What if the dominant narratives about violence and public safety are making our communities less safe?
Our country’s most pervasive narratives depict violence, perpetrators, victims and public safety through a limited, individualistic lens. This framing presents punishment and further violence as the solution. It also conveys a narrow definition of violence, erasing harm inflicted by systems and those in power while magnifying violence by individuals – typically people from Black and brown communities or people living in poverty. What could it look like to hold people accountable for harmful actions in ways that are restorative and transformative, instead of punitive?
In order to bring about justice and healing, we need to understand why harm happens.
We are all hardwired to meet our needs for wellbeing, and violence can be a means toward that end when other options aren’t available. People may cause harm as they work to secure resources, gain entry into certain social groups, or even to feel safe, protected and more in control of their environment. What if people could meet their needs for wellbeing without harming others?
Many systems intended for public safety – policing, criminal justice, child welfare – often perpetuate harm through practices and policies that limit access to wellbeing. But prevention, healing and justice are within reach and attainable through a community-centered, wellbeing oriented approach.
Led by our partners at the University of Chicago Health Lab, Transform911 is a national project to build a more robust and relevant public safety ecosystem that centers wellbeing for all. A diverse set of experts in health care, academia, government, emergency response and public safety, community advocacy, and more developed a Blueprint for Change with recommendations that are guided by a set of wellbeing principles.
The seven-point plan includes recommendations to transform 911 into a system that provides members of the public who are facing acute threats to their wellbeing with appropriate, equitable, relevant, immediate and around-the-clock relief from distress.
As common as instances of gun violence in the United States is media coverage of these horrific acts. These narratives shape our perception of victims, perpetrators, the causes and the solutions, driving assumptions that can limit access to wellbeing. What new solutions could we unlock by fundamentally shifting the way we talk about violence and other pressing issues of our time?
Hear from leaders who are advancing new narratives about violence in this panel discussion on how the stories we tell can lead to accountability, healing and prevention.
Looking for organizations and initiatives that are shifting the narrative and transforming public safety? Here are some places to start:
Led by our partners at the University of Chicago Health Lab, Transform911 is a national project to reimagine the country’s emergency response system. A diverse set of experts in health care, academia, government, emergency response and public safety, community advocacy, and more developed a Blueprint for Change with recommendations that are guided by a set of wellbeing principles.
What if media coverage of gun violence could prevent shootings and save lives? The Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting encourages more ethical, impactful and empathetic gun violence reporting by helping journalists find more diverse experts, reliable data, evidence-based solutions and strategies for community engagement. The Center’s Credible Messenger Reporting Project trains, compensates and empowers people impacted by gun violence in Philadelphia to produce and distribute news reports on its root causes, their lived experience and possible solutions from the community perspective.
No one knows how to redesign the public safety system better than the community. The Center for Policing Equity seeks to make policing less racist, less deadly and less omnipresent by placing power in the hands of those most impacted by inequitable public safety systems. Working collaboratively with vulnerable communities, The Center supports community advocacy efforts and uses data to help communities achieve safer policing outcomes.