low-level arrests during the same period. Crucially, this analysis found that cities that made at least 50% fewer low-level arrests saw larger reductions in overall crime, smaller increases in homicide, and significant reductions in police shootings.288 By comparison, cities that increased low-level arrests over the same period saw more violent crime, larger homicide spikes, and significantly more police-involved shootings.289   

These cities’ progress helps to show why the overall volume of law enforcement stops and arrests is often a very poor proxy for officers’ “proactivity” in stopping violent crime. After all, “two-thirds of all arrests reported by law enforcement nationwide in 2019 were for low-level offenses, which include loitering, disorderly conduct, substance use, sex work and other offenses that are not crimes against people or property;” law enforcement agencies nationwide reported making 12 times as many arrests for these essentially victimless crimes as they made for all violent crimes combined.290

As stated above, US law enforcement agencies arrest more people just for possessing personal quantities of marijuana than for all violent crimes combined,291 and recent analyses estimate that on average, officers in urban police departments spend less than 1% of their time responding to homicides and shootings.292 ​​If a law enforcement agency shifts its focus and resources away from mass arrests for low-level offenses to more proactively focus on solving and preventing shootings and murders, it may see a steep drop in overall arrest activity even while officers are spending much more time focused on violence prevention, homicide accountability, and safety. 

While a variety of factors likely contributed to America’s recent spikes in gun violence, a broad national police pullback is not the cause. Instead, many communities struggling with long-simmering crises of confidence in law enforcement witnessed spikes in violence after high-profile police misconduct further weakened community trust. Communities like Ferguson that have long felt brutally over-policed and under-protected were particularly susceptible to this trend.  

To build earned community trust and reverse these deadly cycles, our leaders and law enforcement must undertake concrete efforts, like those discussed in the following chapters, to intentionally build trust, strengthen systems of oversight and accountability for law enforcement agencies, and refocus law enforcement practices around effectively protecting human life and deterring violence.

Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/ Corbis via Getty Images

Pathways to Progress

Debates about policing often ask Americans to choose between policing that is just and accountable and policing that is proactive and effective. As the Urban Institute describes, proponents of this narrative “have set up an implicit trade-off: communities can demand police accountability, but only at the cost of increased crime and reduced safety.”293

These choices are false and dangerously counterproductive, especially when it comes to stopping serious violent crimes. Police departments and community leaders across the country have instead demonstrated that community-oriented, relational policing—policing that is perceived as procedurally just, accountable, and responsive to community needs and priorities—is key to earning public trust, gaining information and active cooperation necessary to protect the public, and preventing cycles of retributive shootings. Law enforcement agencies that prioritize efforts to earn the public’s trust and cooperation are more effective at protecting both the community they serve and the officers they employ. 

Transforming Law Enforcement Culture and Practices: Camden Offers an Alternative

In December 2014, President Obama signed an executive order to create a national blue-ribbon Task Force on 21st Century Policing. He called on the task force to study best practices from cities and police forces around the nation and to make concrete recommendations for how police departments could “promote effective crime reduction while building public trust.” After months of hearings and testimony from community members, crime experts, researchers, police chiefs, unions, frontline officers, mayors, and civil rights advocates, the task force released its comprehensive final report in May 2015. 

The task force’s final report started with the word “trust” and ended with “respect.” In between were 156 specific recommendations and action items for achieving more transparent, just, and effective policing in America.294 The task force identified “building trust and nurturing legitimacy on both sides of the police/citizen divide” as the first pillar and foundational principle underlying effective modern policing, and offered practical recommendations for agencies seeking to build mutual trust. The International Association of Chiefs of Police called the report “one of the most significant documents for law enforcement in modern history,”295 and other leading organizations followed suit in endorsing its principles and recommendations.296  

Many of the report’s recommendations were based on lessons learned from the promising transformation underway in Camden, New Jersey, which has shown how transformational progress can be made in a relatively short period of time. In May 2015, President Obama visited Camden to call national attention to the city’s progress. He acknowledged that “just a few years ago, [Camden] was written off as dangerous beyond redemption—a city trapped in a downward spiral.”297  

Formerly a prosperous manufacturing town across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Camden had become one of the most distressed communities in America by the early 21st century, buffeted by the loss of manufacturing jobs, white flight and segregation, endless public corruption scandals, police violence, community violence, and crime.298 In 2012, Camden had the fourth-highest poverty rate of any city in America,299 as well as the nation’s fifth-highest homicide rate; someone was shot in the city of roughly 77,000 every 33 hours, on average.300

In a 2012 news story, an NPR reporter reported that “memorials to shooting victims are the landscape of Camden—clumps of candles, stuffed animals, liquor bottles. They’re displayed on front steps, at the side of houses, on empty lots.”301 The NPR report described how “many residents spend their days holed up in their homes” to stay safe, “often behind iron bars that extend from first-floor rooftops all the way to the ground.”302 An NBC News headline in 2013 asked simply: “What’s the Matter With Camden?”303  

After severe budget cuts required the city to lay off half its police officers in 2013, the city chose to disband and reconstitute its police department as a new county police force.304 Under the direction of former Police Chief J. Scott Thomson, the new Camden County Police Department undertook a concerted, “revolutionary” effort to infuse community policing and trust building efforts throughout all of its officers’ work.305 A neighboring city’s police chief described Camden’s changes as “a disaster waiting to happen.”306 But Chief Thomson viewed the 2013 overhaul as an opportunity for his agency to “hit the reset button” with the community.307 

That reset helped spur real change. By the time President Obama visited in May 2015, about two years later, violent crime in Camden had fallen by 24% and homicides had been cut nearly in half.308  

Camden’s police department made multiple practical changes to its departmental policies, priorities, and organizational structures. But these changes were only possible and effective because Camden’s police force recognized the need to make a fundamental shift in its approach with the community it served. 

The leadership of the new Camden County Police Department embraced a view of law enforcement as guardians and partners in community wellbeing, instead of warriors against law-breakers.309 This shift required a recognition that the status quo had been failing Camden’s families and police officers for years, and a willingness to do the hard work of building trust where there had been little to none before. Importantly, Camden also worked to implement this strategic shift across the entire force, rather than in siloed special units. As Chief Thomson told the Task Force on 21st Century Policing:

Community policing cannot be a program, unit, strategy or tactic. It must be the core principle that lies at the foundation of a police department’s culture. The only way to significantly reduce fear, crime, and disorder and then sustain these gains is to leverage the greatest force multiplier: the people of the community.310

Chief Thomson directed officers to seek out positive interactions with community members to proactively change the community’s perceptions of the police force. For instance, he required officers to routinely patrol high-crime neighborhoods on foot and knock on doors to introduce themselves to build a foundation of familiarity and trust before there was any crime or crisis occurring.311 Chief Thomson explained:

We may not be responsible for [historical examples of police brutality and abuse], but we are responsible to it—as an organization, as an institution. And those memories are still very fresh in people’s minds. And that’s what this uniform sometimes represents, and the only way we’re going to be able to change that experience and that opinion is to offer new experiences, to shape new opinions, and that can only be done through human contact.312 

Frontline officers were trained to prioritize these relationships as an essential part of effective police work and began to integrate community policing principles in their training.313 And this training—especially of law enforcement, by law enforcement—helped officers understand the critical role that community-oriented policing plays in effective police work. One Camden police sergeant summarized this training by explaining: “We’re only as good as our community allows us to be. Without them making the phone call, without them talking to the walking beat officer, we can’t be an effective police department.”314

To build trust with the community, the Camden County Police Department had to re-examine some of its longstanding priorities and redefine some of its metrics of success. The New York Times reported that Chief Thomson periodically asked for information about which of his officers had issued the highest number of tickets and arrests over the past few months—not, as in some other departments, as a measure of officers’ productivity, but instead to determine whether those officers should have chosen to provide some individuals with a warning instead.315 Chief Thomson noted that “handing a $250 ticket to someone who is making $13,000 a year”— around Camden’s per capita income—“can be life altering.”316The New York Times called this approach the “Hippocratic ethos of policing: Minimize harm, and try to save lives.”317

Building trust also required the Camden Police Department to re-examine its policies and culture around use of force. Camden police received significant new training around de-escalating conflict,318 and the department established a new use of force policy created by the Police Executive Research Forum, which directs officers to incorporate harm reduction strategies into their work so that force, and especially fatal force, is used as a last resort.319 (Notably, both the local American Civil Liberties Union and local police unions embraced this higher standard.)320

The department tied this policy shift to broader departmental culture changes, and made materials available to the public in which it proclaimed that “the Camden County Police Department has established an Ethical Protector culture wherein the sanctity of life is our highest priority”321 and declared that “our officers live and work by the credo: Service Before Self.”322   

The evidence suggests that these shifts in policing policy and culture led to real substantive changes in the ways in which officers actually performed their difficult, often dangerous jobs in practice. In the span of a few years, the number of civilian complaints filed against Camden police officers regarding use of force plummeted.323  

In the years since President Obama visited Camden to hold the city up as a promising model for 21st-century policing, Camden has continued to make even more substantial progress. The number of homicides in Camden fell by two-thirds between 2012 and 2018, down to a three-decade low, even as many other cities across the country experienced significant spikes in violence.324 Decades earlier, a Camden cathedral had begun a tradition of lighting one candle on New Year’s Eve for each person the city lost to homicide that year.325 In 2012, the cathedral was lit up with 67 candles.326 By the end of 2018, there were 22 candles to light.327

This reduction held steady through 2019 and 2020, in which Camden experienced 25 and 23 homicides respectively, even as the rest of the nation and many other New Jersey cities saw record spikes in shootings and murders.328 2020 also marked Camden’s lowest crime rate in over 50 years,329 and the police department achieved its highest ever homicide clearance rate to date (91.3%),330 up from the 25–34% homicide clearance rates Camden police had reported from 2011 to 2013.331 

This progress also occurred as nonfatal shootings and other violent crimes dropped,332 and news reports documented other, less easily quantifiable signs of progress: Camden residents told reporters about letting their children play outside for the first time,333 and the city’s Little League ballooned in size334 as residents began to reclaim public spaces and feel safer in their community. 

“You can see it already with the younger kids in the city,” said Rick Kunkel, the president of the union that represents Camden County police officers. “There isn’t the us-against-them mentality there used to be.”335

There is undeniably still much more work to be done. Chief Thomson himself said “he would qualify [Camden’s] statistics as progress and not success.”336 Even after its remarkable improvements, the city still suffers high rates of fatal shootings,337 its police department still uses force at a higher rate than most other agencies in the state,338 and community trust building efforts are a sometimes uneven work in progress.339

It should also be noted that other factors contributed to Camden’s progress (or at least helped make conditions for improvement possible), including New Jersey’s strong gun safety laws, efforts to raze empty buildings that had become hot spots for illegal conduct, and the tireless work of community-based violence intervention groups like Cure4Camden to connect would-be shooters with violence interrupters, support, and pathways to peace.340  

But Camden’s progress is a vital testament to the fact that when there is a will to build community trust, progress is possible. In the past few years, many Camden residents have begun to gain a degree of peace and safety, and a freedom to enjoy public spaces, that had been unknown in their community for at least a generation. This was not the result of a police department “getting tougher” in its rhetoric or tactics or doubling down on mass arrest and incarceration, but rather because of an intentional effort to transform the ways in which the police department conducted its daily work, fostered increased trust and engagement, and co-produced public safety with a community demanding both justice and safety.

AP Photo/Geoff Mulvihill

Like Camden, other cities have also initiated important efforts to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing by reforming and refocusing law enforcement policies and practices to prevent harm and build trust. Stockton, California, for instance, launched a reform program focused on building trust and justice in policing supported by federal grant funding.

In just two years, independent evaluators documented substantial gains in residents’ reported perceptions of police legitimacy, willingness to actively partner with their police, and views about officers’ commitment to procedural justice, alongside improvements in residents’ perceptions of neighborhood safety, the frequency of violence in their community, and reports of knowing someone who had been the victim of violence within the previous year.

Stockton’s police chief, Eric Jones, was appointed to lead the police department in 2012, the year Stockton became the largest city in US history to file for bankruptcy.341 Stockton’s violent crime and unemployment rates both ranked among the 10 worst in the country,342 and Forbes and the PBS NewsHour ran stories profiling Stockton as America’s “Most Miserable City.”343 

But over time, efforts led by Chief Jones in partnership with other community leaders to reset trust and engagement with his community helped the city make significant progress against violence. In 2016, Chief Jones appeared at a large gathering at a predominantly Black church to acknowledge his and other departments’ historic and current failures, and the disparate impact of arrests and shootings on communities of color. He told the audience, “We will never impact violent crime the way we need to if we’re not gaining community trust in the work we’re doing. It makes our job safer, we solve more crime, and we are legitimate and credible in the eyes of the community.”344  

Stockton established a community advisory board to inform policing policies, and Chief Jones and the city manager embarked on a sustained community listening tour, which now occurs about once a week and involves more officers. The Stockton Police Department started to change some of its policies and practices based on the community input it received in those sessions.345 The department began evaluating officers based on their understanding of procedural justice practices, mandated that officers receive annual mental health training, and leveraged the police chief’s Community Advisory Board to help translate listening sessions into other actionable policy goals.346  

Chief Jones explained that one small but important shift that his department made in response to these listening sessions was to direct officers to routinely follow up with homicide victims’ families.347 Before, victims’ family members usually had to reach out to the police department if they had information. Now, officers routinely call victims’ family members to check in and stay connected.348 This builds human connection with grieving residents and creates more natural opportunities for witnesses to share information.

The Stockton Police Department also started sending “neighborhood impact teams” of chaplains and officers into communities the day after a homicide or other traumatic event to knock on doors and talk to residents. A department spokesman told the New York Times that “in addition to improving relations, such outreach has led to tips from residents who didn’t want to be seen coming up to an officer at a crime scene.”349 

Both the community and law enforcement have become safer as a result. Homicides and shootings have gone down; homicide clearance rates improved,350 nearly doubling between 2016 and 2018 alone (up from 27% to 52% of homicides cleared).351 In a 2019 interview with The Trace, Chief Jones explained how his own views about policing and public safety had evolved:

I started working for the Stockton Police Department in the early 1990s as a beat cop and then I just worked my way up over time. I was one of those officers that was out there making as many arrests as I could. That’s just what we’re supposed to do, what our supervisors and commanders were directing us to do—it was a measurement of success in our department and police departments all over the place. I did often wonder, “Does this really make the most sense?”

Community members say, if we’re not comfortable coming to the police, street justice prevails. More than ever, I see trust in police connected to reducing violent crime. Last year we had a big reduction in both homicides and nonfatal shootings. Anonymous tips are up; more people are providing information to the police. We’re solving more cases. . . And when trust goes up it’s safer for the officers going into neighborhoods, because there’s less animosity and confrontation.352 

The City of Stockton supported these gains by launching a city office of violence prevention and investing in non-law enforcement street outreach and community safety professionals trained to engage people at highest risk of violence, especially young men connected to cycles of retributive violence and trauma. After Stockton experienced a peak of 71 homicides in 2012 and an average of 51 homicides per year from 2015-2017, Stockton’s homicides fell to 33 and 34 per year in 2018 and 2019.353 

While communities like Camden and Stockton face enormous interwoven challenges, including racism, poverty, disinvestment, and brutal histories of over-policing and under-protection, they have shown that proactive efforts to modernize and shift policing paradigms can create virtuous cycles, in which agencies begin to build some measure of community trust and reverse downward spirals of disengagement and violence quickly. While building this trust takes a concerted, department-wide and community-wide effort, leaders dedicated to the task have clear blueprints for progress.

Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Refocusing Public Safety Resources Around Preventing Community Violence: The Group Violence Intervention Strategy

In some cities, law enforcement agencies have been able to leverage and cement gains in community trust by implementing initiatives, like the “group violence intervention” strategy, which actively refocus law enforcement resources around the prevention of lethal violence and protection of people at highest risk. To be effective, this strategy relies on a threshold level of community trust and a genuine, robust partnership between law enforcement, community leaders, and service providers.

In multiple previous reports, Giffords Law Center and our partners have documented how the group violence intervention strategy has helped to achieve enormous reductions in shootings and homicides in multiple cities.354  When violence intervention experts compared more than 1,400 individual studies of crime-reduction strategies in 2016, they identified group violence intervention as having “the strongest and most consistent anti-violence effects.”355

Based on multiple studies and evaluations, the US Justice Department has also awarded this strategy the highest possible effectiveness rating in its review of crime prevention strategies.356 As one expert wrote: this strategy “does not work perfectly, it does not work every time, but it works better, on average, than anything else out there, decreasing homicides and assaults by as much as 30 to 50 percent.”357 

To implement this strategy effectively, police departments must partner closely with credible community leaders and service providers to jointly convene “call-ins” with a relatively small number of individuals identified as having the highest risk of becoming a victim and/or perpetrator of violence in the near future. These individuals are typically young men involved with street groups, who often have extensive histories of violent victimization, trauma, and contact with the criminal justice system. In other words, they are often fearful of violence and distrustful of the police, yet interested in opportunities to become safer.

At the call-ins, people representing the community’s moral voice communicate a strong demand for the shooting to stop and give an explanation about how violence has affected their families and community. Parents who lost their children to violence are often the most effective voices, along with former group members who often lost friends to violence. 

Social service providers then present plans to connect high-risk individuals with social services, ranging from trauma counseling, mediation, and peer coaching to job training and relocation assistance to help people at risk of being shot find temporary housing away from a dangerous situation. These providers offer genuine support and interventions to promote pathways to peace and healing for the often desperate young men at highest risk of both perpetrating and being victimized by violence.

And finally, law enforcement officers often deliver a respectful notification regarding the legal risks individuals may face if the community’s plea for peace is ignored. Because most shootings and murders do not lead to arrests in many communities, this notification or promise of accountability can have a new focused deterrent effect on people involved in cycles of violence.

By working to engage with the community around a targeted effort to prevent the most serious crime imaginable, law enforcement agencies can demonstrate that they are responsive to community concerns and begin to build more trust.  

As criminologist Dr. Anthony Braga explains, “In the eyes of community members, there is an inherent fairness in offering targeted offenders a choice and providing resources to support their transition away from violent behavior.”358 By building police legitimacy and decreasing violence, these efforts can create a positive feedback loop of increased community engagement, increased law enforcement effectiveness, decreased vigilante violence, and lives saved.

To build this trust and achieve lasting reductions in violence, however, this strategy requires that police departments genuinely commit to prevention, protection, and partnerships to give people at highest risk real alternatives to group violence and to signal to all community members that this strategy is not just another harmful mass arrest and incarceration approach.

The most effective violence reduction initiatives have combined group violence intervention and trust-building efforts with concerted, sustained community outreach by peer counselors and violence interrupters who are trained to reach and heal individuals at high risk of violence, including those who may be too estranged or distrustful to be reached through call-ins with law enforcement.359 The gun violence prevention movement can play an important role in advocating for these reforms and encouraging law enforcement agencies to meaningfully prioritize the community trust building efforts and partnerships essential to its success. 

Refocusing Public Safety Resources Around Preventing Community Violence: Investing in Community-Based Violence Intervention

Policymakers must also recognize that non-law-enforcement community safety professionals are essential partners in reaching, healing, and protecting the relatively small portion of the population at highest risk of gun violence, especially those who have been victims of community violence and related traumas and are deeply alienated from law enforcement and the justice system. Independent evaluations of Los Angeles’s “Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD)” program, for instance, found that gang violence incidents were 41% less likely to result in retaliatory violence in cases where GRYD violence intervention specialists were part of the city’s crisis response, compared to cases where LAPD officers responded alone.360 

Effective community-based violence intervention programs typically employ professionals who are culturally competent, credible messengers trained to promote at-risk people’s safety and disrupt cycles of retaliatory violence. The professionals who lead this work usually share their clients’ cultural and neighborhood background and are uniquely effective at building the trusted relationship necessary to reach and heal a population that typically does not receive traditional mental health care or support after experiencing repeat traumas and violence.

These violence intervention professionals may provide a range of services including crisis response to shootings and homicides, trauma-informed mentoring and behavioral therapy for traumatized victims of violence, rumor control and conflict mediation to prevent retaliatory shootings, peer support, intensive case management and wraparound services, job training opportunities, and notification and relocation assistance to help people at highest risk avoid imminent threats on their lives.

For more detailed information about these community violence intervention programs and their critical successes, see our comprehensive policy and research reports on this topic, including:

Giffords has proudly partnered with broad coalitions of allies to draft, pass, and implement legislation in multiple states to expand and replicate successful community violence intervention efforts and to ensure that public health and safety dollars are spent more justly and effectively on evidence-based initiatives that are laser-focused on protecting the people and places at highest risk of violence.361

For example, Giffords helped lead a coalition of organizations and advocates that successfully advocated for the creation of the California Violence Intervention and Prevention (CalVIP) competitive grant program and passage of the California Break the Cycle of Violence Act to codify strong requirements that this grant funding be used on effective community-based programs that do not contribute to mass incarceration. In 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom launched an historic $227 million investment in these efforts over three years, up from just $9 million statewide in 2020.362 In recent years, multiple other states have similarly committed to meaningful new investments in similar community-based approaches to public safety.

Building on these state-level efforts, Giffords also worked closely with a coalition of partners to develop the federal Break the Cycle of Violence Act, which would launch a national competitive grant program investing $5 billion over eight years in the most effective community-based violence reduction initiatives in communities with the greatest need.363 Versions of this legislation were introduced in Congress in October 2019 and June 2021 by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Steven Horsford (D-NV) with the support of Giffords, the National Black and Brown Gun Violence Prevention Consortium, Faith in Action, the African American Mayors Association, Amnesty International, the American Public Health Association, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Cure Violence, the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention, and the National Network for Safe Communities, and others.

In his book, Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence—And a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets, Harvard Senior Research Fellow Thomas Abt estimated that even a smaller $800 million investment in these violence reduction initiatives, combined with community trust-building efforts, could save over 12,000 lives in eight years alone.364 This legislation would, if passed, represent the nation’s most significant effort to date to address the national crisis of homicides of young Black and Latino men and boys in particular.

These investments in community-based prevention are not an alternative to reforming policing practices and priorities; just the opposite. They are both essential to creating the conditions for a just and durable community safety. Persistent community violence and unsolved homicides and shootings are both a cause and effect of community distrust and alienation from law enforcement.

Leveraging Civil Rights Law to Support Oversight and Reform

Leaders who have dedicated time and effort to building trust between their communities and law enforcement have demonstrated that significant, lifesaving progress can be made in a short period of time. This progress requires buy-in from numerous stakeholders and a sustained commitment to evidence-based policing, community engagement, and to fixing what isn’t working.  

As this report has described, some law enforcement agencies have taken a proactive role in initiating change, refocusing priorities and policies, and intentionally resetting their relationship with the communities they serve. In others, community leaders have compelled local departments to shift their policies and priorities in order to build trust and reduce violence. And in some, the US Justice Department has played an integral role in facilitating or compelling trust-building reforms.

Federal civil rights law can serve as a powerful tool for change. Since 1994, federal law has empowered the Justice Department to investigate and sue local police departments to eliminate any large-scale “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional conduct.365 In cases when law enforcement agencies have been unresponsive to repeated allegations of civil rights abuses, such as excessive use of force, racially biased policing, revenue-driven policing, and other constitutional violations, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has the power to open an investigation; consult with officers, community members, and local officials; observe and document officer activities; make a determination as to whether there is in fact a systemic pattern of unconstitutional conduct; and release a report of its findings.

In cases where the Justice Department finds a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct, it may seek to reach agreements, either in or out of court, with the local agency about how they will implement changes necessary to correct those patterns of unconstitutional behavior.  Sometimes, the Justice Department and local agency will negotiate a binding settlement agreement called a “consent decree” that is enforced by a judge and details an agreed-upon timeline for reform.  

While this process can sometimes be adversarial or lengthy, court-enforced federal oversight has helped to spur trust-building efforts in cities like Ferguson, where ineffective and abusive policing practices had become institutionalized in law enforcement practices for years.  

These consent decrees can also help local agencies build trust with their community in a short period of time. In Seattle, the Justice Department documented a pattern and practice of unconstitutional use of force by the police department, and in 2012, entered a court-enforced consent decree to eliminate that practice. Seattle’s consent decree required the city’s police department to work with community representatives to revamp its use-of-force policies; retrain officers; establish new de-escalation tactics for interacting with mentally ill individuals; and modernize procedures for reporting, investigating, and reviewing incidents in which officers used force.366

Fewer than three years later, the independent monitor appointed by the court to oversee the Seattle consent decree concluded that Seattle had largely complied with its reform requirements, and found that “the results have been impressive,” as “public trust in the Seattle Police Department has steadily increased.”367 After the police department implemented new training and reform requirements, the number of incidents in which officers used “moderate to severe force” against civilians dropped by 60%.368

Results from an anonymous survey found that 1% of Black and Latinx residents in Seattle said they had been victims of excessive force in 2015, compared to 5% and 9%, respectively, just two years earlier.369 Meanwhile, an independent polling company found notable gains in public approval for the police department among Seattle residents across every race and ethnicity; polling showed especially large increases in approval among Black residents (rising from 49% approval in 2013 to 62% in 2016) and Latinx residents (rising from 54% to 74%).370  

The court-appointed monitor also observed that this “expanded community confidence appears to be inspiring more cooperation with the police in solving crime and addressing neighborhood problems.”371 Even as many other cities were experiencing a significant spike in distrust and violence over the same period, the Seattle Police Department steadily increased its homicide clearance rate from 33% of homicides in 2013 to 67-69% of homicides in 2016 to 2018.372    

In Newark, New Jersey, a similar Justice Department consent decree process has helped foster significant improvements in community trust and safety. Residents of the historically Black city had been calling for a federal investigation of the city’s police department since 1967.373 In 2011, this decades-long request was granted when the Department of Justice announced it would investigate reports of civil rights violations by the Newark Police Department (NPD).

A year before, the ACLU had documented 400 allegations of police misconduct, including false arrests, unlawful stops and searches, excessive force, discrimination and retaliation, as well as a broken internal affairs system.374 The DOJ investigation following the ACLU’s report uncovered a similar pattern of racially biased and corrupt policing practices and routine violations of citizens’ constitutional rights. DOJ stated that its investigation “found that this pattern of constitutional violations has eroded public confidence in the police” and that “as a result, public safety suffers and the job of delivering police services was more difficult and more dangerous.”375   

Newark and the Justice Department entered into a consent decree in 2016, a formal agreement that required Newark’s Police Department to implement specific comprehensive reforms in 12 identified areas, including revising stop, search, seizure, and use of force policies; expanding officer training regarding bias-free policing and de-escalation; promoting data transparency, consistent accountability standards, and independent civilian oversight;376 and efforts to integrate genuinely collaborative community and problem-oriented policing principles into all aspects of the department’s work in order to “increase cooperation and trust between it and the community.”377 

These policing reforms were reinforced by efforts led by mayor Ras Baraka, as well as other community leaders, to expand the city’s investment in violence prevention and street outreach professionals and to establish a city Office of Violence Prevention to coordinate violence intervention efforts between public agencies and community-based providers.378 The state of New Jersey also invested $20 million of federal grant funding in hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIPs) in impacted communities like Newark, providing targeted support and intervention services for patients treated in hospitals for violent injuries who are identified as high-risk for subsequent victimization or retaliation. 

While undoubtedly a work in progress, these efforts have helped transform policing and community safety quickly. Newark saw steady reductions in overall crime and a more than 50% reduction in violent crimes from 2015 to 2020 alone.379 In 2020, Newark police officers did not fire a single gunshot, owing significantly to reforms implemented pursuant to the DOJ consent decree.380 And while the rest of the nation suffered a record spike in homicides in 2020, including an estimated 23% increase across the state of New Jersey,381 Newark defied these trends and tied its 2019 record for the lowest number of homicides recorded in the city since 1963.382 

Under President Obama, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division obtained consent decrees with 14 out of the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies, including Ferguson, and finalized other oversight and reform agreements with 10 others.383 (The department also concluded investigations of at least six other agencies without finding patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing.)384  

To complement these efforts, in 2011 the Justice Department also launched the Collaborative Reform Initiative, a voluntary alternative to the consent decree process in which “law enforcement agencies facing significant issues that may impact public trust undergo a comprehensive assessment, are provided with recommendations on how to address those issues, and receive technical assistance to implement such recommendations.”385 By the end of 2016, 16 police departments had voluntarily requested to participate in the Collaborative Reform Initiative,386 and an early review of the initiative’s impact concluded that it had “been shown to be a valuable tool for inspiring and accelerating change in many of the departments” and that evidence for “organizational transformation” in those police departments was “abundant.”387  

Despite the success of these initiatives and the need to address declining community trust and homicide clearance rates in many American cities, the Trump administration sharply curtailed federal efforts to investigate, collaborate with, and reform troubled police departments to build community trust, forsaking these powerful tools to inspire and accelerate change.388 As one headline in HuffPost observed, “5 Years After Ferguson, The Justice Department Has All But Ended Federal Police Reform.”389 

Within days of taking office, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled that the Trump administration would scale back federal oversight and support for civil rights investigations and reform efforts. He called police officers “frontline soldiers” in the fight against crime390 and warned that consent decrees could “discourage the proactive policing that keeps our cities safe” and “cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of criminals.”391  

In March 2017, Sessions directed the Justice Department to undertake a comprehensive review of all police reform activities, including any existing or contemplated consent decrees, in order to ensure that they were consistent with new guidelines that, among other things, emphasized the need for “local control and local authority” for “effective local policing.”392 He dismissed the Justice Department’s reports into unconstitutional practices in Ferguson and other cities as “anecdotal,” while conceding that he had not read them.393

By September 2017, the Justice Department had effectively ended the Collaborative Reform Initiative, and blocked release of reports assessing systemic practices contributing to community distrust in cities from North Charleston to Milwaukee.394 Attorney General Sessions’s last formal act in office was to issue a memorandum that all but eliminated the Justice Department’s use of settlement agreements and consent decrees to facilitate police accountability and reform.395 During President Trump’s term, the US Justice Department published just two pattern-or-practice investigations into law enforcement misconduct396 and initiated zero new agreements or consent decrees for policing reform.397 

Critically, in early 2021, the Biden administration took immediate steps to revive the Justice Department’s role in investigating and remedying persistent patterns of unconstitutional policing. President Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, rescinded Sessions’s memo curbing the Justice Department’s use of consent decrees,398 and in the first months of the administration, the Justice Department launched “pattern or practice” civil rights investigations into police departments in Minneapolis and Louisville following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.399 

Multiple states have also recently passed legislation mirroring this federal civil rights law to give their own state attorneys general the authority to investigate patterns or practices of illegal or unconstitutional conduct by public officials including law enforcement agencies, and where appropriate, to seek civil remedies in the courts, like consent decrees, to eliminate substantiated patterns and practices of unlawful conduct.400 These state efforts can help supplement the federal Justice Department’s limited bandwidth, bringing additional tools, relationships, and resources to the task of providing oversight and accountability. 

Passing Comprehensive Policing Reform Legislation

Recognizing the limits of existing federal oversight powers, President Biden has also repeatedly called for passage of The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a comprehensive set of policing reforms that passed the US House of Representatives in June 2020 and again in March 2021.

The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor against a backdrop of longstanding police brutality drove millions of Americans to mobilize in 2020 in what analysts described as the largest protest movement in US history.401 This mass movement called attention to the urgent need to reform law enforcement standards and practices to protect human life and ensure equal accountability under the law. 

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would represent an important step toward strengthening federal systems of accountability for law enforcement misconduct. It provides a set of provisions to strengthen public safety and trust in law enforcement, including, among other things: 

  • Strengthening civil rights oversight tools by granting the US Justice Department, as well as state attorneys general, broader subpoena powers and resources necessary to investigate law enforcement agencies that decline to cooperate with oversight investigations, increasing funding and institutional support for such investigations at various levels, and making it a federal crime to conspire to commit a hate crime or to violate a person’s federally protected rights.
  • Making it somewhat less difficult to prove that an officer violated the federal law against deprivation of legal rights and abuses of power by requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt that an officer “knowingly or recklessly” deprived a person of a legally or constitutionally protected right, instead of “willfully.”
  • Banning racial profiling by law enforcement.
  • Permitting people to bring civil actions against law enforcement agencies and officers for violations of rights protected by state and federal law. (Currently, the doctrine of “qualified immunity” has generally barred individuals from recovering civil damages when law enforcement officers have violated their constitutional rights if court precedent has not yet clearly established the officer’s conduct as unlawful.)
  • Strengthening federal law enforcement officers’ standards for use of force and responsibility to intervene to prevent use of unlawful force by another officer, prohibiting the use of chokeholds and other neck restraints by federal officers, and restricting use of no-knock warrants in federal drug-related enforcement activities.
  • Promoting transparency by requiring states to regularly report to the attorney general on all incidents involving use of force by or against law enforcement, directing the US attorney general to establish a publicly accessible database of records regarding use of force or misconduct by law enforcement, and requiring law enforcement agencies to report data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, age, and gender of all parties involved in traffic stop violations, pedestrian stops, frisk and body searches, and instances of the use of deadly force by or against law enforcement.
  • Conditioning federal public safety grant dollars on state action to establish certification and decertification programs for law enforcement officers based on stronger training, use of force, and misconduct standards; develop policies and procedures to eliminate racial profiling in law enforcement and ensure officers receive specified training regarding racial profiling, implicit bias, and the duty to intervene to prevent excessive force; ensure officers are equipped with and use bodyworn and dashboard cameras; and to pass legislation strengthening use of force standards and restricting use of no-knock warrants in drug cases.
  • Investing federal public safety grant dollars in efforts to support civilian oversight boards to review serious police misconduct allegations, promote training and diverse recruitment, support effective community-oriented policing and community-based strategies and solutions to public safety that do not rely solely or primarily on law enforcement, and review accreditation and training standards for officers.  

As an organization dedicated to the principle that every person deserves to live free from fear of violence—including violence perpetrated by agents of the state—Giffords has endorsed this legislation, as well as similar efforts at the state level. These changes have significant potential to curb egregious and dangerous misconduct, promote accountability, and save lives; if properly implemented, these reforms may help reduce harm and build earned trust between police and the communities they serve, which in turn can help interrupt cycles of community violence. 

Now more than ever, the gun violence prevention movement must continue to make the case, loudly and persuasively, that community trust is a gun violence prevention issue. Law enforcement agencies must be trusted not only to keep people safe but also to redress systemic challenges related to racism and bias, as well as cultures of secrecy and impunity. Local communities and police departments can and should make critical reforms on their own, but state and federal legislation can play a critical role in compelling change.  

Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images


The public conversation around police-community “relations” has often been presented as a series of choices and competing sides. Between justice and safety, between officers’ wellbeing and communities’, between trustworthiness and effectiveness. But these are false choices. 

Research has long shown that communities where law enforcement is perceived to be illegitimate, untrustworthy, and unresponsive have much higher rates of homicide and shootings, even after controlling for other relevant factors. The evidence is also clear that policing is most effective at its most vital task—keeping people safe and alive—when it is performed with a commitment to respect, equity, and transparency and in meaningful partnership with victims, witnesses, and community service providers.

We must recognize that for many Americans, especially in communities of color, policing is failing to deliver community safety and protect human life. It is failing to establish that the law and legal system can be trusted to keep people safe, treat them fairly, and prevent the most serious crimes imaginable—all while it sweeps millions into the legal system for low-level offenses and incentivizes cycles of violent vigilantism. The consequences are dire, exposing young men and boys of color in particular to rates of violence and trauma that are simply unknown in much of the rest of the world. We can and must do better as a nation.

Serious efforts to build this needed community trust in cities around the country must start with a national commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing and congressional action to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. This includes a truly comprehensive, evidence-based reassessment of our policing and criminal justice practices, policies, and priorities, and a commitment to leverage local, state, and federal resources to address the crisis of over-policing and under-protection in communities of color. 

The gun violence prevention movement must continue to make the case, loudly and persuasively, that community trust is a gun violence prevention issue.

Reform efforts must strengthen public safety by promoting accountability, transparency, and trustworthiness from officers of the state entrusted with extraordinary powers and responsibilities. Policing reform must also redress many agencies’ systemic misallocation of time and resources on zealous enforcement of minor infractions at the expense of effective efforts to solve, and protect people from, shootings and homicides. 

Cities and police departments should also engage with experts, advocates, community members, and technical assistance providers to understand how longstanding practices in their own jurisdictions may be contributing to cycles of distrust, disengagement, and violence in their own communities.

Leaders at every level must also work to expand targeted investments in community-based violence intervention and street outreach efforts that work to build trust, interrupt cycles of violence, and protect those at greatest risk. To support and lead those efforts, Congress should pass the Break the Cycle of Violence Act into law to fund a long overdue national initiative to interrupt violence, heal communities in crisis, and make our cities safer and freer for all who call them home.

The gun violence prevention movement must be engaged and informed in these efforts because police shootings are also tragedies of gun violence, and because cycles of distrust are a key driver of cycles of community violence too. Our movement must craft effective gun safety policies that are appropriately targeted, driven by impacted communities’ priorities, and do not contribute to mass incarceration in communities of color.

Cities like Camden show us that when police departments focus on building trust and refocusing their efforts around violence prevention, both law enforcement officers and community members become safer. Reform efforts in Camden and other cities, while undeniably works in progress, remind us that there is a clear path forward for communities long torn apart by distrust, gun violence, over-policing, and under-protection. Better approaches to policing and public safety can more justly and effectively answer all Americans’ basic right to be kept safe from harm. 

  1. As discussed further in Chapter 2, mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that in 2019, firearm homicide was responsible for 48.1% of all deaths among non-Hispanic Black males ages 13 to 19 in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER), “Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2019,” accessed Jul. 15, 2021,[]
  2. Except where the text otherwise indicates, this report uses racial and ethnicity data and classifications provided by the CDC. References to people of white race or ancestry refer to those classified as non-Hispanic Caucasian. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER), “Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2019,” accessed July 15, 2021, 2019 data used.[]
  3. Homicide rates are over three times higher for white males ages 15 to 24 in the United States than they are for 15- to 24-year-old males in other high-income OECD nations. See Erin Grinshteyn and David Hemenway, “Violent death rates in the US compared to those of the other high-income countries, 2015,” Preventive Medicine, Vol. 123 (June 2019): Tables 3 and 5, February 2019, (finding that the average homicide rate for males ages 15 to 24 in other OECD nations in 2015 was 1.2 per 100,000 residents) and CDC Fatal Injury Data for 2015, accessed October 25, 2019, (showing that the homicide rate for white males aged 15–24 in the United States was 3.83 per 100,000 in 2015).[]
  4. CDC WONDER, “Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2017,” accessed November 7, 2019, 2019 data used.[]
  5. Chase Sackett, “Neighborhoods and Violent Crime,” Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Policy Development and Research, Summer 2016,[]
  6. See Jim Walsh, “Police: Camden crime stats improved in 2018,” Cherry Hill Courier-Post, January 4, 2019,[]
  7. Larry Buchanan, et al., “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History,” New York Times, July 3, 2020,[]
  8. Devlin Barrett, “2020 saw an unprecedented spike in homicides from big cities to small towns,” Washington Post, December 30, 2020,[]
  9. Rob Arthur, Jeff Asher, “What drove the Historically Large Murder Spike in 2020?” The Intercept, February 21, 2021,; Daniel Nass, “How Many Guns Did Americans Buy Last Month? We’re Tracking the Sales Boom,” The Trace, updated May 3, 2021,[]
  10. “H.R.7120 – George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020,” US Congress, accessed May 13, 2021,[]
  11. John Sides, “The surprising racial and gender bias in ‘Law and Order’,” Washington Post, January 3, 2017,; Guarav Sood and Daniel Trielli, “The Face of Crime in Prime Time: Evidence from Law and Order,” SSRN, October 22, 2016,[]
  12. See, e.g., Jillian B. Carr and Jennifer L. Doleac, “The geography, incidence, and underreporting of gun violence: new evidence using ShotSpotter data,” Brookings Institution, April 2016,; Lynn Langton, “Special Report: Victimizations Not Reported to the Police, 2006–2010,” US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, August 2012, 5,[]
  13. Wesley Lowery, Kimbriell Kelly, and Steven Rich, “Murder with Impunity: An Unequal Justice,” Washington Post, July 25, 2018,[]
  14. Tom R. Tyler and Jeffrey Fagan, “Legitimacy and Cooperation: Why Do People Help the Police Fight Crime in Their Communities?” Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 6 (2008), 266–267,[]
  15. Jill Leovy, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America (New York: Penguin Random House, 2015), 84.[]
  16. Id. at 85.[]
  17. See, e.g., Thomas K. Hargrove, Rachael Rosselet and Eric W. Witzig, “Are Murders Worth Solving?” Murder Accountability Project, January 24, 2018,; Matthew Desmond, Andrew V. Papachristos, and David S. Kirk, “Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community,” American Sociological Review (2016): 1–20, It should be noted that recent analyses have found little correlation between law enforcement agencies’ reported homicide clearance rates and rates of homicide in their cities. See Jeff Asher and Ben Horwitz, “The Missing Numbers in Preventing Murders,” New York Times, August 28, 2019, However, as the article notes, crime analysts theorize that this disconnect exists because clearance rates reported by law enforcement agencies are often very flawed statistics. And because the perception of accountability is necessary for effective deterrence, it may be at least as relevant that law enforcement clears homicides and nonfatal shootings in communities where violence clusters most.[]
  18. See Emily Earlenbaugh, “More People Were Arrested for Cannabis Last Year Than for All Violent Crimes Put Together, According to FBI Data,” Forbes, Oct. 6, 2020, See also, Doug McEvay, “Table: Total Annual Arrests in the US by Year and Type of Offense, 1996-2019,” DrugPolicyFacts, updated Jun. 28, 2021,; Timothy Williams, “Marijuana Arrests Outnumber Those for Violent Crimes, Study Finds,” New York Times, October 12, 2016,[]
  19. Jeff Asher and Ben Horwitz, “How Do the Police Actually Spend Their Time,” New York Times, Jun. 19, 2020,[]
  20. Leovy, Ghettoside, 283.[]
  21. See Thomas Abt, Bleeding Out (New York: Basic Books, 2019), 21.[]
  22. Id. at 22.[]
  23. “Inner-City Oakland Youth Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” CBS SF Bay Area, May 16, 2014,[]
  24. Jennifer Lynn-Whaley and Josh Sugarmann, “The Relationship Between Community Violence and Trauma,” Violence Policy Center, July 2017,; Lois Beckett, “Living in a Violent Neighborhood Is As Likely to Give You PTSD As Going to War,” Mother Jones, February 4, 2014,[]
  25. See Sonia Jain and Alison K. Cohen, “Fostering Resilience Among Urban Youth Exposed to Violence: A Promising Area for Interdisciplinary Research and Practice,” Health Education & Behavior, 40, no. 6 (July 2013),[]
  26. Safia Samee Ali, “‘They’re like soldiers’: Chicago’s children are learning to save lives amid the gunfire,” NBC News, July 17, 2019,[]
  27. Id.[]
  28. See, e.g., Jocelyn Fontaine, et al., “We Carry Guns to Stay Safe,” Urban Institute, October 2018,[]
  29. Id. at 5.[]
  30. Lynn-Whaley and Josh Sugarmann, “The Relationship Between Community Violence and Trauma”; Beckett, “Living in a Violent Neighborhood Is As Likely to Give You PTSD As Going to War.”[]
  31. See, e.g., US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, “Evidence Integration: Gangs,” last accessed November 13, 2019, (noting that commonly identified risk factors for “gang” membership include violent victimization, perceived lack of safety in school, and perceived lack of safety in the community); Robert Apel and John D. Burrow, “Adolescent Victimization and Violent Self-Help,” Youth Violence & Juvenile Justice, 9, no. 2 (August 2010): 112–133,; Dana Peterson, et al., “Gang Membership and Violent Victimization,” Justice Quarterly, 21, no. 4 (December 2004),[]
  32. JB Bingenheimer, RT Brennan, and FJ Earls, “Firearm violence exposure and serious violent behavior,” Science, May 27, 2005,[]
  33. See Thomas Abt, Bleeding Out, 145–146.[]
  34. See id. at 145.[]
  35. Id. at 146; National Network for Safe Communities, “Group Violence Intervention Issue Brief,” John Jay College, last accessed October 18, 2019, 2,[]
  36. Id.[]
  37. See Abt, Bleeding Out, 150.[]
  38. James C. Howell, “Gang Prevention: An Overview of Research and Programs,” US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Juvenile Justice Bulletin, December 2010,[]
  39. See id. at 144.[]
  40. Id.[]
  41. Id. at 150.[]
  42. Deepti Jahela and Mallika Sen, “Community Organizes March as NYPD Seeks 2 Shooters in Brooklyn Block Party Shooting,” NBC New York, July 29, 2019,[]
  43. See Stephen Lurie, et al., “The Less Than 1%: Groups and the Extreme Concentration of Urban Violence,” National Network for Safe Communities; Stephen Lurie, Alexis Acevedo, and Kyle Ott, “Presentation: The Less Than 1%: Groups and the Extreme Concentration of Urban Violence,” National Network for Safe Communities, November 14, 2018,[]
  44. See, e.g., Elijah Anderson, “The Code of the Streets,” The Atlantic, May 1994,[]
  45. Charles Kubin and Ronald Weitzer, “Retaliatory Homicide: Concentrated Disadvantage and Neighborhood Culture,” Social Problems, 50, no. 2 (May 2003): 157, See also id.[]
  46. “The 10 Most Dangerous U.S. Cities: Memphis,” Forbes, last accessed October 18, 2019,[]
  47. David S. Kirk and Andrew V. Papachristos, “Cultural Mechanisms and the Persistence of Neighborhood Violence,” American Journal of Sociology, 116,  no. 4 (2011),[]
  48. Id. at 1195 (citing Robert J. Sampson and Dawn Jeglum Bartusch, “Legal Cynicism and (Subcultural?) Tolerance of Deviance: The Neighborhood Context of Racial Differences,” Law and Society Review, 32, no. 796 (1998).[]
  49. See Lurie et al., “The Less Than 1%: Groups and the Extreme Concentration of Urban Violence”; Lurie, Acevedo, and Ott, “Presentation: The Less Than 1%.”[]
  50. German Lopez, “Confronting the myth that ‘black culture’ is responsible for violent crime in America,” Vox, September 1, 2016, (quoting Barry Latzer, The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America (New York: Encounter Books, 2016).[]
  51. Id.[]
  52. Dylan Scott, “Rudy Giuliani Uses Ferguson To Take His Race Baiting To Whole New Level,” Talking Points Memo, November 28, 2014,[]
  53. See Anthony A. Braga and Rod K. Brunson, “The Police and Public Discourse on ‘Black-on-Black’ Violence,” New Perspectives in Policing (2015), 3,[]
  54. See Abt, Bleeding Out, 158 (quoting Bill O’Reilly, “How Black Lives Matter is Killing Americans,” The O’Reilly Factor, May 25, 2016,[]
  55. See Braga and Brunson, “The Police and Public Discourse on ‘Black-on-Black’ Violence,” 3.[]
  56. Andrew Kaczynski, Nathan McDermott and Christopher Massie, “GOP congressman said blacks have ‘entitlement mentality’ and view themselves as victims,” CNN Politics, July 21, 2018,[]
  57. Jeff Knox, “Is ‘Murder Inequality’ Really A Thing? If It Is, Is It Your Fault?”, Ammoland, January 5, 2018,[]
  58. Timothy Johnson, “Host Of NRA’s New Pro-Trump Show: ‘Blame Minorities’ For Gun Violence,” Media Matters for America, October 28, 2019,[]
  59. Id.[]
  60. Sean McElwee, “Racial Resentment Is in the NRA’s DNA, Data Finds,” Vice, March 29, 2018,; Chuck Holton, Twitter post, October 17, 2017, 9:50 a.m.,[]
  61. See, e.g., Brad Bushman, et al., “Youth Violence: What We Know and What We Need to Know,” American Psychologist, 71, no.1 (2016),; Eric Madfis, “Triple Entitlement and Homicidal Anger: An Exploration of the Intersectional Identities of American Mass Murderers,” Men and Masculinities, 17, no.1 (2014),; Jack Marsden, “School Shootings: A Nexus of Adolescent Masculinity, Bullying, and Homophobia,” Western Michigan University Honors Theses (2018), 4,; Michael Rocque, “Exploring school rampage shootings: Research, theory, and policy,” The Social Science Journal, 49 (2012),; Antonis Katsiyannis, Denise K. Whitford, and Robin Parks Ennis, “Historical Examination of United States Intentional Mass School Shootings in the 20th and 21st Centuries: Implications for Students, Schools, and Society,” Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27, no. 8 (2018): 2,562–2,573,[]
  62. See, e.g., E Poortinga, C Lemmen, and MD Jibson, “A case control study: White-collar defendants compared with defendants charged with other nonviolent theft,” Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 34, no.1 (2006),; Paul M. Klenowski and Kimberly D. Dodson, “Who Commits White-Collar Crime, and What Do We Know About Them?”, The Oxford Handbook of White-Collar Crime, 2016,; Cynthia Barnett, “The Measurement of White-Collar Crime Using Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Data,” Federal Bureau of Investigation Criminal Justice Information Services Division, last accessed October 18, 2019, Figure 6,[]
  63. Milly Dawson, “White Young Adults More Likely to DUI,” Center for Advancing Health, January 15, 2013,; Raul Caetano and Christine McGrath, “Driving under the influence (DUI) among U.S. ethnic groups,” Accident Analysis and Prevention, 37, no. 2 (2005),; “Vital Signs: Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults – United States, 2010,” CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, October 7, 2011,[]
  64. Colin Planalp and Megan Lahr, “The Opioid Epidemic: National Trends in Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths from 2000 to 2015,” State Health Access Data Assistance Center, June 2017, See also, Kaiser Family Foundation, “Opioid Overdose Deaths by Race/Ethnicity,” last accessed October 18, 2019,,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D.[]
  65. Liqun Cao, Anthony Adams, and Vickie J. Jensen, “A Test of the Black Subculture of Violence Thesis: A Research Note,” Criminology, 35, no. 2 (1997),[]
  66. Cao, Adams, and Jensen, “A Test of the Black Subculture of Violence Thesis: A Research Note,” 373.[]
  67. Id. at 374.[]
  68. Robert J. Sampson and Dawn Jeglum Bartusch, “Legal Cynicism and (Subcultural?) Tolerance of Deviance: The Neighborhood Context of Racial Differences,” Law and Society Review, 32, no. 4 (1998),[]
  69. See Cao, Adams, and Jensen, “A Test of the Black Subculture of Violence Thesis: A Research Note,” 373.[]
  70. See Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Black People Are Not Ignoring ‘Black on Black’ Crimes,” The Atlantic, August 15, 2014,; Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Why Don’t Black People Protest ‘Black -on-Black Violence’?”, The Atlantic, April 2, 2012,; Jamelle Bouie, “Actually, Blacks Do Care About Black Crime,” Slate, December 1, 2014,; Mychal Denzel Smith, “The Movement Against Police Violence Isn’t Ignoring ‘Black-on-Black Crime,’” The Nation, October 29, 2015,[]
  71. See, e.g., John Gramlich, “From police to parole, black and white Americans differ widely in their views of criminal justice system,” Pew Research Center Fact Tank, May 21, 2019,; “Results of SurveyUSA Mkt Research Study #24554,” SurveyUSA, December 11, 2018,[]
  72. See, e.g., Aaron Bandler, “7 Statistics You Need To Know About Black-On-Black Crime,” The Daily Wire, July 13, 2016,[]
  73. “More than half of black children now live with a single parent,” Pew Research Center, June 27, 2016,[]
  74. Id.[]
  75. See Charles M. Blow, “Opinion: Black Dads are Doing Best of All,” New York Times, June 8, 2015,[]
  76. See Patrick Sharkey, Gerard Torrats-Espinosa, and Delaram Takyar, “Community and the Crime Decline: The Causal Effect of Local Nonprofits on Violent Crime,” American Sociological Review (2017),[]
  77. Id.[]
  78. Id.[]
  79. See, e.g., Coates, “Black People Are Not Ignoring ‘Black on Black’ Crimes.”[]
  80. German Lopez, “Cory Booker’s latest gun plan goes after urban violence,” Vox, October 16, 2019,[]
  81. See, e.g., “Better Policing Toolkit: Focused Deterrence Strategy Guide,” RAND Corporation, last accessed November 15, 2019,[]
  82. Erin Grinshteyn and David Hemenway, “Violent Death Rates: The US Compared with Other High-income OECD Countries, 2010,” The American Journal of Medicine, 129,  no. 3 (2016),[]
  83. Thomas Abt, Bleeding Out (New York: Basic Books, 2019), 33.[]
  84. Aliza Aufrichtig, et al., “Want to fix gun violence in America? Go local,” the Guardian, January 9, 2017,; Claire McEvoy and Gergely Hideg, “Urban Violence or Urban Peace: Why Are Some Cities Safer than Others?” Medium, January 12, 2018,[]
  85. Abt, Bleeding Out, 33.[]
  86. Thomas Abt, “We Can’t End Inequality Until We Stop Urban Gun Violence,” The Trace, July 12, 2019,[]
  87. Aufrichtig, et al., “Want to fix gun violence in America? Go local.”[]
  88. Michigan State University Libraries, Research Guide, “Finding Census Tract Data: About Census Tracts,” last accessed November 15, 2019, (citing US Census Bureau, Geographic Areas Reference Manual, Chapter 10, “Census Tracts and Block Numbering Areas,” May 16, 2018,[]
  89. Aufrichtig, et al., “Want to fix gun violence in America? Go local.”[]
  90. Richard Rosenfeld, et al., “Assessing and Responding to the Recent Homicide Rise in the United States,” National Institute of Justice, November 2017,[]
  91. Kori Rumore, “When Trump talks about Chicago, we track it: ‘The crime spree is a terrible blight,’” Chicago Tribune, October 1, 2019,[]
  92. Aliza Aufrichtig, “Mapping US gun murders at a micro level: new data zooms in on violence,” The Guardian, March 20, 2017,[]
  93. Id.[]
  94. See, e.g., Dr. Andrew Schiller, “NeighborhoodScout’s Top 30 Murder Capitals of America – 2019,” NeighborhoodScout, January 2, 2019,[]
  95. See, e.g., Anthony A Braga, “Better Policing Can Improve Legitimacy and Reduce Mass Incarceration,” Harvard Law Review, March 10, 2016,; Amanda Marcotte, “Hotspots for gun violence track closely with racist redlining policies of the past,” Salon, July 11, 2017, (citing Sara F. Jacoby, et al., “The enduring impact of historical and structural racism on urban violence in Philadelphia,” 199 Social Science & Medicine, 87-95, February 2018,; Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, June 2014,[]
  96. Id.; Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, June 2014, (quoting from Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro, Black Wealth/White Wealth (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2006); Angela Hanks, Danyelle Solomon, and Christian E. Weller, “Systemic Inequality: How America’s Structural Racism Helped Create the Black-White Wealth Gap,” Center for American Progress, February 21, 2018,; Shannon Luders-Manuel, “The Inequality Hidden Within the Race-Neutral G.I. Bill,” Jstor Daily, September 18, 2017,[]
  97. “Rates of Drug Use and Sales, by Race; Rates of Drug Related Criminal Justice Measures, by Race,” The Hamilton Project, October 21, 2016,; Christopher Ingraham, “White people are more likely to deal drugs, but black people are more likely to get arrested for it,” The Washington Post, September 30, 2014,[]
  98. Richard Florida, “The Persistent Geography of Disadvantage,” CityLab, July 25, 2013,[]
  99. Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic.[]
  100. Id. See also Patrick Sharkey, “Neighborhoods and the Black-White Mobility Gap,” Economic Mobility Project, July 2009,; Matthew Kredell, “Sociologist reports only minor progress in racial equality over the last 40 years,” Sol Price School of Public Policy, February 27, 2015,[]
  101. Anna J Dare, et al., “Geospatial, racial, and educational variation in firearm mortality in the USA, Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia, 1990–2015: a comparative analysis of vital statistics data,” The Lancet Public Health, 4, no. 6 (2019),[]
  102. Except where the text otherwise indicates, this report uses racial and ethnicity data and classifications provided by the CDC. References to people of white race or ancestry refer to those classified as non-Hispanic Caucasian. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER), “Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–20197,” accessed July 15, April 27, November 7, 2019, 2019 data used.[]
  103. CDC WONDER, “Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2017,” accessed November 7, 2019, 2019 data used.[]
  104. CDC WISQARS, “Fatal Injury Data,” last accessed May 7, 2021, This is a three-year average using data from men and boys ages 15–24 from 2017–2019.[]
  105. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER), “Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2019,” last accessed May 7, 2021, Three-year average using data from 2017-2019.[]
  106. “Finding Support: Law Enforcement Officers,” National Alliance on Mental Illness, last accessed October 31, 2019,[]
  107. Giffords Law Center calculated the rate of officers killed in the line of duty using gunfire fatality data from the Officer Down Memorial Page and a count of the number of active-duty police officers from the FBI. See CDC WISQARS, “Fatal and Nonfatal Injury Data 2019,” last accessed May 7, 2021,; “Honoring Officers Killed in 2019,” Officer Down Memorial Page, last accessed May 7, 2021,; FBI Uniform Crime Report: 2019 Crime in the United States, “Table 74: Full Time Law Enforcement Employees,”[]
  108. Based on analysis of CDC WISQARS fatal injury data for 2010–2019.[]
  109. Based on analysis of CDC WISQARS fatal injury data for 2010–2019. From 2010 to 2019, African Americans in Hawaii, one of the safest states in the nation, had an age-adjusted homicide fatality rate of 3.35 per 100,000 residents. This is higher than the murder rates for non-Hispanic, white residents in 35 states. Even in the 16 states with murder rates for non-Hispanic white residents higher than or equal to the murder rate for black Hawaiians, black residents were on average 5.2 times more likely to be murdered than white residents.[]
  110. Id.[]
  111. Id.[]
  112. Aufrichtig, et al., “Want to fix gun violence in America? Go local.”[]
  113. Gus Lubin and Rebecca Baird-Remba, “21 Maps Of Highly Segregated Cities In America,” Business Insider, April 25, 2013,–white-people-have-gentrified-much-of-downtown-dc-pushing-black-people-to-outer-southeast-northeast-anacostia-and-the-maryland-suburbs-6.[]
  114. Aufrichtig, et al., “Want to fix gun violence in America? Go local.”[]
  115. Id.[]
  116. Katie Buitrago, Amy Rynell, and Samantha Tuttle, “Cycle of Risk: The Intersection of Poverty, Violence, and Trauma,” Heartland Alliance, March 2017, 14,[]
  117. “Residential Segregation Associated with Black-White Disparity in Firearm Homicide Rates,” Boston University School of Public Health, July 13, 2018,[]
  118. CDC WISQARS, “Fatal Injury Data.”[]
  119. Andrew V. Papachristos, “Opinions: Close the Crime Gap to Help Reduce Inequality,” Washington Post, September 17, 2014,[]
  120. See Stephen Lurie, et al., “The Less Than 1%: Groups and the Extreme Concentration of Urban Violence,” National Network for Safe Communities; Stephen Lurie, Alexis Acevedo, and Kyle Ott, “Presentation: The Less Than 1%: Groups and the Extreme Concentration of Urban Violence,” National Network for Safe Communities, November 14, 2018,[]
  121. Lurie, et al., “The Less Than 1%: Groups and the Extreme Concentration of Urban Violence”, 23; Lurie, Acevedo, and Ott, “Presentation: The Less Than 1%,” 12.[]
  122. Id.[]
  123. Abt, Bleeding Out, 33–34.[]
  124. Lurie, et al., “The Less Than 1%: Groups and the Extreme Concentration of Urban Violence,” 27–28; Abt, Bleeding Out, 33.[]
  125. Lurie et al., “The Less Than 1%: Groups and the Extreme Concentration of Urban Violence,” 25; Lurie, Acevedo, and Ott, “Presentation: The Less Than 1%: Groups and the Extreme Concentration of Urban Violence,” 18.[]
  126. Lurie et al., “The Less Than 1%: Groups and the Extreme Concentration of Urban Violence,” 18–19.[]
  127. See Dr. Andrew Schiller, “The Most Dangerous U.S. Neighborhoods of 2018,” NeighborhoodScout, November 21, 2018,[]
  128. Lurie et al., “The Less Than 1%: Groups and the Extreme Concentration of Urban Violence,” 13.[]
  129. Id. at 31.[]
  130. Except where an endnote provides additional or alternative citations for the material, the events described in this subsection, “The Story of Frank Jude,” were published by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in United States v. Bartlett. See United States v. Bartlett, Nos. 08–1196, 08–1197, 08–1198 (7th Cir. 2009),[]
  131. Matthew Desmond, Andrew V. Papachristos, and David S. Kirk, “Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community,” American Sociological Review (2016): 1–20,[]
  132. Id.[]
  133. John Diedrich, “Archive: Police suspected in Frank Jude’s beating,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 6, 2005, updated September 28, 2016,[]
  134. Id.[]
  135. “Man Savagely Beaten After Police Officer Party,” ABC News, March 31, 2005,[]
  136. See Brief for the United States as Appellee in United States v. Bartlett, Nos. 08–1196, 08–1197, 08–1198, 15 (7th Cir.),[]
  137. Desmond, Papachristos, and Kirk, “Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community.”[]
  138. “Special Agent Jay P. Balchunas,” Officer Down Memorial Page, last accessed October 18, 2019,[]
  139. See Desmond, Papachristos, and Kirk, “Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community”; Diedrich, “Archive: Police suspected in Frank Jude’s beating.”[]
  140. Id.[]
  141. Derrick Nunnally, “Archive: 100 protest progress of police beating case,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 28, 2016,[]
  142. John Diedrich, “Archive: Prosecutors haven’t queried key witness in Frank Jude Case,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 28, 2016,[]
  143. Id.[]
  144. See Desmond, Papachristos, and Kirk, “Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community.”[]
  145. Id.[]
  146. Carrie Antlfinger, “Last sentences are Handed Down in the Jude Beating Case,”, December 7, 2007,[]
  147. Id.[]
  148. “The Jude Cause And The Ferguson Effect,” Simple Justice, October 1, 2016,[]
  149. Except where otherwise noted, the citation for this entire section is: Desmond, Papachristos, and Kirk, “Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community.”[]
  150. Milwaukee has repeatedly been identified as the most racially segregated major city in America. See, e.g., Mary Spicuzza, “Milwaukee is the most racially segregated metro area in the country, Brookings report says,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 8, 2019,[]
  151. “Crime rate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, thefts, auto thefts, arson, law enforcement employees, police officers, crime map,” City Data, accessed October 18, 2019,[]
  152. David S. Kirk and Andrew Papachristos, “Cultural Mechanisms and the Persistence of Neighborhood Violence,” American Journal of Sociology, 116, no. 4 (January 2011): 1190–1233,[]
  153. Id.[]
  154. Id. at 1222.[]
  155. Id. at 1222.[]
  156. Id. at 1198 (citing Elijah Anderson, Code of the Street (New York: Norton, 1999).[]
  157. Elijah Anderson, “The Code of the Streets,” TheAtlantic, May 1994,[]
  158. David S Kirk and Andrew Papachristos, “Cultural Mechanisms and the Persistence of Neighborhood Violence,” American Journal of Sociology (2011), 1228, (citing Donald Black, “Crime as Social Control,” American Sociological Review, 1983).[]
  159. Id. at 1191.[]
  160. Id. at 1217.[]
  161. Jonathan Purtle, et al., “Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs Save Lives and Money,” Journal of Trauma Acute Care Surgery, 75, no. 2 (2013): 331, (citing Stewart, et al., “Seven Hundred Fifty-Three Consecutive Deaths in a Level I Trauma Center: The Argument for Injury Prevention,” Journal of Trauma (2003), 54, 66–71; Kennedy, et al., “Geographic and Temporal Patterns of Recurrent Intentional Injury in South-Central Los Angeles,” Journal of the National Medical Association (1998), 88, 57–72; Morrissey, et al., “The Incidence of Recurrent Penetrating Trauma in an Urban Trauma Center,” Journal of Trauma (1991), 31, 1536–1538).[]
  162. DW Sims, et al., “Urban trauma: a chronic recurrent disease,” Journal of Trauma (1989).[]
  163. See Alec MacGillis, “The Tragedy of Baltimore,” New York Times, March 17, 2019,[]
  164. Id.[]
  165. Nazgol Ghandnoosh, “Black Lives Matter: Eliminating Racial Inequity in the Criminal Justice System,” The Sentencing Project, February 2015,[]
  166. German Lopez, “Study: police officers have lower standards for searching black people than white people,” Vox, August 16, 2016,[]
  167. David Kennedy and Jonathan Ben-Menachem, “Moving Toward an American Police-Community Reconciliation Framework,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Policing in the United States, ed. Tamara Rice Lave and Eric J. Miller (Cambridge University Press, 2019), 565, (citing Jeffrey Fagan et al., “Street Stops and Broken Windows Revisited: The Demography and Logic of Proactive Policing in a Safe and Changing City,” in Race, Ethnicity, and Policing: New and Essential Readings, ed. Stephen K. Rice and Michael D. White (New York University Press, 2009).[]
  168. Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, et al., “Twelve Facts about Incarceration and Prisoner Reentry,” The Hamilton Project, October 20, 2016,[]
  169. Id. at 568 (citing Melissa S. Kearney and Benjamin H. Harris,. “Ten Economic Facts about Crime and Incarceration in the United States,” Brookings Institution, May 1, 2014,[]
  170. See Nazgol Ghandnoosh, “Our Criminal Justice System Perpetuates Poverty,” Spotlight on Poverty & Opportunity, March 17, 2015,[]
  171. See, e.g., US Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, “Vision 21: Transforming Victim Services Final Report,” May 2013,; Clifton Adcock, “Uncompensated Loss: Black families of murder victims more likely to be denied aid from state program,” The Frontier, July 9, 2019,; Alysia Santo, “For black crime victims with criminal records, state help is hard to come by,” USA Today, September 13, 2018,[]
  172. Wesley Lowery, Kimbriell Kelly, and Steven Rich, “Murder with Impunity: An Unequal Justice,” Washington Post, July 25, 2018,[]
  173. Id.[]
  174. Sarah Ryley, Jeremy Singer-Vine, and Sean Campbell, “Shoot Someone In a Major U.S. City, and Odds Are You’ll Get Away With It,” The Trace, January 24, 2019,[]
  175. Id.[]
  176. Jocelyn Fontaine et al., “‘We Carry Guns to Stay Safe’ Perspectives on Guns and Gun Violence from Young Adults Living in Chicago’s West and South Sides,” Urban Institute, October 2018, 8,[]
  177. Id. at 8.[]
  178. Stephen Lurie, “There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Neighborhood,” CityLab, February 25, 2019,[]
  179. Lowery, Kelly, and Rich, “Murder with Impunity: An Unequal Justice.”[]
  180. Leovy, Ghettoside, 158.[]
  181. Kevin Rector, “2017 homicide data provide insight into Baltimore’s gun wars, police say,” Baltimore Sun, January 3, 2018,[]
  182. “Chicago’s homicide crisis gets national attention, but Baltimore’s is much worse,” Baltimore Sun, January 3, 2017,[]
  183. Jill Leovy, Ghettoside, 283.[]
  184. Id.[]
  185. Sarah Ryley, “Most Shooters Go Free in Chicago’s Most Violent Neighborhoods — While Police Make Non-Stop Drug Arrests,” The Trace, November 11, 2019,[]
  186. Id.[]
  187. See Emily Earlenbaugh, “More People Were Arrested for Cannabis Last Year Than for All Violent Crimes Put Together, According to FBI Data,” Forbes, Oct. 6, 2020, See also, Doug McEvay, “Table: Total Annual Arrests in the US by Year and Type of Offense, 1996-2019,” DrugPolicyFacts, updated Jun. 28, 2021,; Timothy Williams, “Marijuana Arrests Outnumber Those for Violent Crimes, Study Finds,” New York Times, October 12, 2016,[]
  188. Jeff Asher and Ben Horwitz, “How Do the Police Actually Spend Their Time,” New York Times, June 19, 2020,[]
  189. See “Rates of Drug Use and Sales, by Race; Rates of Drug Related Criminal Justice Measures, by Race,” The Hamilton Project, October 21, 2016,; Christopher Ingraham, “White people are more likely to deal drugs, but black people are more likely to get arrested for it,” Washington Post, September 30, 2014,[]
  190. Lowery, Kelly, and Rich, “Murder with Impunity: An Unequal Justice,” Washington Post, July 25, 2018,[]
  191. Nate Silver, “Most Police Don’t Live In The Cities They Serve,” FiveThirtyEight, August 20, 2014,[]
  192. Id.[]
  193. Michael W. Sances and Hye Young You, “Who Pays for Government? Descriptive Representation and Exploitative Revenue Sources,” The Journal of Politics, 79, no. 3 (2017),[]
  194. See Brian D. Kelly, “Fighting Crime or Raising Revenue? Testing Opposing Views of Forfeiture,” Institute for Justice, June 2019,[]
  195. See Rebecca Vallas, et al, “Forfeiting the American Dream,” Center for American Progress, April 2016,[]
  196. See Rebecca Goldstein, Michael W. Sances, and Hye Young You, “Exploitative Revenues, Law Enforcement, and the Quality of Government Service,” Urban Affairs Review (2018),[]
  197. See, e.g., Thomas K. Hargrove, Rachael Rosselet and Eric W. Witzig, “Are Murders Worth Solving?” Murder Accountability Project, January 24, 2018,[]
  198. See David L. Carter, “Homicide Process Mapping: Best Practices for Increasing Homicide Clearances,” Bureau of Justice Assistance, September 2013,[]
  199. Id. at 12.[]
  200. Id. at ii.[]
  201. Id. at 7.[]
  202. Jillian B. Carr and Jennifer L. Doleac, “The geography, incidence, and underreporting of gun violence: new evidence using ShotSpotter data,” Brookings Institution, April 2016,[]
  203. Lynn Langton, et al., “Victimizations Not Reported to the Police, 2006-2010,” Department of Justice, August 2012, 5,[]
  204. See Police Executive Research Forum, “Review of the Chicago Police Department’s Homicide Investigation Process,” October 2019,[]
  205. German Lopez, “There’s a nearly 40 percent chance you’ll get away with murder in America,” Vox, September 24, 2018,[]
  206. David Kennedy and Jonathan Ben-Menachem, “Moving Toward an American Police-Community Reconciliation Framework,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Policing in the United States, ed. Tamara Rice Lave and Eric J. Miller (Cambridge University Press, 2019), 567 (citing Michael Sierra Arévalo, “Legal cynicism and protective gun ownership among active offenders in Chicago,” Sociology (2016),[]
  207. David Hemenway, et al., “Gun Carrying Among Adolescents,” Law & Contemporary Problems (1996), 39, 47–48, (finding “carrying firearms makes other students feel less safe, which increases the likelihood that they will in turn carry guns” and concluding “results of contagion modeling suggest that small initial changes in gun carrying can have multiplicative effects”); Richard B. Felson and Paul-Philippe Pare, “Firearms and fisticuffs: Region, race, and adversary effects on homicide and assault,” Social Science Research, 39, no. 2 (2010): 274,[]
  208. German Lopez, “Police Shootings Also Part of America’s Gun Problem,” Vox, April 9, 2018,; Aaron J. Kivisto, Bradley Ray, and Peter L. Phalen, “Firearm Legislation and Fatal Police Shootings in the United States,” 107 American Journal of Public Health no. 7 (2017),; David I. Swedler, et al., “Firearm Prevalence and Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers in the United States,” American Journal of Public Health, 105, no. 10 (2015),[]
  209. Swedler, et. al., “Firearm Prevalence and Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers in the United States.”[]
  210. David Hemenway, et al., “Variation in Rates of Fatal Police Shootings across the US States: the Role of Firearm Availability,” Journal of Urban Health, 96, no. 1 (2019),[]
  211. Olivia Li, “The Vicious Cycle of Everyday Gun Violence and Eroding Police Relations,” The Trace, July 22, 2016,[]
  212. Michael Sierra-Arévalo, “Legal cynicism and protective gun ownership among active offenders in Chicago,”  Cogent Social Sciences, 2, no.1 (2016),[]
  213. See Timothy Williams, “Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks,” New York Times, July 7, 2016,[]
  214. See Rob Arthur, “New Data Shows Police Use More Force Against Black Citizens Even Though Whites Resist More,” Slate, May 30, 2019,[]
  215. Cody T. Ross, “A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014,” PLoS One, 10, no. 11 (2015),[]
  216. Nancy La Vigne, et al, “How Do People in High-Crime, Low-Income Communities View the Police?”, Urban Institute, February 2017, The six cities were Birmingham, Alabama; Fort Worth, Texas; Gary, Indiana; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Stockton, California.[]
  217. Id.[]
  218. Jamiles Lartey, “By the numbers: US police kill more in days than other countries do in years,” The Guardian, June 9, 2015,[]
  219. See Christopher Ingraham, “Police shootings are a leading cause of death for young American men, new research shows,” The Washington Post, August 8, 2019,[]
  220. Id.[]
  221. GovTrack Insider, “There is no federal database of shootings committed by law enforcement. The Walter Scott Notification Act would create one,” Medium, March 16, 2018,[]
  222. See Aaron C. Davis and Wesley Lowery, “FBI director calls lack of data on police shootings ‘ridiculous,’ ‘embarrassing’,” The Washington Post, October 7, 2015,[]
  223. See “Walter Scott Notification Act of 2015,” S. 2112 (114th),; “Walter Scott Notification Act of 2017,” S. 1610 (115th),; Emma Dumain, “Tim Scott’s tough sell: Forcing states to report on police shootings,” McClatchy, December 18, 2018,[]
  224. Based on Giffords Law Center analysis of TheWashington Post’s fatal force database for 2015–2018. See The Washington Post, “Fatal Force Database,” last accessed November 16, 2019,[]
  225. See Danyelle Solomon, “The Intersection of Policing and Race,” Center for American Progress, September 1, 2016,[]
  226. Ross, “A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014.”[]
  227. Id.[]
  228. Id.[]
  229. See Solomon, “The Intersection of Policing and Race.”[]
  230. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), “Fatal Injury Reports,” last accessed November 16, 2019,[]
  231. See Jelani Cobb, “The Matter of Black Lives,” The New Yorker, March 6, 2016,[]
  232. Neil Gross and Marcus Mann, “Is There a ‘Ferguson Effect?’ Google Searches, Concern about Police Violence, and Crime in U.S. Cities, 2014–2016,” Socius (2017),[]
  233. Id.[]
  234. Julie Bosman and Joseph Goldstein, “Timeline for a Body: 4 Hours in the Middle of a Ferguson Street,” New York Times, August 23, 2014,[]
  235. “What Happened in Ferguson?” New York Times, updated August 10, 2015,[]
  236. See “Crime rate in Ferguson, Missouri (MO): murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, thefts, auto thefts, arson, law enforcement employees, police officers, crime map,” City Data, last accessed October 18, 2019,[]
  237. Wesley Lowery, Steven Rich and Salwan Georges, “As police struggle to solve homicides, Baltimore residents see an ‘open season for killing’,” Washington Post, December 27, 2018,[]
  238. CDC WISQARS, “Fatal Injury Data.”[]
  239. Id.[]
  240. Devlin Barrett, “2020 saw an unprecedented spike in homicides from big cities to small towns,” WashingtonPost, December 30, 2020,[]
  241. Id.[]
  242. Id.[]
  243. Gross and Mann, “Is There a ‘Ferguson Effect?’ Google Searches, Concern about Police Violence, and Crime in U.S. Cities, 2014–2016.”[]
  244. Id.[]
  245. Richard Rosenfeld, et al., “Assessing and Responding to the Recent Homicide Rise in the United States,” National Institute of Justice, November 2017, 16,[]
  246. Id.[]
  247. Lois Beckett, “Is the ‘Ferguson effect’ real? Researcher has second thoughts,” The Guardian, May 13, 2016,[]
  248. Heather Mac Donald, “The Ferguson effect,” Washington Post, July 20, 2016,[]
  249. Gross and Mann, “Is There a “Ferguson Effect?’ Google Searches, Concern about Police Violence, and Crime in U.S. Cities, 2014–2016.”[]
  250. Brentin Mock, “How Rahm Emanuel Blew It on Police Reform,” CityLab, September 7, 2018,[]
  251. Rob Arthur and Jeff Asher, “Gun Violence Spiked – And Arrests Declined – In Chicago Right After The Laquan McDonald Video Release,” FiveThirtyEight, April 11, 2016,[]
  252. Police Executive Research Forum, “Review of the Chicago Police Department’s Homicide Investigation Process,” October 2019,[]
  253. United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and United States Attorney’s Office Northern District of Illinois, “Investigation of the Chicago Police Department,” January 13, 2017,[]
  254. Id.[]
  255. Beckett, “Is the ‘Ferguson effect’ real? Researcher has second thoughts.”[]
  256. Id.[]
  257. Police Executive Research Forum, “Review of the Chicago Police Department’s Homicide Investigation Process,” October 2019,[]
  258. United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and United States Attorney’s Office Northern District of Illinois, “Investigation of the Chicago Police Department,” January 13, 2017,[]
  259. Rosenfeld, et. al., “Assessing and Responding to the Recent Homicide Rise in the United States,” National Institute of Justice, November 2017, 16,[]
  260. Nathan James, “Recent Violent Crime Trends in the United States,” Congressional Research Service, June 20, 2018,[]
  261. See Civil Rights Division, “Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department,” US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, March 4, 2015,[]
  262. Seeid.[]
  263. Seeid. at 56; President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, “Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, May 2015, 27,[]
  264. See Ryan J. Reilly, “5 Years After Ferguson, The Justice Department Has All But Ended Federal Police Reform,” HuffPost, August 9, 2019,[]
  265. President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, “Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, May 2015, 27, (citing Listening Session on Trust and Legitimacy (oral testimony of Laura Murphy, director of the Washington Legislative Office, American Civil Liberties Union, for the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Washington, DC, January 13, 2015); Joseph Shapiro, “In Ferguson, Court Fines and Fees Fuel Anger,” NPR, last updated August 25, 2014,; “In For A Penny: The Rise of America’s Debtors’ Prisons,” American Civil Liberties Union, October 2010,[]
  266. Nate Silver, “Most Police Don’t Live In The Cities They Serve,” FiveThirtyEight, August 20, 2014,[]
  267. Thomas Abt, Bleeding Out (New York: Basic Books, 2019), 56.[]
  268. Abt, Bleeding Out, 56. (citing US Justice Department Ferguson Investigation).[]
  269. “Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department,” US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, 4.[]
  270. Id. at 81.[]
  271. Id.[]
  272. Id.[]
  273. See Radley Balko, “The damning Justice Department report about Chicago police also helps explain the city’s murder rate,” Washington Post, January 14, 2017,[]
  274. Id.; Radley Balko, “The Justice Department’s stunning report on the Baltimore Police Department,” Washington Post, August 10, 2016,[]
  275. “Investigation of the Chicago Police Department,” Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, January 2017, 1–2,[]
  276. “Investigation of the Cleveland Division of Police,” Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, December 4, 2014, 6,[]
  277. Id. at 48.[]
  278. John A. Shjarback, et al., “De-policing and crime in the wake of Ferguson: Racialized changes in the quantity and quality of policing among Missouri police department,” Journal of Criminal Justice 50 (2017),[]
  279. Id.[]
  280. Arthur and Asher, “Gun Violence Spiked – And Arrests Declined – In Chicago Right After The Laquan McDonald Video Release.”[]
  281. Robert Farley, “The Trumps vs. de Blasio on NYC Crime,”, May 17, 2019,[]
  282. PoliceScorecard.Org, Key Findings (citing FBI UCR arrest reports for 2013-2019), (accessed Jul. 23, 2021).[]
  283. See Sarah Holder, “What Happened to Crime in Camden?”, CityLab, January 10, 2018,; “Reducing Gun Violence: What Works and What Can Be Done Now,” Police Executive Research Forum, March 2019, 19–21,[]
  284. Kyle Smith, “We Were Wrong about Stop-and-Frisk,” National Review, January 1, 2019,[]
  285. See Zolan Kanno-Youngs, “New York City’s Murder Rate Hit New Low in 2018,” The Wall Street Journal, January 3, 2019,[]
  286. See Jacob Kaplan, “Data Tool: New York City Police Department, New York – Murder Clearance” (citing FBI UCR reports),[]
  287. Samuel Sinyangwe, “Cities That Reduced Arrests For Minor Offenses Also Saw Fewer Police Shootings,” FiveThirtyEight, Jul. 26, 2021,[]
  288. Id.[]
  289. Id.[]
  290. PoliceScorecard.Org, Key Findings (citing FBI UCR arrest reports for 2019), (accessed Jul. 23, 2021).[]
  291. See Emily Earlenbaugh, “More People Were Arrested for Cannabis Last Year Than for All Violent Crimes Put Together, According to FBI Data,” Forbes, Oct. 6, 2020, See also, Doug McEvay, “Table: Total Annual Arrests in the US by Year and Type of Offense, 1996-2019,” DrugPolicyFacts, updated Jun. 28, 2021,; Timothy Williams, “Marijuana Arrests Outnumber Those for Violent Crimes, Study Finds,” New York Times, October 12, 2016,[]
  292. Jeff Asher and Ben Horwitz, “How Do the Police Actually Spend Their Time,” New York Times, Jun. 19, 2020,[]
  293. Jesse Jannetta and Samuel Bieler, “Policing 2016: To Deliver Safety, Police Need Legitimacy and Accountability,” Urban Institute, November 2015,[]
  294. President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, “Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” 1.[]
  295. Cynthia Lum, et al., “An Evidence-Assessment of the Recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2016,[]
  296. See e.g., Yucel Ors and Nicol DuPuis, “City Officials Guide to Policing in the 21st Century,” National League of Cities, 2016,[]
  297. Jake Flanagin, “President Obama applauds revolutionary community policing in Camden, New Jersey,” Quartz, May 19, 2015,[]
  298. Matthew Deluca, “What’s the Matter with Camden?”, NBC News, March 7, 2013,[]
  299. Mike Maciag, “Why Camden, N.J., the Murder Capital of the Country, Disbanded Its Police Force,” Governing, June 2014,[]
  300. Shoshana Guy, “America’s ‘invincible’ city brought to its knees by poverty, violence,” NBC News, March 7, 2013,[]
  301. Ailsa Chang, “Crime-Ridden Camden To Dump City Police Force,” NPR, December 6, 2012,[]
  302. Id.[]
  303. Deluca, “What’s the Matter with Camden?”[]
  304. See Sarah Holder, “What Happened to Crime in Camden?”, CityLab, January 10, 2018,; Flanagin, “President Obama applauds revolutionary community policing in Camden, New Jersey.”.[]
  305. Id.[]
  306. Anthony Bartkewicz, “Budget cuts leave crime-ravaged Camden, N. J., without a police department,” New York Daily News, August 27, 2012,[]
  307. Holder, “What Happened to Crime in Camden?”[]
  308. Flanagin, “President Obama applauds revolutionary community policing in Camden, New Jersey.”[]
  309. See “Camden’s Turn: A Story of Police Reform in Progress,” Not in Our Town, last accessed October 17, 2019,[]
  310. President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, “Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, May 2015, 14, (citing Listening Session on Community Policing and Crime Reduction: Using Community Policing to Reduce Crime – oral testimony of J. Scott Thomson, chief, Camden County [NJ] Police Department, for the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Phoenix, AZ, February 13, 2015).[]
  311. Joseph Goldstein, “Changes in Policing Take Hold in One of the Nation’s Most Dangerous Cities,” New York Times, April 2, 2017,[]
  312. Not in Our Town, “Camden’s Turn: a story of police reform in progress,” YouTube video, 21:55, May 15, 2017,[]
  313. Holder, “What Happened to Crime in Camden?”[]
  314. Not in Our Town, “Camden’s Turn: a story of police reform in progress,” 25:36.[]
  315. Goldstein, “Changes in Policing Take Hold in One of the Nation’s Most Dangerous Cities.”[]
  316. Id.[]
  317. Id.[]
  318. Id.[]
  319. Goldstein, “Changes in Policing Take Hold in One of the Nation’s Most Dangerous Cities”; Rebecca Everett, “How N.J.’s most dangerous city is trying to stop police shootings,”, August 22, 2017,; Police Executive Research Forum, “Module 1 Lesson Plan,” Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics, last accessed October 17, 2019, 10, 13,; See also “ICAT: Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics,” Police Executive Research Forum, last accessed October 17, 2019,[]
  320. See Deanna Paul, “‘Police must first do no harm’: How one of the nation’s roughest cities is reshaping use-of-force tactics,” Washington Post, August 21, 2019,[]
  321. CamdenCountyPolice, “Broadway & Mickle man with a knife incident,” YouTube video, 6:49, November 24, 2015,[]
  322. “About Us,” Camden County Police Department Home Page, accessed January 2, 2018,[]
  323. Aaron Moselle, “Complaints of excessive police force plummet in Camden,” WHYY, November 28, 2017,[]
  324. See Holder, “What Happened to Crime in Camden?”; Jim Walsh, “Police: Camden crime stats improved in 2018,” Cherry Hill Courier-Post, January 4, 2019,[]
  325. See Holder, “What Happened to Crime in Camden?”[]
  326. Seeid.[]
  327. See Walsh, “Police: Camden crime stats improved in 2018.” .[]
  328. Julie Shaw, “Violent crime has dropped in Camden, but homicides are up slightly,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 3, 2020,; Jim Walsh, “Change helped boost homicide solve rate in Camden County,” Cherry Hill Courier-Post, February 16, 2021,; Joe Malinconico, “Shootings Fell in Camden in 2020, but They Rose in Paterson and Trenton. Here’s why,” Paterson Press, Mar. 2, 2021,[]
  329. P. Kenneth Burns, “Camden sees lowest crime level in more than 50 years,” WHYY, January 9, 2021,[]
  330. Jim Walsh, “Change helped boost homicide solve rate in Camden County,” Cherry Hill Courier-Post, February 16, 2021,[]
  331. See Jacob Kaplan, “Data Tool: Camden Police, New Jersey – Murder Clearance” (citing FBI UCR reports),[]
  332. Everett, “Camden’s 2017 murder rate was the lowest in decades. Will the trend continue?”; P. Kenneth Burns, “Camden sees lowest crime level in more than 50 years.”[]
  333. Id. Seealso Goldstein, “Changes in Policing Take Hold in One of the Nation’s Most Dangerous Cities.”[]
  334. “Crime can’t stop North Camden’s little leaguers,” CBS News, June 18, 2014,[]
  335. Phaedra Trethan, “Camden County Police Chief Thomson to retire; led force through change,” Cherry Hill Courier-Post, June 19, 2019,[]
  336. Everett, “Camden’s 2017 murder rate was the lowest in decades. Will the trend continue?”[]
  337. Emily Belz, “Camden’s New Day,” World Magazine, March 29, 2018,[]
  338. “Camden,” NJ Force Report, last accessed January 10, 2018,[]
  339. See, e.g., Jim Walsh, “Camco PD faces criticism after fatal police shooting,’ January 16, 2017,[]
  340. See Everett, “Camden’s murder rate was the lowest in decades. Will the trend continue?”[]
  341. Jim Christie, “Stockton, California files for bankruptcy,” Reuters, June 28, 2012,[]
  342. See Kurt Badenhausen, “America’s Most Miserable Cities,” Forbes, February 2, 2011,[]
  343. Id.; “Stockton, California: the Most Miserable City?” PBS NewsHour, March 16, 2012,[]
  344. See Tina Rosenberg, “A Strategy to Build Police-Citizen Trust,” New York Times, July 26, 2016,[]
  345. Elizabeth Van Brocklin, “The Police Chief Who Learned to Listen,” The Trace, April 1, 2019,[]
  346. Id.[]
  347. Id.[]
  348. Id.[]
  349. Rosenberg, “A Strategy to Build Police-Citizen Trust.”[]
  350. Van Brocklin, “The Police Chief Who Learned to Listen.”[]
  351. See Jacob Kaplan, “Data Tool: Stockton Police Department, California – Murder Clearance” (citing FBI UCR reports),[]
  352. Id.[]
  353. City-Data.Com, “Crime Rate in Stockton, California (CA),”[]
  354. See, e.g., Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Healing Communities in Crisis: Lifesaving Solutions to the Urban Gun Violence Epidemic, March 10, 2016,; Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, A Case Study in Hope: Lessons from Oakland’s Remarkable Reduction in Gun Violence, April 2019,[]
  355. Thomas Abt, “We Can’t End Inequality Until We Stop Urban Gun Violence,” The Trace, July 12, 2019,; “What Works in Reducing Community Violence: A Meta-review and Field Study for the Northern Triangle,” US Agency for International Development, February 2016,; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities (Washington: The National Academies Press, 2018),[]
  356. See, e.g., “Gun Violence Programs: Operation Ceasefire,” National Institute of Justice, June 25, 2008,; “Program Profile: Operation Ceasefire (Boston, Massachusetts),”, December 15, 2011,; “Program Profile: Group Violence Reduction Strategy (New Orleans, Louisiana),”, September 19, 2016,; “Program Profile: Operation Peacekeeper (Stockton, California),”, June 6, 2011,[]
  357. Abt, “We Can’t End Inequality Until We Stop Urban Gun Violence.”[]
  358. Anthony A Braga, “Better Policing Can Improve Legitimacy and Reduce Mass Incarceration,” Harvard Law Review, March 10, 2016,[]
  359. See Abt, “We Can’t End Inequality Until We Stop Urban Gun Violence”; Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, A Case Study in Hope.[]
  360. P. Jeffrey Brantingham, et al, “The Impact of the GRYD Incident Response Program on Gang Retaliations,” GRYD Research and Evaluation Brief No. 2, 5 (June 2020), at[]
  361. Giffords, “Press Release: Giffords Praises California Legislature for Bolstering Program to Address Urban Gun Violence in California,” June 13, 2019,[]
  362. See 2021 CA AB 128, Budget Act of 2021, Item 5227-108-0001; California State Assembly Democratic Caucus, “Press Release: May Budget Revise: Governor Newsom Delivers Largest Ever State Investment in Gun Violence Prevention & Intervention Efforts,” May 14, 2021,[]
  363. See Giffords, “Press Release: Legislators Introduce Crucial Bill to Invest in Community Violence Intervention Programs,” Jun. 25, 2021,; Break the Cycle of Violence Act, S. 2671/H.R. 4836, ntroduced October 23, 2019,, and H.R. 4118, Introduced Jun. 24, 2021,[]
  364. See Abt, “We Can’t End Inequality Until We Stop Urban Gun Violence.”[]
  365. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “‘It Did Not Stick’: The First Federal Effort to Curb Police Abuse,” New York Times, April 9, 2017,; 42 U.S.C. § 14141 (re-codified at 34 U.S.C. § 12601).[]
  366. Merrick J. Bobb, “Op-Ed: Jeff Sessions thinks consent decrees increase crime. He’s just plain wrong,” Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2017,[]
  367. Id.[]
  368. Id.[]
  369. “Sixth Semiannual Report,” Seattle Police Monitor,December 2015, 2,–12-15-15–FOR+FILING.pdf.[]
  370. Bobb, “Op-Ed: Jeff Sessions thinks consent decrees increase crime. He’s just plain wrong.”[]
  371. Id.[]
  372. See Jacob Kaplan, “Data Tool: Seattle Police Department, Washington – Murder Clearance” (citing FBI UCR reports),[]
  373. Newark Communities for Accountable Policing, “DOJ-Newark Frequently Asked Questions,” accessed Aug 2, 2021, ​​[]
  374. Id.[]
  375. US Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs, “Justice Department Reaches Agreement with City of Newark, New Jersey, to Reform Police Department’s Unconstitutional Practices,” Mar. 30, 2016,[]
  376. Id.[]
  377. Peter C. Harvey, Independent Monitor, “United States v. City of Newark Consent Decree, Independent Monitor – First Quarterly Report,” 5, April 24, 2017,[]
  378. Mark Remillard and Aaron Ferrer, “Gun Violence in America: Newark,” ABC News, Jul. 30, 2021,[]
  379. Mark Remillard and Aaron Ferrer, “Gun Violence in America: Newark,” ABC News, Jul. 30, 2021,[]
  380. Id.[]
  381. Alex Napoliello, “Homicides in N.J. soared 23% in 2020. What caused the spike?,” NJ Advance MEdia for, Dec. 31, 2020,[]
  382. Id.; Jacob Kaplan, “Data Tool: Newark Police, New Jersey – Murder” (citing FBI UCR reports),[]
  383. “An Interactive Guide to the Civil Rights Division’s Police Reforms,” US Department of Justice, January 18, 2017,[]
  384. “Police Reform and Accountability Accomplishments,” US Department of Justice, last accessed October 17, 2019,[]
  385. Megan Collins, et al., “Assessment of the Collaborative Reform Initiative in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department: A Catalyst for Change,” Crime and Justice Institute, last accessed January 14, 2018,[]
  386. Christine Cole, et al., “The Collaborative Reform Initiative Process: Experiences of Selected Sites.”[]
  387. Id.[]
  388. Ryan J. Reilly, “5 Years After Ferguson, The Justice Department Has All But Ended Federal Police Reform,” HuffPost, August 9, 2019,[]
  389. Id.[]
  390. Ryan J. Reilly, “Jeff Sessions Didn’t Read DOJ’s Chicago Police Report. But He Thinks It’s ‘Anecdotal.’” HuffPost,February 27, 2017, updated February 28, 2017,[]
  391. Ryan J. Reilly, “Ferguson Is Undermining Jeff Sessions’ Argument Against DOG-Led Police Reform,” HuffPost, October 22, 2017,[]
  392. Laura Jarrett, “AG Sessions orders review of consent decrees and other police reforms,” CNN, updated April 4, 2017,;  Jefferson B. Sessions, “Memorandum for Heads of Department Components and United States Attorneys,” Office of the Attorney General, March 31, 2017,[]
  393. C.J. Ciaramella, “Sessions Hasn’t Read the DOJ Reports on Ferguson and Chicago Police,” Reason, February 28, 2017,[]
  394. See Alan Neuhauser, “Justice Department Ends COPS Office Review of Police,” US News & World Report, September 15, 2017,; Ryan J. Reilly, “5 Years After Ferguson, The Justice Department Has All But Ended Federal Police Reform,” HuffPost, August 9, 2019,[]
  395. Connor Maxwell and Danyelle Solomon, “Expanding the Authority of State Attorneys General to Combat Police Misconduct,” Center for American Progress, December 12, 2018,[]
  396. Reilly, “Ferguson Is Undermining Jeff Sessions’ Argument Against DOJ-Led Police Reform.”; Office of Public Affairs, “Justice Department Announces Findings of Investigation into Narcotics Bureau of Springfield, Massachusetts Police Department,” US Department of Justice, July 8, 2020,; Julia Ainsley, “What happened to the lone police department investigation started by Trump’s DOJ?” NBC News, June 19, 2020,[]
  397. Maxwell and Solomon, “Expanding the Authority of State Attorneys General to Combat Police Misconduct”; Rob McArthur, “Exclusive: Trump’s Justice Department is investigating 60% fewer civil rights cases than Obama’s,” Vice News, March 5, 2019,[]
  398. “Attorney General Garland rescinds Trump-era memo curtailing consent decrees,” NBC News, April 16, 2021,[]
  399. David Nakamura, “Justice Dept. probes of local police prompt hopes for reform, fears of delays,” Washington Post, May 3, 2021,[]
  400. See e.g., 2020 CO SB 20-217, Sec. 13; 2021 NV AB 58, Sec. 1; Center for American Progress, “Statement: Virginia’s Pattern and Practice Bill is a Model for States Working to Eliminate Systemic Racism in Policing,” Oct. 21, 2020, See also, Center for American Progress, “Expanding the Authority of State Attorneys General to Combat Police Misconduct,” Dec. 12, 2018,[]
  401. Larry Buchanan, Quoctrung Bui, and Jugal L. Patel, “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History,” The New York Times, Jul. 3, 2020,[]