Communities United For Police Reform

North Star Fund is proud to serve as the fiscal sponsor for Communities United for Police Reform. Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented, non-partisan campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect — not discriminatory targeting and harassment. 

The long history of discriminatory policing in New York reached a new low by 2011, when the New York Police Department conducted over 684,000 street stops - a 603% increase since 2002, Bloomberg's first year in office. Close to 90% of the stops resulted in no arrest or summons whatsoever. Stop-and-frisk and other "broken windows" policing aggressively targets low-income communities of color, including young people, homeless people, LGBT people, people with disabilities, immigrants, and women. 

In 2011, grassroots organizations came together out of a need to coordinate strategies to increase impact and address the historic lack of NYPD accountability to diverse New York communities. North Star Fund was happy to offer institutional support. CPR was launched in 2012 with 26 member organizations, and has grown to over 60 member groups, and more than 100 organizations actively coordinated through the coalition. Dozens of the organizations they mobilize are past and current North Star Fund grantees.

In a historic victory, CPR fought effectively for the 2013 passage of two Community Safety Act bills by the New York City Council, which overrode Mayor Bloomberg's veto. These bills ban profiling and discrimination (including unlawful profiling in stop-and-frisks) by the New York City Police Department, and establish independent oversight of the NYPD.

"The coming together of grassroots, policy, legal and other organizations followed more than a decade of work on these issues by grassroots and legal groups, with most of the grassroots organizations being longtime North Star Fund grantees," says Joo-Hyun Kang, Executive Director of CPR. "When CPR launched in 2012, we asked North Star Fund to be our fiscal sponsor. They agreed, the first time they have ever played this role." In addition, North Star Fund provided a $100,000 challenge grant for grassroots CPR member groups who are leading the effort, but systematically under-resourced by philanthropy.

Through CPR members' efforts, our city has undergone a culture shift around the need and the ability of people to observe and document police misconduct. A major factor in this shift has been training of community members, led by CPR member organizations, to be part of "cop watch" activities. Teams of observers go into areas with a high incidence of police misconduct--South Bronx, Jackson Heights, Washington Heights, Central Brooklyn, and East Flatbush, for example--to witness and document police interaction.

"They've seen many times that their presence will often de-escalate what could have been a bad situation," says Joo-Hyun. "And more and more people who are not formally part of cop watch teams--even shop owners--are observing police misconduct and pulling out their phones, some of them using the New York Civil Liberties Union Stop-and-Frisk Watch app. All of this makes communities better able to hold police accountable for what's actually happening on the ground, in their neighborhoods."

CPR builds and supports grassroots leadership of groups working on police reform in affected communities. "We do an annual media spokesperson training for groups with affected community members. Groups who lead Cop Watch work do regular trainings, and a number of our grassroots groups as well as legal and policy organizations do Know Your Rights training across the city, so that people inside and outside the formal movement know their rights in police interactions," says Joo-Hyun.

Nationally, relatively few philanthropic dollars are directed to criminal justice efforts, and an even smaller amount goes to activism around discriminatory and abusive policing which takes place before people are incarcerated. "North Star has been one of few funders over the years, going back to even the 1990s that has consistently supported many of these grassroots groups for their police accountability work at some point in their development, well before CPR became formalized as a campaign."

In December 2013, two weeks before a new administration took power in City Hall for the first time in 12 years, CPR released a report on how new Mayor Bill de Blasio can change the direction of public safety policy in New York City to prioritize the safety and freedoms of all New Yorkers. In March, 2014 Mayor de Blasio fulfilled his campaign promise by dropping City Hall's lawsuit against the 2013 bills passed by City Council to prohibit bias-based profiling during stop and frisk. We continue to see progress as CPR member organizations maintain a full court press to end the overreach of the NYPD.

"CPR has become a national model and we know that many eyes are on New York in terms of whether we can actually change policing here," Joo-Hyun says. "This is a critical moment. The mission is not yet accomplished, but we've had significant advances in the past year. There's much more work to be done to translate some of the policy victories and political victories into actual change on the ground, and to secure additional changes to discriminatory policing."

You can support the work to end biased policing in New York City. Support Communities United for Police Reform today.

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