Gary, In., is part of a pilot policing program that asks officers to focus on their own biases and build a better relationship with the community to bring down crime. The strategy was new to many officers trained to fire their weapons at the first signs of threat, the Wall Street Journal reports. While murders are soaring in nearby Chicago, Gary has cut homicides by half from last year, when its murder rate was 13 times the national average. Clearance rates for shooting homicides are climbing in the city of 78,000 that is nearly 85 percent African American, and more citizens are reaching out to police to ask for help in domestic violence and other disturbances.
Gary is among six cities, including Stockton, Ca., Birmingham, Al., and Minneapolis, involved in the Justice Department-backed program called the National Initiative for Building Community Trust & Justice. It stems from President Obama’s 2013 speech after the shooter’s acquittal in the Florida case of Trayvon Martin. Data on the program aren’t complete, but the homicide clearance rate in Birmingham rose to 66 percent this year from 55 percent in 2015, and in Minneapolis, positive contacts between police and community jumped 85 percent from two years ago. “If everything goes well, confidence [in the police] will go up…arrests will go down [and] crime will go down,” said criminologist David Kennedy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who devised the program that will run in the six cities until mid-2017. Each department in the program is encouraged to take anti-bias training and apply it to their day-to-day work.