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Successes, challenges of innovative Kresge-backed community policing model illuminated in feature story

An in-depth exploration of an innovative community policy strategy supported by Kresge – and the challenges of building trust between communities and law enforcement that it has illuminated – is featured in a recent feature story in Next City.

The Alameda (California) County Sheriff’s Office’s Community Capitals Policing framework incorporates Creative Placemaking in designing a range of community work, including outdoor recreational activities, youth arts programming, local festivals, an urban agriculture program and new resident associations. The work, which also includes a youth boxing league and Friday night markets, aims to support the Bay Area’s Ashland and Cherryland communities – neighborhoods with incomes more than 40 percent below the county’s average.

The Next City story chronicles the successes of the policing framework in building bridges between police and the communities, where there is a historical distrust of law enforcement. Those include providing healthy opportunities for young people, engaging directly with residents as festivals and community events and supporting local projects like community kitchens and arts programming. Such projects help bind the social fabric of the communities, and foster relationships between the sheriff’s office and residents.

But the story also outlines continuing tensions as the work pushes the boundaries of trust in neighborhoods with a history of tension between law enforcement and local residents. Ashland and Cherryland are composed predominantly of people of color, including residents without documentation who may be fearful of interaction with police. There is, for example, persistent disagreement over the presence of armed deputies who work out of the local youth center.

Hilary Bass, director of the nonprofit Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League, says the issue is still being worked out, one of many knotty problems that can only be resolved at the speed of trust.

“This is a concept that police should be ‘atomized’ into the community so natural relationships can form and evolve,” she told Next City. “It’s a natural integration of residents with one another, youth and adults, and residents and their government.”