The UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law’s Center for Racial Justice and Criminal Justice Reform announced that Walmart Inc. has contributed $210,000 to the Center to develop an enhanced community policing project. The program aims to foster greater collaboration between local law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect.
The project will apply foundational research to reimagine and enhance law enforcement outreach efforts by working with Walmart and its stores in local markets. This work will include development of training materials, assessment tools, best practices for engaging in local communities, and a pilot program in Northwest Arkansas.
“Walmart is committed to strengthening community cohesion through police community engagement programs,” said Frank Johnson, Senior Director, Community Law Enforcement Liaison at Walmart. “We recognize that building trust with law enforcement is a key enabler for communities to thrive.”
The reimagined program will align with the recommendations from the Arkansas Governor’s Task Force Report on Policing released in November 2020. One primary recommendation was that law enforcement work more diligently to increase trust within local communities, in part by conducting engagement events in rural and minority communities to build greater trust between citizens and the police, as well as a better understanding of the law.
“The collaboration between the Center and Walmart can provide immediate outcomes in community policing and improve the relationships between Arkansas communities and law enforcement agencies,” said Center Co-director andré douglas pond cummings. “We are enthusiastic about beginning this research and critical work.”
The development phase will focus on establishing standards for Walmart stores to collaborate with local law enforcement agencies. Student fellows will research nationwide best practices on community policing programs, design a paradigm for Walmart as a community policing collaborator, and draft procedures and training materials. Participants will be asked to provide input to measure the program’s success.
During the pilot phase, the Center will work with several cities, including in Northwest Arkansas, to deploy the guidelines and training materials. Data from the pilot locations will be used to finalize the program.
“Data-driven solutions will be a crucial part of this project as we pilot and assess best practices in community policing,” said Center Co-director Anastasia Boles. “This collaboration has the potential to significantly impact justice outcomes.”
Ultimately, the objective is to scale the program to a national level. Law enforcement agencies and store managers will use the new program model to develop and support local community policing initiatives.
“This project is an excellent fit with the Center’s expertise and its other initiatives,” said Theresa Beiner, Bowen’s dean. “We are pleased Walmart has chosen to work with the Center and Bowen.”