The Historical Injustices and Present Policing Project

In 2019, in collaboration with scholars affiliated with Northeastern’s School of Criminology & Criminal Justice and the College of Arts, Media and Design, CRRJ initiated the Historical Injustices and Present Policing Project (“HIPP”).  HIPP creates training materials for law enforcement officers, prosecutors, public defenders, and judges on historical racial violence.  Drawing on CRRJ’s nationally acclaimed and unique Archive on historical racial violence, HIPP draws connections between criminal justice policies, practices, and culture today and the history of systemic racism in our justice system.

In the first phase of the project, CRRJ developed educational materials for use by police departments. Educational materials for other sectors of the criminal justice community are under development.

Our Policing Project:

While CRRJ joins with other activists, policymakers, scholars, and researchers who seek to reimagine and redesign policing in the US, most communities will continue to need public institutions to guarantee safety and security.

It is in this spirit that CRRJ has created the Historical Injustices and Present Policing program (HIPP), a first-of-its-kind training curriculum for police officers. HIPP’s trainings leverage lessons gleaned from our historical research on police killings of African Americans in the mid-twentieth century, drawing connections between this history and present issues in police practices.

We see HIPP as only one part of the larger systemic changes that must revolutionize the current American model of policing and its disproportionate impact on the public purse. CRRJ supports efforts to eliminate funding and training that serves to militarize police departments, displacing the old warrior model that is grounded in the violent and sustained suppression of communities of color with a model that aims for true community safety and harm reduction, and changing longstanding law enforcement practices that are inherently racist. We also support the divest-invest approach to criminal justice policy, which pairs decreasing funding for unnecessary police hardware and ineffective reform programs with increasing funding for non-criminalized approaches to the social and economic issues that poor people and communities of color face. Local police departments do not offer effective solutions for the problems students face in unsafe schools, or for the daily disasters confronted by people experiencing homelessness, mental illnesses or joblessness. Non-criminal approaches must be explored and implemented.

We also need to enact dramatically new approaches to draw a line between the racist past and the future we aspire to. This is HIPP’s focus and aim: to base today’s criminal justice policies in a grounded understanding of the truth of historical racism. In our view, it is the responsibility of each individual officer and each department to practice transformative policing and to contend with the longstanding culture of racism in law enforcement communities.  Departments can best meet these challenges if they have the research that highlights this history, and the materials that address the common legacy of policing in the US as well as the distinctive challenges faced by different departments. This is where HIPP strives to make an intervention informed by high quality research. HIPP’s studies demonstrate the relationship between historical wrongdoing and current practice.

The HIPP training materials include a detailed outline for instructors, a slide presentation for use in classroom instruction, and a comprehensive toolkit that provides additional context and case studies. The materials cover the following topics:

  • Historical racial violence and the role of law enforcement, including historical case studies and more recent examples;
  • Intergenerational trauma, collective memory, and the impact of this history on police-community relations today; and
  • Restorative justice: how police departments and individual officers can take actionable steps to acknowledge and redress the ongoing legacies of this history.

The HIPP Pilot Project, Cambridge, MA, 2020:

In 2020, Cambridge (MA) Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard, Jr. invited HIPP to offer our training materials as part of the Department’s annual in-service mandatory training. HIPP delivered the training to nine groups of officers in the Department. HIPP also presented the training to new recruits at the Cambridge/Northeastern Police Academy in Spring 2020. Of our training program, Commissioner Bard observed that the HIPP Project featured “comprehensive, fact-based research about this history” and helped officers “develop a deep understanding of the continuing legacy of historical racial violence.”

Cover Photo: Tom Jones Jr., Willie Lee Davis, Hilliard Brooks, Royal Cyril Brooks, Prentiss McCann, Willie B. Carlisle, Timothy Hood, Allen Bruce Foster, Henry "Peg" Gilbert, Ellis Hutson Sr., James Earl Motley, Samuel Mason Bacon, Jessie James Shelby, Chrispon Charles Jr., and Sam Terry. All lost their lives in law enforcement encounters during the Jim Crow era.

The HIPP Project is a partnership of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University School of Law, the Institute on Race and Justice at the College of Criminal Justice, the George Lewis Ruffin Society, NULab for Texts Maps and Networks, and NuLawLab. The HIPP project is supported by a Northeastern University Tier 1 grant and a grant from the Ford Foundation.

A national board of police and community leaders advises HIPP.  HIPP’s Principal Investigators are Margaret Burnham, University Distinguished Professor (Law and Africana Studies); Roderick Ireland, Distinguished Professor (Criminal Justice) and Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, (ret.); Jack McDevitt, Professor of the Practice (Criminal Justice); and Moya Bailey, Assistant Professor (Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies).