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DC police commission adds outside help to examine practices, criminal justice system

The D.C. Police Reform Commission has hired an outside consultant to help examine police practices and the criminal justice system. Impact Justice, a research center based in D.C. and Oakland, California, will provide assistance in the coming months.

The Police Reform Commission was launched just months ago as part of the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Second Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, which the D.C. council passed in June. It called for the formation of the commission from various backgrounds to examine and analyze six topics: the role of police in schools, alternatives to police responses, police discipline, the integration of conflict resolution strategies and restorative justice practices into policing and provisions from the act.

According to its website, Impact Justice was established to imagine, innovate and challenge the status quo when it comes to our current justice system.

“As an innovation and research center, we work to foster a more humane, responsive and restorative system of justice in America,” said Impact Justice President Alex Busansky during a commission meeting Monday.

The subject of restorative justice was addressed several times during the meeting, and when asked what it meant Busansky said, “It happens pre-charge. You never go to the [district attorney’s] office. You never go to the courthouse. You never go to jail or juvenile prison or an adult prison if you go through the program.”

It instead relies on community-based organizations that would solve issues that police would normally resolve.

“It envisions a world where both people may end up in that initial pathway because of police contact. It may be that Antoinette and I have an issue between our kids or between ourselves, and we want to get it resolved. We can go to that community-based organization, and they can take our case,” Busansky said.

The group also focuses on improving conditions and opportunities for those who are incarcerated, such as reducing sexual assault in prison.

It also looks at supporting people coming out of prison to reduce recidivism. One project discussed was the Homecoming Project, described as an “Airbnb” for those getting out of prison.

Busansky did remark at the initial meeting with the commission that the group likes to think outside the box, and sometimes its experimental nature may lead to failure.

“Innovation to us is about risk and imagination … It means we are going to have to do some things that are uncomfortable that you might not always know exactly how they are going to turn out. And sometimes you have to risk quite honestly failure. As an organization we take on projects, I don’t think this is quite one of them, that we really don’t know how they are going to go.”

The D.C. Police Commission is slated to deliver its report on police practices on Dec. 31.

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