You know, my friends, I look at this photograph and I have to ask myself, you know, I think I've seen this somewhere before. People marching in the street for justice. But I know it's not the same photograph that I would have seen, because I wouldn't take my oath to be a police officer until 1989. And I've been in the business for over 25 years.
And identifying as an African-American woman, I know things have gotten better. But even as I learned about public safety, I wondered if what I was doing on the street was hurting or harming the community. And I often wondered if, you know, how did they perceive me, this woman in uniform?
But there is one thing that I knew. I knew there was a way that we could do this, probably, different or better. A way that preserved dignity and guaranteed justice. But I also knew that police could not do it alone. It's the coproduction of public safety. There is a lot of history with us. You know, we know loss.
The relationship between the African American community and the police is a painful one. Often filled with mistrust. It has been studied by social scientists, it has been studied by government, all both promising, you know, hopeful new ways and long-term fixes. But all we want is to be safe. And our safety is intertwined.
And that we know, in order to have great relationships and relationships built on trust, that we're going to have to have communication. And in this advent and this text of the world that we've got going on, trying to do this with social media, it's a very difficult thing to do. We also have to examine our current policing practices, and we have to set those things aside that no longer serve us. So, in New York, that meant "stop, question and frisk." That meant really holding up the numbers as opposed to relationships. And it really didn't allow the officers the opportunity to get to know the community in which they serve. But you see, there is a better way. And we know — it's called coproduction.
So in the 1970s, Elinor Ostrom came up with this theory, really called coproduction, and this is how it works. You bring people into the space that come with separate expertise, and you also come with new ideas and lived experience, and you produce a new knowledge. And when you produce that new knowledge, and you apply this theory to public safety, you produce a new type of public safety.
And so, in New York, it feels like this. It is called building relationships, literally one block at a time. And it's "Build the Block." So this is how it works. You go to buildtheblock.nyc, you put in your address. And up pops location, date and time of your neighborhood meeting. The important part of this is you've got to go to the meeting. And once you go to that meeting, there, of course, will be NYPD, along with officers and other community members. What's important about bringing, now, the lived experience into this space to produce new knowledge is that we have to have a new way of delivering it. So the new way of delivering it is through what we call neighborhood coordinating officers, or NCOs. And so, also in this meeting are the NCOs, the what we call 911 response cars, sector cars, detectives, all of us working together to collaborate in this new way to reduce crime. And what's interesting about this is that we know that it works.
So, for example, in Washington Heights. At a community meeting, there was a bar, up in Washington Heights, and the neighbors were complaining about outcry and noises. So in their conversations with their NCO, they talked about, you know, sound barriers, different ways to sort of approach this. Is there a different way we can direct traffic? And of course now they have relatively quieter bar nights.
So, another issue that always comes up in neighborhoods is speeding. How many of you in here have ever had a speeding ticket? Raise your hand. Oh, higher, come on! There's more than that, this is New York. So those are other issues that brought to the NCO. Speeding — what the NCOs do is they collaborate with the Department of Transportation, they look at issues such as speed bumps and signage and all types of things. And when we come together to create this different type of policing, it also feels different.
The coproduction of public safety also means that officers need to understand the history and the power of their uniforms. They're going to have to set aside old historical narratives that do not serve them well. And that means they have to learn about implicit bias. Implicit biases are shortcuts the brain makes without us really knowing it. They're stereotypes that often influence our decision making. And so, you can imagine, for police officers who have to make split-second decisions can be a very detrimental decision-making point. That's why the NYPD, along with other departments throughout the United States, are training all of their officers in implicit bias. They have to understand that learning about their implicit biases, having good training, tactics and deescalation and understanding how it impacts your decision making makes us all safer.
We also know how officers are treated inside the organization impacts how they're going to behave with the community at large. This is critical. Especially if you want to have a new way forward. And we know that we have to care for those folks that are on the frontline. And they have to recognize their own trauma. And in order to do that, us as leaders have to lift them up and let them know that the narratives of being strong men and women — you can set those aside, and it's OK to say you need help. And we do that by providing peer support, employee assistance, mental health services. We make sure all of those things are in place, because without it — it's a critical component to the coproduction of public safety.
Equally as important is that we also have social issues that are often laid at the feet of law enforcement. So, for example, mental health and education. Historically, we've been pulled into those spaces where we have not necessarily provided public safety but have enforced long, historical legislative racial desegregation. We have to own our part in history. But we also have to have those folks at the table when we're talking about how do we move forward with coproduction.
But understanding this, we also have to understand that we need to have voices come to us in a different way. We also have to recognize that the community may not be willing or ready to come to the table to have the conversation. And that's OK. We have to be able to accept that. By acknowledging it, it also means that we care for the community's health and for their resiliency as well. That's another key component.
We also have to acknowledge that there are those folks that are in our community that are here — they do want to do us harm. We also have to recognize that we have community members who did not get the benefits of a long-ago dream. We also have to acknowledge that we have put faith in a system that sometimes is broken, hoping that it would give us solutions for better. But we cannot walk away. Because there is a better way.
And we know this because the NYPD's neighborhood policing philosophy is grounded in the coproduction of public safety. And in order for us to move forward together, with our family, our friends and for our health, we have to make sure that we focus this way. And in order to do that, there are three fundamental ideologies that we must all agree to. Are you ready? Oh, I'm sorry, one more time — are you ready?
Tracie Keesee: Now, that's better, alright. The first one: There's no more wallowing in the why. We know why. We must move forward together. There's no more us versus them.
Number two: We must embrace the lived experience and our histories, and we must make sure we never go back to a place where we cannot move forward.
And number three: We must also make sure that truth and telling facts is painful. But we also know that no action is no longer acceptable. And agree?
TK: Oh, I'm sorry, I can't hear you, do you agree?
TK: So we do know there is a better way. And the better way is the coproduction of public safety.