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Research Notes

Continuing research from summer 2020, the Bill Lane Center brings city managers and academics together to safely exchange ideas on police reform

After partnering to conduct research on policing alternatives last summer, the Lane Center and neighboring cities will conduct follow-up meetings on April 30 to discuss progress, challenges and new research.

On Sunday, April 11, Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Wright was killed just ten miles from where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin currently stands trial for the death of George Floyd. This week, police and protestors clashed in Minneapolis, reminiscent of summer demonstrations across the nation where Americans demanded racial justice and equity in the face of police violence that disproportionately harms Black lives

During the summer of 2020, in response to these calls for change, local governments partnered with the Bill Lane Center to conduct rapid research on police reform. City leaders from East Palo Alto, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City participated in the work, with the goal of reimagining public safety for their communities. The research was undertaken in collaboration with Stanford's Office of External Relations as part of the Lane Center's City Manager's Initiative, which aims to be a neutral convening space for city managers and academics to exchange ideas. In their discussions, the city officials and researchers can safely explore solutions to pressing real-world problems.

This month, the Bill Lane Center will reconvene the city managers to follow up on how last summer’s research and meetings were used to reinvigorate regional conversations about policing alternatives.

"We know that city managers have continued to make strides in public safety reforms since we met last summer," said Bruce Cain, head of the Bill Lane Center. "So we're looking forward to reconvening Stanford’s six neighboring cities for a virtual exchange of their progress to date, and to see how the Lane Center research team and the External Relations team can continue to help their efforts."

At least six city managers will come together on April 30 in a closed-door meeting with Center researchers Bruce Cain and Joyce Tagal, '20. As a neutral convener and place of trusted academic research, the Bill Lane Center is in a position to promote a safe and productive exchange among city leaders, all of whom are eager to address racial justice and public safety issues impacting their communities.

Preeti Hehmeyer, assistant vice president for community engagement at the Office of External Relations, says these kinds of community partnerships help Stanford bring expert research to bear on real-world problems, which is a key part of the Lane Center’s mission: “We’ve learned there is great value in approaching cities and asking them to design their own research questions. When cities, as opposed to academics, determine the agenda based on community conditions, we know that the results will address the most urgent matters city managers face day-to-day," Hehmeyer said.

Immediately following the April 30 meeting, students from the Stanford Law School's Law and Policy Lab will also present some of their recent research on selective de-policing. As part of a policy practicum co-taught by Lane Center partner Ralph Richard Banks, director of the Stanford Center for Racial Justice, faculty and students looked at non-police approaches to mental health and homelessness, school discipline, and traffic violations,  which proved to be beneficial for public safety, particularly in vulnerable communities. "Their work adds new value," said Joyce Tagal, who conducted the initial policing research in the summer of 2020, "because it explores two areas which we did not focus on last summer: school discipline and traffic violations. So we're excited to be presenting some new research to city managers."

And the work pushes on. "Joyce and I have continued this research and are currently drafting  a white paper to highlight policing reform efforts in suburban cities in California," said Bruce Cain. "We're all charting the future together," he continued, "so it's meaningful to reconnect with our partners in local government and see what we can all accomplish.

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