Bridging the Divide: African-American Communities and Law Enforcement

In 2017, ROLC held a symposium on Bridging the Divide: African-American Communities and Law Enforcement to address the tensions between African-Americans and law enforcement bodies, and how wide-scale restorative justice mechanisms and approaches can innovate solutions to this long-standing, hyper-sensitive crisis. Following the symposium, ROLC and Dr. Kirk Foster from the College of Social Work launched the Bridging the Divide Project to examine police-community relations, the root causes of this significant public health crisis and identify key intervention points. This research centers on three questions, each with specific aims. The first relates to how community activists build effective networks to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions against people of color. The second relates to the mechanisms necessary to build bridges between law enforcement and communities of color. The third examines the association between race, attitudes toward law enforcement, experiences of police victimization, and psychological well-being among a community sample of adults. The project recently began with seed funding from the Deaconess Foundation to examine these questions in the St. Louis area, and work is being conducted in partnership with Metropolitan Congregations United, with an eye towards scaling these projects to other cities across the United States.