Application - Solution Overview + Alignment

Solution Name

To Protect, Serve and Understand (TPSU)

One-line solution summary:

Communities and police making theatre that bridges differences, discovers truths and provides critical skills for real life, right now.

What specific problem are you solving?

Applicable Challenges: transparency, public input; evaluating, training and supporting police, police and community coordination

Specific problems:

Few people frequently or personally interact with police officers except those who experience negative encounters or enforcement, are related to, or work with officers. 

Many police “community affairs” efforts mean well but superficially/minimally address systemic and societal dysfunction.

Most law enforcement training is largely tactical and in somewhat of a vacuum, without civilian insight or involvement. Some trainings misuse valuable officer time and agency resources, and are seen as reactionary/cosmetic.

Social and viral media and technology have overwhelmed substantive interpersonal communication, and complicated issues with oversimplified or even false solidarity and information. 

Pain and misperceptions obstruct genuine connections and collaboration. 

  • Agencies and officers are hampered by historic abuses, bureaucracy, cases and characterizations of the mistreated, and disrespect

  • Fatal encounters, police violence and widespread attention to / analyses of these exacerbate this

Size/severity: National, acute in places and chronic in 21st century America.

Pitch your solution.

Until we can sit down together and process each other’s perspectives and realities, we cannot meaningfully co-produce something as complex as public safety. In the absence of true understanding, attempts may result in short-lived solutions or sow further issues.

TPSU convenes police and civilians week after week in a neutral, novel and facilitated environment - requiring mutual discovery, vulnerability and recommitment to working through issues while rehearsing critical thinking and clearer communication.

We utilize theatre - a disarming and creative place and practice - to build understanding among deeply opposed groups. Although our workshop provides practical approaches to conflict resolution and de-escalation, participants learn by doing things they likely never have done before, while drawing from and building on specific experiences and exercises. Public performances allow audiences to witness the growth and further discuss issues.

Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.

TPSU has run two cohorts out of Brooklyn annually since its pilot with the NYPD in 2016. In 2020, it adapted to pandemic and quarantine by introducing virtual editions while remaining responsive to alumni in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Our participants have come from all boroughs of New York City.

TPSU has been sustained by three different police commissioners and maintained curricular/programmatic autonomy as well as transparency with police stakeholders and participants. We are proud to continue our collaboration as a community-designed and led project, and we wish to serve additional agencies and cities.

Our New York City alumni total 112 and our live audiences are approximately 4.8k. These attendance metrics belie the impact of participation, which considering the number of interactions alumni officers have with members of the public over the course of their careers is exponential.

Our solution's stage of development:

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth

Where are you based?

New York, NY, USA

Solution Team

  • Barbara Chen To Protect, Serve and Understand by Irondale Ensemble Project
  • TG TG
    Terry Greiss Executive Director, Irondale Ensemble Project
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