By Shaonta’ Allen, second year doctoral student in Sociology, graduate assistant, Yates Fellow, and Southern Regional Education Board Scholar
Through The Cincinnati Project, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Black United Front, a local organization committed to bettering community police relations in Cincinnati, on a research project aimed at refreshing the Cincinnati Collaborative Agreement. This anti-bias policing agreement was signed by the city, the police department, and community leaders in the wake of the 2001 civil unrest that culminated out of a police officer’s fatal shooting of an unarmed African-American man. City leaders are making a public pledge to review the Collaborative Agreement, as it was the basis of the previous decade’s police reforms.
We worked together to create a survey that would capture community members’ perspectives of policing. I assisted with the data collection process as well as with data analysis and reporting. In addition to making the survey available online, I, along with a few other team members, attended popular community events throughout the city, such as the Cincinnati Music Festival and the Black Family Reunion, in the hopes of recruiting respondents in person. Altogether we received over 1200 responses in a just a 3-month time-period! I worked with University of Cincinnati Political Science Professor Brian Calfano to analyze the data that was reported which was later converted into a comprehensive report over 125 pages long.
It was very exciting to be a part of this research project because the community’s voice is often overlooked when it comes to discussions of policing, yet in a short amount of time I was able to work with a team that collected a ton of data that captured just that! I was also able to present some of our data at a public forum attended by not only community members but also several police-officers. This was particularly rewarding because, in a way, I was able to link the community’s comments and suggestions about policing directly back to the individuals who could implement the changes that they proposed.
As a sociologist interested in race relations and social justice, I’ve always believed that the research I conduct should have direct implications on the betterment of my community. Working on this survey regarding the Collaborative Agreement has reinforced this belief.
I have been able to see first-hand how vital it is for our stories to be told from our own perspectives, and I have witnessed the negative implications of what happens when we are not in positions to advocate for ourselves.
“This collaboration has helped make me a better scholar”
Working on this project has assisted with the development of my quantitative research skills. I’ve tailored most of my academic methodological training towards qualitative skills. However, working with Professor Calfano on analyzing the survey data pushed me out of my comfort zone, and has helped make me a better scholar.
Presenting this data at the community forum equipped me with the skills to present data in non-academic settings. As a graduate student I attend several academic conferences a year and as a result, I have experience giving academic talks. However, given my commitment to ensuring my research is accessible to my community, knowing how to discuss research results in layman’s terms is an essential skill which I now have thanks to this collaboration!
Overall, I’m thankful for this opportunity and excited to continue working with these community organizations. We already have plans to present our data at another community forum and are additionally in the early stages of writing a research article together. This all serves as an indication of the significance of collaborative work between community partners and university research scholars.