Police Reform and Racial Justice Grant Program

Police Reform and Racial Justice Grant Program

A U.S. Conference of Mayors and Target Opportunity

THE PROGRAM — The U.S. Conference of Mayors has long been recognized for its commitment to both police reform and civil rights and for its leadership through the years in bringing mayors and police chiefs together in working partnerships to strengthen police-community relations and build trust between police departments and the communities they serve. Target has long been committed to creating and maintaining strong, healthy and safe communities, and advancing social justice and racial equity.

On January 21, 2021, in the opening session of that year’s Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Laysha Ward, Target’s Executive Vice President & Chief External Engagement Officer, announced the creation of a two-year, $700,000 Police Reform and Racial Justice Grant Program, a national partnership between the Conference of Mayors and Target aimed at identifying, supporting and promoting police policies and practices in cities shown to be effective in advancing the goal of justice for all residents.

Across the country, increasing numbers of law enforcement agencies are using co-responder models for service calls involving persons appearing to be mentally ill, substance abusers, or homeless; mandatory officer training that covers implicit bias, discrimination, and related issues; community policing efforts that target specific community needs, including those of young people, immigrants, and homeless people; and policies to increase transparency and officer accountability. These are examples of the kinds of practices cities are employing today that this grant program seeks to recognize, support, and promote.

In January 2022, in the Conference’s Winter Meeting in Washington, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Chair of the Conference’s Mayors and Business Leaders Center for Compassionate and Equitable Cities, recognized the winners of the first-year awards – Dallas, Albuquerque, and Salisbury, MD – and announced that the second year of the competition would soon be underway. A short time later, mayors were invited to submit their cities’ applications for the second-year awards and on June 4, in the 90th Annual Conference of Mayors in Reno, Target’s Laysha Ward announced that New Orleans (LA), Irving (TX), and Central Falls (RI) had been selected to receive the awards. Ms. Ward also announced that the grant program had been extended into a third year.

THE AWARDS – In each year of the grant program, the Conference invites all its members, including its service members, to submit descriptions of police reform policies and/or initiatives that have been implemented and are showing evidence of progress in achieving reform and racial justice goals in their cities. Applications describing prospective or startup programs will not be considered for grant awards. 

Also note that cities submitting applications in the first and /or second round of the grant program are not barred from applying for funding in the third round. Previously submitted applications that have been updated based on additional experience may be resubmitted for consideration. Applications seeking awards for other efforts underway are, of course, also welcome, but only one application may be submitted by a city.

A panel of judges including former mayors and recognized policing and racial justice experts select the cities to receive the grant awards. In each year of the program, an award is made in each of three population categories:

  • $175,000 to one city of 300,000 residents or more
  • $100,000 to one city in the 100,000 – 299,999 population range
  • $75,000 to one city having up to 100,000 residents

THE APPLICATION — Applications for grants, submitted online, must include detailed narrative descriptions of the policy and/or initiative for which the grant award is being sought. These narratives should cover:

  • the stated objectives of the policy/initiative, general and specific;
  • whether the policy/initiative is citywide or targeted to specific communities;
  • the evidence of the problem(s) that prompted the policies implemented or actions taken;
  • the components of the required actions, including dedication of police, other personnel and resources in implementation and operation;
  • the period of time in which the actions have been underway;
  • the evidence of the impact of the policy/initiative and related actions, to include any internal or external evaluations, statistical evidence, feedback from communities, etc.; and
  • other factors believed by the applicant to be relevant in the judging of the policy/initiative being proposed for an award.

POLICIES/INITIATIVES ON USCM WEBSITE — A notable feature of this grant program is that summary descriptions of the police reforms and their contributions to meeting racial justice goals that are the basis for cities’ applications for awards are posted on the Conference of Mayors website, enabling all mayors to have access to information on what their colleagues across the country have determined to be effective reforms that are worthy of being replicated. Summaries of all applications submitted for the first round of grant funding are currently available on two separate webpages previously established by the Conference:

  • The Mayors and Business Leaders Center for Compassionate and Equitable Cities, which was created in 2018 in the wake of, and in response to, the previous year’s violent and deadly White supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville (VA); the Center provides a range of resources to support mayors’ efforts to make their cities more equitable, inclusive and compassionate.
  • The Working Group on Police Reform and Racial Justice, which was created in 2020 in response to the urgent need to reset the relationship between police and city residents required to bring about lasting change that will improve public safety and foster a greater sense of security in all communities. The Working Group developed a comprehensive set of recommendations for police reform that has been adopted by the Conference of Mayors as policy and posted on the webpage.

QUESTIONS –  Contact Mike Brown at mbrown@usmayors.org.

QUESTIONS: Please contact Mike Brown at mbrown@usmayors.org.