Police/Minority Relations As a Public Health Issue

Director of the Trauma Advocacy Initiative at Equal Justice USA, Fatimah Muhammad, discusses her organization’s view on police/minority relations as a public health issue and explains why the law enforcement community needs to transition from “punishment” and “offender focused” to a trauma-informed system.

1/7/17 #638






"We're now joined by Fatimah Muhammad, who is director, Trauma Advocacy Initiative at Equal Justice U.S.A. Fatimah, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having me. Um, we're here at the North Ward Center in Newark, New Jersey. We just finished a conversation about police-minority relations. Twelve folks, different perspectives. You were one of those. Yes. And very important leaders, Mayor Baraka one of them as well. Yes. Police-minority relations... Your biggest takeaway? I thought the conversation was powerful because we're have a hard conversation. And we allowed the conversation to go where it needed to. And what I mean by that is, um, people got to share personal perspectives. I think it wasn't, um, as neat and orderly. I think that that kind of... the spirit in which we address these issues, um, it takes people who are... who are willing to say hard things. And I think that came up. And that was my biggest takeaway is we need... we need courage to have this conversation and for it to lead to the solutions that we ultimately all want. Your organization, Equal Justice U.S.A., describe it. Sure. So we're a national criminal justice organization. We're working to transform this justice system. And the Trauma Advocacy Initiative. Give us a concrete example of what it looks like and what it achieves. Sure. So we're really focused on looking at violence as a public health issue and taking, taking the perspective that our focus on the justice system on punishment, on very offender-focused, is not going to transform the system. It's not... That communities, what they need is safety. Um, we need to make sure that survivors, in the wake of violence, have, um, services to support their families. And we want all, components of the system to really support that. So a trauma advocacy... or trauma-informed system is one that understands that there's trauma on many sides and that... For example... A system that... for... for example, we, in our... our training, for example, when we talk about a trauma-informed system, we start with officers and their needs, right? Their trauma? Their trauma. They have trauma. Service providers, first responders, all have their own trauma. And a trauma-informed system uses that as a part of their analysis. So they have trauma. There's a need to address those issues. Um, and by doing that, we do a great service to their service in the community and... What about the trauma experienced by those at the hands of law enforcement who are not treated fairly? Absolutely. So that... a trauma-informed perspective looks at also the trauma of the community. And not only the acute trauma..."