University of Chicago Crime Lab launches Community Safety Leadership Academies

$27.5 million in seed funding will support programs to train police and community violence intervention leaders

The University of Chicago Crime Lab on May 9 launched the Community Safety Leadership Academies, which will offer first-of-their kind programs to train the next generation of policing and community violence intervention leaders from across America.

With a goal to be the most impactful and robustly evaluated public safety training ever offered in the United States, this effort brings together data and behavioral science insights of top academics at one of the world’s leading research institutions and the nation’s leading CVI and policing practitioners. Housed at the University of Chicago, the CSLA will include both the Policing Leadership Academy and the CVI Leadership Academy, and will offer multidisciplinary and complementary curricula that span six months. The first cohorts for both academies will graduate in 2023.

Made possible by a $25 million seed donation from Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin and a $2.5 million donation from GCM Grosvenor CEO Michael Sacks, the CSLA seeks to improve the efficacy and impact of policing and CVI, both essential to public safety. The Crime Lab launched the CSLA during an event on the University of Chicago campus that featured community safety leaders from across the country, including U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

“Improving the ability of community safety institutions to use data-driven management strategies is a vastly underutilized lever for stemming the tide of gun violence and closing the safety gap in America’s cities,” said Roseanna Ander, executive director of the Crime Lab. “That’s why we are launching the University of Chicago Community Safety Leadership Academies, the most robust public safety management programs ever offered in the United States.”

As gun violence continues to surge across the nation, the public debate about public safety has often focused on funding levels for police agencies and CVI programs. However, new research conducted by the Crime Lab found that management and leadership practices can be at least as important in determining public safety efficacy and impact. In the context of policing, the Crime Lab found that when leadership changes, it’s not uncommon to see reductions in violent crimes or police use of force on the order of 20 percent to 35 percent, or even more. Despite this insight, police and CVI leadership training has historically received little focus. 

“The Crime Lab and its partners have made the communities they serve safer. The success of these programs demonstrates that we know how to better protect our residents and build stronger bonds between law enforcement and our neighborhoods,” said Ken Griffin, CEO of Citadel. “Leveraging these insights, the Community Safety Leadership Academies will bring together the best minds from policing, violence intervention, and research to strengthen the way we invest in community safety in cities across the nation.”

“Solving the public safety crisis facing our cities is an all-hands-on-deck problem, demanding strong leadership from the police and CVI workers on the front lines of our communities,” said Michael Sacks and partners of GCM Grosvenor. “It also demands support from the philanthropic community, which is why I’m proud to have joined Ken Griffin to provide seed funding to launch the Academies.”

The Policing Leadership Academy at CLSA will be led by policing leaders from across America, including Sean Malinowski and Sandy Jo MacArthur, veterans of the Los Angeles Police Department, which most experts view as having undergone a dramatic improvement in public safety effectiveness and fairness over the past two decades. The academy’s curriculum will focus on teaching police leaders how to professionalize their departments with better training, management systems, accountability, and data-driven decision making. Following the six-month training program at the University of Chicago, a subset of participants will continue to an additional six-month fellowship at a police department in a different city than their home department. 

“Many implicitly assume police departments cannot change in ways that improve fairness without compromising effectiveness – but the evidence tells a different story. It’s not an “either-or” proposition, it is a “both-and” scenario,” said Bill Bratton, former NYPD Commissioner, who headed up both the NYPD and the Los Angeles Police Departments during periods of growth and change.

“By advancing 21st-century best practices in management and leadership, police departments in L.A., Philadelphia, D.C. and New York City became both more fair and more effective,” said Chuck Ramsey, former Philadelphia Police Commissioner and chair of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. “The new Community Safety Leadership Academies at the University of Chicago are well positioned to educate and train police leaders on how to foster change, replicate success, and improve outcomes.”

“We are at a critical time in the history of our country, a time when we need to develop police leaders who are willing to take on the mantle of responsibility for community engagement to broaden our perspective and deepen relationships with those most affected by gun violence,” said Shon F. Barnes, chief of police for the Madison Police Department. “As a police chief in a city that is making a concerted effort to improve public safety in collaboration with its residents, I am both excited and heartened by the promise of this new Public Safety Academy that is being designed to do just that kind of community building.”

The CVI Leadership Academy will draw on the expertise of CVI leaders and programs across the nation to prepare CVI leaders on issues like staff development and retention, data use, program administration and innovation. While community-based gun violence intervention programs have operated for over two decades, several factors have increased the urgency of expanding their capacity and effectiveness, including the recent surge in gun violence, the failure of a law enforcement-only approach to keep communities safe, and promising evidence that CVI programs can have impact.  

“Over the last two years, through the Fund Peace initiative, the Black and Brown Peace Consortium Board Members have been collaborating on efforts to mobilize investments into the CVI field,” said Chico Tillmon, executive director of Heartland Alliance’s READI Chicago. “As part of the next phase of our efforts to quell violence in vulnerable communities and elevate the CVI field, we are launching the CVI Leadership Academy at CLSA to support the next generation of leaders.”

The academies are not only an ambitious leadership development initiative, but also an ambitious research initiative. To test the impact the Policing Leadership Academy will have on cities, researchers at the Crime Lab and Cornell University Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy will conduct a multi-city randomized controlled trial. The CVI Leadership Academy curriculum will also be evaluated by the Crime Lab with the goal of elevating lessons learned to train CVI leaders at scale.