New Center for Social Justice encourages community engagement in police reform

Posted at 10:56 AM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 18:36:20-04

CINCINNATI — As Ohio's governor and state lawmakers in Columbus are looking at ways to change policing policies, some local police departments are already beginning that process.

By now, most police departments in Southwest Ohio have heard from the Urban League of Southwest Ohio's Center for Social Justice.

That group is hoping to help usher change into police departments that want it, one department at a time.

The protests last summer over the death of George Floyd led to the launch of the Center for Social Justice. It's a rare program that many Urban League chapters don't have. It's here to help any local police department work on issues that create a division between police and the community. Issues like racial profiling, use of force, accountability and community oversight.

There are about 45 different police agencies in Hamilton County alone. The center has contacted all of them to offer assistance.

Rickell Howard Smith, executive director for the Urban League’s Center for Social Justice, said they're also doing a lot of research to understand what's happening in different departments.

"We want to see everybody's data, because especially with these smaller departments, they're not publishing it on their website like the City of Cincinnati,” Smith said. “So, to first identify if there's an issue, you have to look at the data. So, we're collecting that data. We're collecting policies."

Smith couldn't say which departments they are working with, but she said they are working with about ten police departments so far, and several others have made inquiries.

One area many are interested in is community oversight, which involves residents working with police chiefs and city leaders on reforms.

The Center for Social Justice is also using Cincinnati's citizens complaint authority as a blueprint, which was born out of the collaborative agreement. They also want to ensure departments use de-escalation training which is required in the state of Ohio.