The goal of Vera’s Policing Program is to shrink the footprint of American policing and advance racial equity. We provide data and tools in support of grassroots and community-led movements and blueprint approaches that prioritize community needs. We approach our work by focusing on areas in which disparities and biases exist, making enforcement data widely accessible, and uplifting community-based solutions.

Police officers are the most visible manifestation of the criminal legal system, and their actions have a profound impact on the lives of millions of people every year. From its inception, American policing has harmed and disproportionately targeted communities of color—and Black communities in particular. Despite its legacy of violence and racism, policing today lacks transparency, and officers are rarely held accountable for their actions. As a result, police legitimacy is at an all-time low and communities across the country are questioning what role, if any, police should play in 21st century America—and why elected representatives are funding police departments over other essential public services. To date, the voices of those who are most impacted by police have been excluded from decisions about policing. This is despite the fact that enforcement numbers in the United States are staggering (with more than 10 million arrests each year) and that racially disparate enforcement patterns have caused significant harm to communities of color. Further, although the collateral consequences of punitive enforcement for individuals and communities are well documented, police still remain the default first responders in most places—responding to a range of social, economic, and health issues that would be better resolved within the community—and often in ways that exacerbate existing disadvantage.

Our current projects build on Vera’s position as a national justice reform organization and our capacity to gather and analyze data, communicate with diverse audiences, and engage both government stakeholders and grassroots organizations.

Related Work

Changing Police Practices Means Changing 911

Three questions every community should be asking

Each year, people across the country make approximately 240 million calls to 911. That’s an average of 7.6 calls for service every second. But only about 1 percent of 911 calls in major cities are to report violent crimes in progress. Instead, 911 has become the default option for many people seeking support for a broad array of problems—such as d ...

Blog Post
  • Jim Parsons
    Jim Parsons
  • Frankie Wunschel
    Frankie Wunschel
September 29, 2020
Blog Post

Understanding Police Enforcement

A Multicity 911 Analysis

With more than 240 million 911 calls each year, a sizable proportion of police officers’ time consists of responding to calls for service. Despite the importance of the 911 call system, little information exists on the nature of calls for service, how they are handled, and how police respond. The Vera Institute of Justice partnered with two police ...

  • Rebecca Neusteter, Megan O'Toole, Mawia Khogali, Abdul Rad, Frankie Wunschel, Sarah Scaffidi, Marilyn Sinkewicz, Maris Mapolski, Paul DeGrandis, Daniel Bodah, Henessy Pineda
September 29, 2020

Series: Covid-19

Coronavirus, Mental Health, and the Enduring Importance of Health-Centered Crisis Response

With support from the NFL Foundation, Vera’s Serving Safely initiative promotes crisis response programs that connect people in crisis to community-based services while minimizing involvement with police and the criminal justice system. In today’s fraught environment, however, vital social distancing efforts deprive people of traditional supports a ...

Blog Post
  • Jackson Beck
    Jackson Beck
  • Leah  Pope
    Leah Pope
May 28, 2020
Blog Post