Organizing 101

While communities must identify their most urgent priorities and opportunities, many—if not all—of the policy reforms proposed in this Toolkit will be needed in combination in order to create transformative change. Community and advocates must demand comprehensive change while still prioritizing policy reform options and deciding which reforms may be rendered useless unless tied to others.

For example, implementing department-wide body cameras may not be useful unless filming is properly regulated, evidence collected is public, and other police accountability and transparency measures are also implemented. In addition, for each reform, community decisions need to be made about the acceptable range of compromise.

Identifying decision-makers who have the power to affect each of the policy arenas is a preliminary step in organizing—they are the targets of your campaign. Examples include:

  • State
    • Attorney General or equivalent
    • State Legislature
      • Individual Committees
      • Representatives of highly affected districts
    • Governor
      • Department of Corrections and other relevant agencies
      • State budget development and oversight
  • Local: City, County
    • Mayors
    • City Managers
    • County Executives
    • City Council or Board of Supervisors
    • Police Chiefs
    • Agency Heads

To help identify your targets and develop an effective organizing campaigns, consider the following questions:

  • What is the structure of your local police departments or Sheriff’s department?
    • What is the internal hierarchy and who has power?
    • Who do your police chiefs answer to?
  • Who controls the budget for your particular police department?
    • Who allocates funding for your local police departments?
    • Can your state legislative committees or city council committees regulate police through the budgeting process?
      • Consider: Learning your government structure for oversight and budgeting can help you engage in an effective campaign to limit the use of funds for certain activities, and to incentivize other types of desired activities, behavior, training, mandated data collection and data reporting, and community programming that can help build trust with communities.
  • Is statewide legislation the best way? Are local laws or regulations?
  • Is your police chief willing to change internal practices, like training or hiring? Can your mayor or city council affect those changes?
  • Who are potential allies (e.g., city council members, sympathetic police chiefs/officers)?
  • Who is likely to challenge your efforts (e.g., police unions, law-and-order politicians)? Who can help you move past their opposition?