Early Warning Systems

Develop an Early Warning System—Establish Ways to Communicate about Developing Problems

POSSIBLE STRATEGIES

  • Develop broadly inclusive advisory groups that meet regularly with key public officials to report problems that might escalate to division and then to polarization.
  • Create and publicize a way for individual citizens to alert community leaders of issues affecting a segment of the community.
  • Use instruments that help identify community division and how deeply various segments of the community regard the division.
  • CRS has developed a form to assess racial division. (Community Relations Service, Distant Early Warning Signs (DEWS) System (2012), http://www.justice.gov/crs/resource-center).
  • Data miners have developed ways to use publicly-available data to discover community “hot spots” with potential for civil unrest. (See, e.g., Naren Ramakrishnan et al., “Beating the News” with EMBERS: Forecasting Civil Unrest using Open Source Indicators (2014), http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4276118/).

WHY TAKE THIS STEP?

Ultimately, a strong approach to avoiding civil unrest is to make certain that public officials learn about problems that might escalate. “Community leaders need to understand what the hot button issues are and what interests there are,” according to Thomas Battles, Conciliator and Regional Director, Community Relations Service, U.S. Department of Justice. (Of course, as the next point makes clear, surfacing the issues does not help unless public officials also begin to deal with the problems.)

RESOURCES FOR DEVELOPING EARLY WARNING SIGNS

MORE DETAIL ON THESE STRATEGIES

There are logical reasons why public officials might be unaware of existing community division. Public officials may not have regular contact with all segments of the community. To deal with that potential problem, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio and that region’s FBI office “convene quarterly meetings with community leaders, interested stakeholders and members of Northern Ohio’s minority communities.” http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndoh/community-outreach.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit has a special group, formed after September 11, 2001 between law enforcement officials and leaders of the Arab American and Middle Eastern communities of the metropolitan area. It discusses such issues as border crossings, no-fly lists, charitable giving, cultural sensitivity, hate crimes, law enforcement policies, and immigration. http://www.justice.gov/usao-edmi/community-engagement.

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