Race, Police and Community Coverage

Baltimore is only the latest city to face charges of police violence and massive demonstrations and violent reactions to the death of an African-American during an encounter with police officers.

How can journalists cover these events, providing a national as well as local perspective, and maintain a balanced, fair approach to coverage? What are the most common problems and what solutions show promise? How does race affect policing, relationships between community members and police, and national opinion?

The resources on this page will get you started.

A three-day workshop, Keeping the Peace, Peacefully, attempted to address these and other urgent questions that journalists are dealing with daily. This resource page grew out of the workshop and offers reporters a place to begin their research, find materials that will help them provide context and work toward the goal of deeper and more ethical journalism.

This Specialized Reporting Institute was hosted in Chicago by Community Media Workshop, now called Public Narrative[http://publicnarrative.org/], on April 23-25, 2015. The workshop was funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Find and Follow an Expert

Public Narrative, @PublicNarrative

Susy Schultz, president, Public Narrative, tel.: 312-369-6401, email: susy@newstips.org, @susys

Isabel Vazquez, media manager, Public Narrative, (mailto:steve@chicagoistheworld.com), @ifvazquez

Police Practices and Race

Jin Hee Lee, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, deputy director of litigation, email: jlee@naacpldf.org, tel.: 212-965-3702, expert on police practices and race

Reinaldo Rivera, U.S. Department of Justice, Community Relations Services, email: reinaldo.rivera@usdoj.gov, tel.: 917-709-2288, expert on government efforts to deal with police-community conflicts and problems

Tracey L. Meares, Yale University Law School, email: tracey.meares@yale.edu, tel.: 203-432-4991, website, expert on police policies and practices to cope with violence: stop and frisk and zero-tolerance policing polices.

Peter Moskos, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, email: pmoskos@jjay.cuny.edu, tel.: 212-237-8393, website, expert on police strategies, training, and police culture

Philip A. Goff, Stanford University, email: goff@psych.ucla.edu, tel.: 310-206-8614, expert on racial attitudes and their impact on police-community relations

Charles Ogletree, director of Harvard Law School’s Institute of Race and Justice, email: ogletree@law.harvard.edu, tel.: 617 495 5097, expert on race and its impact on police community relations

Justin Hansford, St. Louis University Law School, email: jhansford@slu.edu, tel.: 314-977-3481, expert on police accountability; race and police; and the police shooting and conflict in Ferguson, Mo.

Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor of Gary, Ind. and former Indiana attorney general, email: kfreemanwilson@ci.gary.in.us, chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Working Group of Mayors and Police Chiefs on police-community relations

Police Strategies on Violence

Andrew Papachristos, Yale University sociology department, email: andrew.papachristos@yale.edu, tel.: 203-432-3345, website, expert on police and community strategies to reduce violence and to cope with gang violence

Christopher Malette, Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy and a former adviser to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley on anti-violence strategy, email: cmallette@jjay.cuny.edu, expert on police strategies to control violence and on police training

Dennis P. Rosenbaum, University of Illinois at Chicago, email: dennisr@uic.edu, tel.: 312-355-2469, expert on community policing and police strategies

Franklin Zimring, University of California Law School Berkeley, email: fzimring@law.berkeley.edu, tel.: 510 642 0854, expert on police strategies to reduce crime. See his research on the reasons for the reduction in crime in New York and Los Angeles

Mental Health

Randolph DuPont, University of Memphis, department of criminology and criminal justice, email: rdupont@memphis.edu, tel.: 901-678-5484, expert on police strategies for dealing with people who are mentally ill or emotionally troubled and the role of crisis intervention teams

Amy Watson, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Social Work, email: acwatson@uic.edu, tel.: 312-996-0039, expert on police efforts to deal with people who are mentally ill or emotionally troubled

Police Training and Culture

Sue Rahr, director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission and former King County (Wa.) Sheriff, email: srahr@cjtc.state.wa.us, tel.: 206-835-7372, expert on police training, strategies and police culture

Ronald Serpas, Loyola University New Orleans and former police chief of New Orleans, email: rserpas@loyno.edu, tel.: 504-865-2665, expert on police strategies, police media relations and race and police; he is also on the national board of Cure Violence, a national organization that uses a public health strategy to interrupt violence in high-crime neighborhoods, tel.: 312-996-8775

Tom Tyler, professor of law and psychology, Yale University Law School, email: tom.tyler@yale.edu, tel.: 203-432-7432, expert on police legitimacy and the role of attitudes in shaping police-community relations

Journalists Who Have Investigated Police Accountability

Gina Barton, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, email: gbarton@jrn.com

Cheryl W. Thompson, Washington Post, email: Cheryl.thompson@washpost.com

Angela Caputo, the Chicago Tribune, email: arcaputo1@gmail.com

Blogs to Follow

Public Narrative blog: Furthering the mission of ensuring that nonprofit and neighborhood voices are not only heard but are part of the ongoing conversation on issues that affect them.

Key Resources

Guides for Journalists

Public Narrative connects communities and media, working to increase diversity of voices represented in the media and in public debates. Stephen Franklin and Susy Schultz, presenters at the SRI, compiled these guides for journalists covering urban violence and police.

Additional Resources for Journalists

Journalists' resources from Harvard University's Shorenstein Center, Excessive or Reasonable Force: Research on law enforcement and racial conflict

U.S. Government Agencies

Bureau of Justice Statistics stats on the use of force in law enforcement

U.S. Department of Justice resources

Police Organizations

Fair and Impartial Policing, provides training for police departments on dealing with bias, tel.: 813-991-9655

International Association of Chiefs of Police, provides workshops and training on key police-related issues, tel.: 703-836-6767

National Black Police Association, a national organization made up of police chapters across the U.S.; it provides training and workshops for police, tel.: 214-942-2022

National Center for Rural Law Enforcement, a center at the University of Arkansas that researches and conducts training on issues that involve rural police organizations

Police Assessment Resource Center, provides counseling for police, public officials and community groups on police polices, tel.: 202-257-5111

Police Executive Research Forum, an organization of police executives involved in research and consulting involving police and police and minority community relations, tel.: 202-466-7820

Police Foundation, researches, advises and counsels police and community organizations, tel.: 202-833-1460

Criminal Justice, Legal Research and Police Accountability

ACLU's Race and Criminal Justice Web page takes you to research, news accounts and updates on issues involving race and criminal justice. Contact for press: media@aclu.org or tel.: 212-549-2666 for the national office in New York, dcmedia@aclu.org or tel.: 202-417-7547 for the Washington Legislative Office.

The Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project of the University of Chicago Law School offers research and legal training on police accountability. The director is law professor Craig Futterman, tel.: 773-703-9611.

Harvard University Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management: Among its research on key criminal justice issues, the organization has examined police strategies to reduce violence, tel.: 617-495-5188.

National Police Accountability Project, a project of the National Lawyers Guild, tel.: (212) 630-9939, tracks police misconduct and issues and links attorneys, advocacy groups and individuals.

National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement focuses on police oversight efforts and provides research, consulting and training. Their website offers links to police oversight agencies across the U.S. Tel.: 317-721-8133.

Community Advocacy Groups

Communities United for Police Reform, a community activist group that focuses on political accountability in New York City

We Cop Watch promotes police accountability and holds training and workshops. It is one of several community activist groups that focus on monitoring police.

Media and Coverage of Police Issues

Center on Media, Crime and Justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, research, links and forums on police-related issues, Stephen Handelman, director, email: shandelman@jjay.cuny.edu, tel.: 646-557-4563. The Center also produces the Crime Report, a daily index of major stories dealing with criminal justice issues.

Ferguson's Conspiracy Against Black Citizens, The Atlantic.com's article on the DOJ investigation in Ferguson

The Marshall Project, a source for a daily collection of news reports and its own investigative stories on criminal justice issues, tel.: 212-803-5200

Media Stories by Workshop Participants

San Jose mayor wants body cameras for all cops by next year, Robert Salonga, San Jose Mercury News, May 11, 2015

Police body cameras focus of two studies, Rachel Alexander, The Spokesman-Review, May 10, 2015

SJPD data show San Jose cops detained greater percentage of blacks, Latinos, Tracey Kaplan, Robert Salonga and Leigh Poitinger, San Jose Mercury News, May 9, 2015

San Jose: Police auditor wants more sunshine on internal misconduct probes, Robert Salonga, San Jose Mercury News, April 28, 2015

Poynter Coverage of Media, Police and Urban Violence

Police and Crime Reporting

2 Things Newsrooms Everywhere Should Do to Cover the Cops and the Community by Kelly McBride; two things newsrooms should do in every community to document the relationship between the police and the community

Media Covers Chaos During a Long Night of Protest and Police Shootings by James Warren

During Protests, Police May Balance Journalists’ Rights with Public Safety by Ellyn Angelotti; police can sometimes interfere with reporters' work in the name of public safety

Police Arrest Reporters Covering Black Lives Matter protests by Benjamin Mullin

How The Washington Post Counted the Dead, One Police Shooting at a Time by Benjamin Mullin

What to Do When Police Tell You to Stop Taking Photos, Video by Al Tompkins; tips for dealing with police interference in photographing or shooting video of police actions

Access to Police Body Camera Videos: The Wild West of Open Records Requests by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; gaining access to body camera recordings is proving challenging for many journalists


Webinar Replays

Using Data to Cover Police: Presented by an experienced investigative journalist, Cheryl Thompson, this Webinar teaches you how to dig up that data that the government agencies don't want you to have. You'll also learn to analyze that data, identify patterns and build accountability stories.

Race Matters: Covering Communities of Color presented by Sarah Hoye on May 28, 2015. The Webinar walks you through case studies that explore how news coverage of often volatile police-community relations can affect the public. It will help journalists find and cover stories about race in their own communities with context and credibility.

A Poynter Conversation held May 4, 2015, Covering Cops & Communities: A Poynter Conversation, features journalists experienced at covering this contentious issue. Don't miss this timely and lively conversation!

Self-Directed Courses

Handling Race and Ethnicity: Successful, balanced and accurate coverage of the explosion of public anger over police actions requires sensitive handling of issues of race and ethnicity. In this course, you’ll examine your own assumptions about race and ethnicity. You’ll learn how to approach this delicate topic with confidence, and you’ll explore a framework to help you and your news organization make more thoughtful and informed decisions about word choices.

On the Beat: Covering Cops and Crime: Successful reporters on the cop beat share certain traits: exceptional initiative and determination, an eye for accuracy and detail, a knack for developing sources, and the ability to tell a story. In this course, you’ll learn how to navigate police departments, master legal terms, develop sources, and mine the beat for story ideas that go beyond the news you hear off the scanner.