Protect & Serve: Engaging Community to Create Equitable Public Safety Policies

On Thursday, May 20, Points of Light and Morehouse College led a conversation that explored the origins of laws and policies and their connection to race and systemic racism. Amidst public demands for systems reform, alternative approaches and racial justice, experts and community leaders shared successful models and effective solutions for public safety reform currently at work in communities. Attendees learned specific actions to support constructive conversations and positive changes in the paradigm of public safety and policing.

Conversation Key-Takeaways

  • If you want to do this work, you need to make sure that you’re working in the community and with the community.
  • Public safety is not just about law enforcement. It’s about being in a community where there are opportunities for people to live and work in a safe environment with good schools and opportunities to thrive.
  • We all play a role in creating change. Chose one part of the issue where you can move the needle and really lean into it.
  • Public safety cannot be reimagined through a one size fits all solution. We must understand the unique needs of the community we live in and serve.

Watch the Conversation On-Demand

Meet the Speakers

Cedric L. Alexander, Psy.D., Retired Public Safety Official, Author & MSNBC Commentator

Cedric L. Alexander Psy. D. is a law enforcement expert with over 40 years of experience in public safety. He has appeared on national media networks to provide comment on police-community relations and as a CNN law enforcement analyst has written editorials including “How to Build a Sensitive Cop;” “Police and Communities of Color Need to Build Trust;” and “Attacks on Police are an Attack on Community.” He has also served as Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, and as an assistant professor at the University of Rochester Department of Psychiatry. He is a former National President for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). He has lectured on police stress and burnout and currently trains on topics of management and leadership, centered around 21st Century Policing. He is the author of The New Guardians: Policing in America’s Communities for the 21st Century and In Defense of Public Service: How 22 Million Government Workers Will Save Our Republic.

Dominique Johnson, Senior Director of Community Engagement, Center for Policing Equity

Dominique Johnson is a racial justice warrior, and current Senior Director of Community Engagement at the Center for Policing Equity. She provides a mix of grassroots level activism and high-level strategic innovation to meet the needs of communities most vulnerable to burdensome policing. Dominique believes in the power of community– the lived experiences, expertise and collective influence– anchoring a quest to uplift community-centered equitable policing practices. Never one to back down in advocating for equity in every space, Dominique has led systemic change in youth civic engagement, gun violence prevention, and domestic and wartime sexual violence against women. Her most notable experience? After the Yugoslav Wars, advancing the interests of the Office of the President of Kosovo in development and implementation of protocol extending resources to the National Council on the Victims of Wartime Sexual Violence. Dominique authored several notable Presidential speeches and managed multinational events for the 2014 Global Summit to End Sexual Violence. 

She has linguistic competence in Albanian, Dutch, and Spanish, loves to travel and spends all of her remaining time with her adopted puppy, Obi and his puppy friends at the dog park. Dominique holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Spanish from Bowdoin College, and a Master’s Degree in International Affairs, with a concentration in Governance and Rights from The New School. 

Svante L. Myrick, Mayor of the City of Ithaca

Svante L. Myrick was sworn into office in January 2012 and became, at 24, the City of Ithaca’s youngest Mayor and first Mayor of color. Svante was first elected to the Common Council at the age of 20 while still a junior at Cornell University.

His active advocacy in Albany and in Washington D.C. has resulted in over $20 million of grants and awards from the State and Federal government. After years without them Myrick brought fireworks back to the City on the 4th of July and he’s moved Ithaca into the 21st century by embracing social media and overhauling the City’s web presence.

His accomplishments in his first term include sorely needed revisions to the City of Ithaca’s sidewalk policy, an overhaul of storm water utility legislation, and successful completion of the total rehabilitation of the Commons, Ithaca’s downtown pedestrian mall.

After being elected to a second four-year term, in 2016 Myrick released The Ithaca Plan: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drugs and Drug Policy, which garnered international attention for its forward thinking. From turning his dedicated mayoral parking space into a small public park to strengthening Ithaca’s status as a sanctuary city for refugees, he has demonstrated a progressive approach to governing.

Myrick has provided both local and national leadership in critical areas such as public health, housing, poverty and access to education. In 2017, he was awarded an Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership, a program that identifies and brings together the nation’s most promising young political leaders to explore the underlying values and principles of democracy, the relationship between individuals and their community, and the responsibilities of public leadership.

His other honors include a John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award, which recognizes Americans under the age of 40 who are changing their communities and the country with their commitment to public service, and being named to the Forbes magazine “30 under 30” list in the area of law and policy.

Myrick is currently serving a third term as Mayor of the City of Ithaca and of late has done a lot of work in collaboration with community stakeholders to develop recommendations to reform the Ithaca Police Department in an effort to improve police and community relations.

Bakari Sellers, Attorney and CNN Contributor

Bakari Sellers made history in 2006 when, at just 22 years old, he defeated a 26-year incumbent State Representative to become the youngest member of the South Carolina state legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the nation. He is the son of educator and former Voorhees College President Cleveland Sellers, a veteran civil rights activist who was a leader of SNCC.  

In 2014 Bakari Sellers won the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor and is widely considered to be a rising star within the Democratic Party and leading voice for his generation. 

Sellers earned his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College, where he served as student body president, and his law degree from the University of South Carolina. He has followed in the footsteps of his father, civil rights leader Dr. Cleveland Sellers, in his tireless commitment to public service while championing progressive policies to address issues ranging from education and poverty to preventing domestic violence and childhood obesity. 

In addition to his impressive list of early accomplishments, Sellers served on President Barack Obama’s South Carolina steering committee during the 2008 election. That coupled with his uncommon ability to reach across the aisle and get things done has led to numerous accolades including being named to TIME Magazine’s 40 Under 40 in 2010 as well as 2014’s “The Root 100” list of the nation’s most influential African-Americans. Sellers has been a much sought after public speaker and has provided political and social commentary and analysis on many major national news outlets. 

He has served as a featured speaker at events for the National Education Association, College Democrats of America National Convention, NAACP, the 2008 Democratic National Convention and, in 2007, delivered the opening keynote address to the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC. 

Sellers practices law with the Strom Law Firm, LLC in Columbia, SC. 

Sellers is a CNN contributor and is married to Ellen Rucker. 

Anthony Smith, Executive Director, Cities United

Anthony Smith is the executive director of Cities United, a national network of mayors, community and young leaders who are committed to reducing the epidemic of homicides & shootings among Black men and boys ages 14-24 by 50% by 2025. Cities United was launched in 2011 by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who partnered with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Casey Family Programs President and CEO William C. Bell, Campaign for Black Male Achievement CEO Shawn Dove and the National League of Cities. Prior to joining Cities United, Smith served as the first director of the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods in Louisville, KY. In this role Smith worked with city departments, community and faith-based organizations, community members and civic and business leaders to develop prevention strategies to reduce community violence and create better outcomes for those most impacted by systems of inequities.

Smith has more than 20 years of experience working with civic and political leaders organizing, facilitating, managing, mobilizing, and building networks to create community change.