Protesters want changes to the justice system. New York City’s community groups are already putting alternatives into action.

Protesters in Ferguson, New York and Baltimore are calling for a change to the national system of policing, but a protest is just rhetoric without reform. Some communities around the country have already found alternatives to the status quo — patrolling and protecting their own neighborhoods rather than relying on the police.

The Shomrim, a Jewish neighborhood watch group, was developed in Crown Heights during the 1960s in response to neighborhood crime and the feeling that the police were not doing enough to protect them. More recent “Cure Violence” programs, like Gangstas Makin’ Astronomical Community Changes (GMACC), treat violence as a public health issue that can be “cured” by reaching out to the highest-risk members of the community.

Without a Badge assesses how these programs work, if they work and why. The programs all strive to create a working alternative to the current criminal justice system. They also challenge the police force to connect with the people they serve and answer specifically to those communities.

Ultimately, these groups are about cooperation and creating systems that encourage the police and the public to work with one another. They are alternatives, but also ideals. They are a vision of a self-determined neighborhood: people who know the problems of an area, overseeing how those problems are dealt with. Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, during his first term in 1994, dispersed police power to the precinct commanders. The thought was that they knew what their individual neighborhoods would need. The programs in Without A Badge further disperse the responsibilities of maintaining safety and order.

The Shifting Relationship between Cops and Citizens
The Police and the Public: An Erosion of Trust
Police Officers Killed


Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation
Killed by Police


Police shootings of many unarmed citizens, most of them black, have spawned a year of protests — and lots of hand wringing. How did this happen and can it be fixed? Read More
Alternatives to Policing
With a Badge: Examining How New York’s Finest Protect and Serve

Number of additional officers proposed by City Council for FY 2016

Source: New York City Council
As law enforcement across the country has come under increased scrutiny in recent months, we take a closer look at how the NYPD reaches out to the community. Read More
Alternatives to Courts
The Community Speaks
We asked residents across the five boroughs how they feel about the police’s relationship to the community. A lot of the people we spoke to felt there was a real disconnect between the public and their protectors. We collected ideas for how we could make the situation better. What do people want from their Police Department?