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The December–January Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) topic is police–community trust. As a supplemental resource on this topic, we will host a Webinar featuring national experts in the field. This Webinar will be available to the National Forum, Community Based Violence Prevention, and Defending Childhood sites in January 2016. We will also launch a law enforcement community of practice consisting of senior law enforcement officials in YVP cities, to engage in policy and practice discussion on police training, staff evaluation, and building trust.

Preserving the Arc of Justice

Q&A With Death Row Survivor

Police, Citizens Build Safer Camden

•  Webinar
•  Funding Opportunities
•  Training Opportunities

News and Views
•  Reports, Guidelines, and Briefs
•  News
•  Other Resources

Youth Violence Prevention Communities of Practice Fall Convening

by Michael Hopps
  Bryan Stevenson, Equal Justice Initiative

Even in a nation built on the rule of law, there is no guarantee that justice will be meted out equally or on time.

But on Nov. 17, in a modest hotel ballroom off Baltimore, Md.'s Inner Harbor, an appreciative crowd of about 200 watched the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) take aim at achieving equal justice. Those onlookers served witness to a daylong testimony of man's inhumanity to men, women, and children, punctuated by damning statistics but also by tales of redemption, and ending, somehow, with the promise of a better society. The moral arc of the universe is long, Dr. King told us a half-century ago, but it bends toward justice.

OJJDP hosted the 3-day Youth Violence Prevention Communities of Practice Fall Convening at the Baltimore Hilton, Nov. 17–19. The theme of the convening's first day, a training, was "Improving Public Safety and Health in Communities With High Trauma, Neglect, and Stress." OJJDP Administrator Robert Listenbee led off the morning with a few remarks before handing the microphone to Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a Montgomery, Ala., nonprofit law firm that represents indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair treatment in the legal system.


  Ray Hinton speaks at OJJDP's November
  2015 convening.

Ray Hinton, 29 years old and African American, had just begun mowing his mother's lawn in Birmingham, Ala., one day in 1985, when he saw two white men standing on her back porch. Hinton turned off the mower and approached the men. One of them said he was looking for Anthony Ray Hinton, whom Hinton admitted he was. The men then identified themselves as a police lieutenant and sergeant and placed him in handcuffs.

At that moment, Hinton couldn't have imagined that another 29 years would pass before he was released from custody.

Hinton was charged with the murders of two Birmingham restaurant managers, in two separate robberies from earlier that year. After he told detectives that he did not own a gun but his mother did, a .38 caliber revolver was taken from his mother's home. The state of Alabama said that gun, the only evidence that would be presented at trial, was used in both murders. Hinton was convicted of those killings and sentenced to die. He spent nearly 30 years on Alabama's death row before he was released to freedom on April 3, 2015, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a Montgomery, Ala., nonprofit that provides legal representation to prisoners who have been denied a fair trial, but also because of his own remarkable will.

Hinton's original defense lawyer, a public defender, incorrectly believed he had only $1,000 to hire a ballistics expert to disprove Alabama's case against Hinton. The person Hinton's attorney hired was a one-eyed civil engineer with little ballistics training who admitted he had trouble operating the forensic microscope at trial.

In 1999, EJI hired ballistics experts who rapidly determined the bullets found at the two murder scenes could not have come from Hinton's mother's gun. The prosecutors refused to reopen the case.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Hinton's constitutional right to a fair trial had been violated.

Just 7 months free, Hinton told his story to a packed ballroom at a Baltimore, Md., hotel Nov. 17, during the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's conference, "Improving Public Safety and Health in Communities With High Trauma, Neglect, and Stress." Afterward, he sat down with Michael Hopps of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention News for a Q&A.



Upcoming Webinar

Police and Community Trust
On Jan. 26, 2016, Development Services Group will host a Webinar, "Police and Community Trust: Local and National Perspectives." More information will be available in the coming weeks.

Funding Opportunities

National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative
This program encourages the implementation of strategies that will improve access to trauma-focused treatment and services in underserved populations. Apply by Jan. 20, 2016.


Training Opportunities

NCHE Webinars
National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) Webinars focus on the schooling of homeless children and youth. NCHE is offering the following free Webinars in January and February.
  • Paving the Way to College for Students Experiencing Homelessness
    Jan. 19 and Feb. 5, 2016, 2–3:15 p.m. EST

  • McKinney–Vento 101: School Access and Stability Under the McKinney–Vento Act
    Jan. 22 and Feb. 11, 2016, 2–3 p.m. ET

  • McKinney–Vento 102: Support for School Success and Special Populations
    Feb. 17, 2016, 2–3 p.m. EDT
Visit NCHE for more information and to register.


by Jack Calhoun


Orlando Cuevas cannot quite believe what's happening between police and residents in Camden, N.J. "In my 26 years serving as a police officer," says the assistant chief of the Camden County Police Department, "I've never, ever had people telling me I was doing a good job. Or tell me what a great job my officers were doing—what a nice interaction they had with one of my officers. You wouldn't believe it. I just keep getting stopped on the street, anywhere."

The good vibes in Camden uniting police and citizens aren't exactly a mystery. Local law enforcement has made a conscious and widely supported change in the way they interact with residents. On a site visit to the city in 2014, one officer said, "[When] people would wave to us, [it was] usually with one finger. Now [it's] with all five—greeting us, welcoming us. Sometimes I get out of my car [just to] shoot hoops with the kids or toss the football around. Policing has never been so rewarding."

According to Cuevas, a prime reason for the change was the redefinition of "hot spot policing." Officers would target an area (a "hot spot"), saturate it with police, arrest an offender or offenders, and then leave. But Cuevas says that's no longer the case.

"What stays is the concentrated enforcement focus," he notes. "What's different is that we [also] stay. You see, crime creates a vacuum. We want something to fill that vacuum."

Cuevas's perspective backs what research shows, namely that crime creates two victims: an individual who is robbed, hurt, or even killed, and the community—retreating, giving up their streets, ceding their citizenship.

"What you try to do," he says, "is bring people out of their houses. We have ice cream trucks, Nerf football games, and a [new] basketball court. We barbeque. Members of the community, including the faith community, help us cook. We show movies, but we show them outside. I want the residents to know each other, and I want them to know us."

Officers in the PACER program (Police and Congress Enjoy Reading) read one on one with kindergarteners. Police mentor youth through Camden's "Buddy Initiative," and everyone flocks to the basketball games where kids take on local cops.

There is a highly pragmatic aspect of this strategy: Reporting goes up. "People don't care what color we are—black, white, brown, or green," Cuevas says. "They want to trust us. And when they trust, the barriers go down, and crime reporting goes up."

Is Cuevas's work ephemeral, or does it really represent a norms change—an institutional shift in police culture? He points proudly to the fact that police academy graduates must walk their beats, "knock[ing] on every door in the neighborhood they're covering." Cuevas hopes to reinstate a pilot program in which a panel of judges and other government and civic leaders helped police identify candidates who fit the city's new law enforcement model. "We're not looking for soldiers," he states. "We're looking for community builders."

Cuevas is a modest man who attributes the city's positive changes to "the assistance we've gotten from the county, the state, and the federal government. We've just customized it to Camden."

Barbara Maronski, associate vice president of the Center for Family Services and assistant coordinator of Camden's National Forum work, says the change is palpable. "The Cure4Camden Steering Committee promotes much more openness about what each of us is doing or should be doing and why, especially with law enforcement." The committee includes representatives from the Office of the Mayor, New Jersey Attorney General's Office, law enforcement, community organizations, neighborhoods, faith-based groups, and schools.

"After a shooting," says Maronski, "Cure4Camden goes into the community [to assure residents] this is not the norm and that we need their help to make a change. The deputy chief and Cure4Camden program manager speak before a shooting response to ensure the spot is safe and that police can provide a presence in the outskirts [for] continued safety. There is a clear understanding that we all play a part in changing behavior and community norms."

Although Camden's work is somewhat new, its emerging police policy and practice clearly reflect recommendations made by the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Those include a shift from "warrior" to "protector" mentality; constant interaction with citizens; and police out of cars, knocking on doors, and participating in citywide crime prevention to fill vacuums created by enforcement. "Finally," says Cuevas, "is the importance of technology. Technology makes us more efficient—it saves us time. But the important thing is what we do with that time ... we put our officers back into the community."

    Core Themes of the President's Task Force on
    21st Century Policing:
  • Change the culture of policing from warriors to guardians, "protectors and champions of the constitution."
  • Embrace community policing.
  • Ensure fair and impartial policing ("procedural justice").  
  • Build community capital that "grows from positive interactions based on more than just enforcement interactions."
  • Pay attention to officer wellness and safety.
  • Use technology that "improves efficiency and transparency."

Camden's efforts have not yet reached the systemic level seen in Watts, Calif., where citizens have a say in the screening and hiring of officers, where police–community trust is embedded in academy training, and where officers are evaluated and promoted not only on arrest rates but also on the number and quality of citizen interactions.

Yet, here in a city often labeled one of America's most violent, there are extremely hopeful signs of residents and police working together to build a safer, healthier Camden. Crime has dropped to its lowest level in years, says Maronski, "because the police are going all out to forge positive relationships with the community."



Filling Empty Seats
School absences are a widespread problem in New York City. In 2013–14, almost one in five NYC elementary students missed 20 days or more. Absenteeism is an even bigger problem among homeless students, with nearly 16,000 of the more than 43,000 homeless children in grades K–5 chronically absent in 2013–14. This report looks at school mobility, absenteeism, and academic performance.


Boston Recognized for Violence Prevention
This year, the Big Cities Health Inventory recognized Boston for improving public health outcomes. The city fared well on many physical health indicators, reporting lower diabetes, heart, and cancer mortality rates. Boston was also featured in a case study for its efforts to reduce and prevent violence with trauma-informed approaches. Nonfatal assault–related gunshots and stabbings have fallen since 2008, homicide rates have decreased by 16 percent, and violent crime overall has decreased by 9 percent.

Other Resources

Police–Youth Dialogues Toolkit
The Guide for Improving Relationships and Public Safety Through Engagement and Conversation is a toolkit for police officers, community leaders, service providers, and others working to build and maintain trusting relationships between young people and law enforcement. With a focus on positive and open communication, the toolkit highlights some of the most successful strategies for organizing, implementing, and sustaining effective practices and programs.

Contact Us
Send questions or feedback about the newsletter to or Bass Zanjani, project director, at 301-951-0056.

Looking for a particular article? You can read past issues of the newsletter here.
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The National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention Newsletter is prepared under Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Cooperative Agreement No. 2012–MU–FX–K009 with Development Services Group, Inc.

The views, opinions, and content of this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of OJJDP.