Author: Kelly Gehringer

Published Date: 5/19/2022

Categories: F1RST Magazine University News

A photograph of several people seated in a conference room
Attendees at the first-ever Best Practices in Transformational Community-Centered Public Safety (CCPS) credential, held at the Wingspread Foundation in Racine, Wisconsin.

New Compass Credential Inspires Creative,
Community-Centered Approach to Public Safety

The Office of Compass Credentials at Carroll University offers several different courses that support lifelong learning, all of which meet at the intersection of the liberal arts and rapidly changing workforce needs. Often shaped by social context, these credentials intentionally focus on equity, access and inclusion.

The call for action around police reform and racial justice has grown louder in America in recent years. As cities across the country continue to work together to build safe neighborhoods, new community-centered models are proving to impact public safety.

In January, Carroll's School of Education and Human Services partnered with Art Howell, retired police chief for the Racine Police Department, to offer the first-ever Best Practices in Transformational Community-Centered Public Safety (CCPS) credential.

Community leaders from Chicago-based nonprofits to governmental organizations met to discuss the shifting paradigm of public safety at The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread educational center in Racine, Wisconsin. The goal was to bring people together in several different spaces for three days, under Wingspread's mission and "convene for impact."

The CCPS approach is a shared leadership model that raises the status of community leaders, reestablishing the fundamental premise that public safety officers are in place to serve and protect area residents – not occupy neighborhoods. Additionally, this new model emphasizes programming and services over enforcement whenever possible.

“This perspective gives people the opportunity to see the important role that residents can play in keeping their neighborhoods safe,” said Kathy Kramer, dean for the School of Education and Human Services. “It reframes the ‘us versus them' mentality.”

For Kramer, this idea has been years in the making. About a decade ago, Kramer wondered what it would be like to approach community service as an immersive experience where Carroll students would live in a community for two weeks, engaging directly with schools, after-school programs, churches and neighborhoods. Kramer worked with stakeholders from school boards, pastors from churches and the local police department to facilitate the program.

"What we found was, if you don't engage in all aspects of the community, you'll miss important understandings about the lives of students in your classroom," Kramer said.

Last year, Kramer worked closely with Howell to develop the CCPS credential so that diverse voices could be involved in the process and, ultimately, establish solution-based action planning to take back to their communities. Howell's 36-year career in policing provided helpful context for the law enforcement perspective.

The conference began with a historical overview of policing in America, presentations from panelists and break-out sessions. Topics spanned from school safety and conflict resolution in domestic violence situations to office wellness and post-incarceration community re-entry.

Fourteen participants convened for 8-hour conference sessions over three days, followed by fellowship after hours. Howell said this helped people get out of their silos and learn more about each other.

“People were astonished to learn about the work they were doing independent of each other,” Howell said. “They learned that if they were strategically aligned with leadership that holds their organizations accountable, they could be more effective.”

Participants from Chicago, including various executive-level leaders from nonprofits like the Chicago Neighborhood Initiative, the Greater Roseland Chamber of Commerce and Kids off the Block, made up most of the first cohort. A city alderman – and former U.S. Secretary of Education under the Obama administration – was also in attendance.

Howell says these community leaders realized that they all essentially wanted the same thing, but they had never worked together to achieve it before. Day by day, the meetings allowed participants to reflect on how they existed in this space together, putting ideas into a greater context they could take back with them to their communities.

The first day covered a historical perspective about the origin of policing – both its negative and positive connotations – to level set the conversation. Howell said this context is an essential part of reform. On the one hand, America's law enforcement has a dark history, with roots reaching back to slavery. On the other hand, there is a sense of order stemming from Sir Robert Peel's nine policing principles, developed in London in the 1800s. For community stakeholders to approach public safety earnestly, awareness of both elements is critical.

“Community-oriented policing services are often tied to topics like the war on drugs and incarceration,” Howell said. “If we start with the historical context, there is a manner of progression, and we can begin to emphasize public safety over law enforcement.”

Another organization in attendance, Creating Real Economic Destiny (CRED), works to give Chicago gang members and at-risk criminals access to trade professions. Its leader is a former convict who provided a powerful perspective to a room full of academics and community leaders.

On day two, participants began to settle into their shared space, brainstorming ideas that wouldn't necessarily arise during their typical workday. Kimberly Morris, a participant from Chicago Neighborhood Initiative (CNI), felt that this level of teambuilding would not have been possible without the collaborative atmosphere that Wingspread's spaces provided.

“The training provided an amazing opportunity for community organizations to coalesce and strategize around solving some of our neighborhood’s toughest issues around violence, trauma and restoring public safety,” said Kimberly Morris, director of real estate and community development for the Chicago Neighborhood Initiative (CNI). “Our group was able to walk away with a framework for our initiative that will transform the way our community remedies these issues.”

The approach also happens to align with CNI's overall strategy for holistic community development and its long-term goal to rebuild and restore the fabric of the Roseland neighborhood.

The conference also involved sessions dedicated to asset mapping, a path for stakeholders to learn how to work with neighboring organizations to find resources. For example, organizations like the United Way have assets in Chicago, but if these leaders aren't connected or in a relationship with one another, other organizations in the community cannot access these assets. When it comes to asset mapping, intentional communication is critical.

“It's about preserving the work that has already been done,” said Howell. “And finding a path forward. Words matter.”

Finally, on day three, the group advanced into the action planning phase, examining gaps to fill. Participants took a survey to figure out the next steps for their collective asset mapping and individual action plans, which Wingspread will eventually distribute.

In a sense, community success looks exactly like the CCPS training itself – different people coming together from different perspectives and collaborating to solve complex problems in their neighborhoods. If community stakeholders can work together and agree on best practices for public safety, new action plans will set the stage for reform.

Carroll hopes to offer virtual options for future cohorts – and continue these kinds of conversations in communities near and far.

“I value that Carroll is part of something so positive,” Kramer said. “The more we learn about each other, the more we learn that our differences are not so different after all.”

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