Consortium on Peacebuilding

Insights from the June 2015 convocatin of the Consortium on Peacebuilding have potential to influence community policing and heal historically divided communities.


In June 2015, Palo Alto University hosted a four-day convocation of the Consortium of Peacebuilding, an international network of scholars , community leaders and religious leaders.  The Consortium on Peacebuilding is an effort by James Breckenridge, Ph.D., PAU Professor and Dean of Academic Administration and Operations, and Reverend Byron Bland, PAU Ombuds, to bring together researchers and practitioners who have long history of engagement with the Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation, of which Reverend Bland was the Associate Director for 12 years.


This convocation was the first such gathering, and it focused on:


  • Shifting the framework for policing from security to peacebuilding and

  • Transforming the historical harms that injure many communities.


The goal was to encourage ongoing research collaboration and to support creative approaches to addressing these concerns.  It drew representatives from Northern Ireland, Jewish and Palestinian Jerusalem, rural Georgia, Atlanta, Bayview-Hunter’s Point (San Francisco) and North Carolina as well as local Stanford and Palo Alto representatives.  Scholars and practitioners associated were with eight universities: Ulster, Hebrew, Al Quds, Georgetown, Naval Post Graduate School, Stanford, San Francisco Theological Seminary, and PAU.

While it would be impossible to summarize the rich and varied conversations and discussions that occurred during the week, two insights are especially noteworthy.


Shifting Focus From Police Force to Police Service


The move from a police force model to a police service model is crucial for effective community policing.  This shift takes place as  communities and police explore together what it means to safeguard the community, as opposed to providing security.  The core issue is understanding the relationship between the mission of safeguarding and the perception of threat.  In the  dialogue between a police service and its community, there is an exchange of promises that the police service makes to the community and that the community makes to the police.  This exchange of promises sets mutual expectations and is the core of accountability.


Transforming Historical Harms

The clinical language of trauma is often unhelpful and sometimes offensive to people who have suffered harm.  The effects of horrendous events are often experienced as a legacy and aftermath and not as pathologies.  The medicalization of trials and tribulations removes them from their social and political context and depersonalizes [abstracts?] them in a way that is alienating and mystifying.  For example, in Northern Ireland the terminology of reconciliation has been “dealing with the past." An alternative conceptual framework of “transforming historical harms” describes a way to move beyond the exchange of accusation and blame that has resulted in deadlock. Incorporating the concept of “transforming historical harms” into youth programs would benefit efforts to develop youth opportunity in rural Georgia , working class Belfast, and occupied Palestine.


PAU's online discussion capabilities will enable the Consortium to build on the insights of this first meeting through seminars, workshops and exchange programs. The possibility of creating online courses is also being discussed.



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