YLS Professors Enlisted in Nationwide Initiative to Build Community Trust and Justice

Two Professors from Yale Law School are among a consortium of national law enforcement experts being enlisted by the Department of Justice for a new initiative tasked with building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

On Thursday, September 18, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the launch of the Justice Department’s National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, which will be funded through a $4.75 million collaborative agreement. This team of experts includes Yale Law School Professors Tracey Meares and Tom Tyler, who will be joined by partners from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the Center for Policing Equity at UCLA, and the Urban Institute.

The National Initiative is a substantial investment by the Federal government in training, evidence-based strategies, policy development, and research to build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. The launch comes on the heels of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where an officer-involved shooting brought national attention to the importance of strong police-community relationships. The initiative is not simply a response to that incident. Rather it reflects a long standing concern about the widespread mutual lack of confidence between the police and the communities they serve.

As part of the Initiative, Yale Law School will launch the Collaborative for Justice Policy Innovation, directed by Tracey Meares and co-directed by Tom Tyler. Through this effort, Meares and Tyler will work directly with other members of the consortium to design intervention programs in six pilot communities around the country based on existing research concerning procedural justice, implicit bias, and race and reconciliation. Meares and Tyler will also design metrics to measure and demonstrate the effect of these interventions and compare the results with six untreated comparison communities. They will take leading roles in producing reports and scholarly articles to disseminate the results of these interventions and their effects on building community trust and justice in the six pilot sites. Additionally, the Initiative will also establish a clearinghouse where information, research, and technical assistance are readily accessible for law enforcement, criminal justice practitioners, and community leaders.

Meares and Tyler have collaborated extensively in the past, working to research and publish findings on police legitimacy and procedural justice and advise agencies on the practical use of these concepts in the field. 

“There are several aspects of this initiative that are especially noteworthy,” said Tyler. “First, the Department of Justice has drawn together the three most promising research based strategies for addressing long-standing issues of mistrust in the police. Those are procedural justice, implicit bias reduction, and race and reconciliation. The selection of strategies based upon their demonstrated effectiveness through empirical research supports the general Federal emphasis on evidence bases policies. The initiative will both draw upon these prior findings and provide opportunities for further research to demonstrate their effectiveness.”

Tyler continued, “Second, this initiative focuses on proactive strategies for building positive relationships between the police and the communities they serve. It is not punitive in nature and the communities are not chosen because they have been involved in recent police-community conflicts. The goal of this initiative is to design and validate strategies for building trust so that the police and the members of all communities have effective strategies for working collaboratively to resolve problematic incidents; for jointly designing how the police will police communities; for working together to promote social and economic development.”

Meares is one of the leading national theorists on police legitimacy and, in particular, how racial narratives influence police relationships with minority communities and how deliberate attention to these issues can influence community compliance with the law.  She is the Walton Hale Hamilton Professor at Yale Law School, before which she was Max Pam Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Studies in Criminal Justice at the University of Chicago Law School. Her research focuses on communities, police legitimacy, constitutional criminal procedure, and legal policy. She has written in both the academic and policy realms about innovations in legitimacy-based violence reduction approaches and has collaborated with multiple jurisdictions in California, Connecticut, Illinois, and New York to implement these strategies.

Tom R. Tyler brings to the effort his reputation for creating “paradigm shifting scholarship in the study of law and society,” for which he won the Law and Society Association Harry Kalven prize in 2000. He is the Macklin Fleming Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology at Yale Law School. Prior to coming to Yale, he also taught at New York University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Northwestern University. Tyler has done extensive research and published numerous articles, books, and chapters on how individuals’ judgments about the justice or injustice of procedures shape legitimacy, compliance, and cooperation, particularly in the field of interactions with law enforcement.

For more information on the Initiative, click here.