Over the past few years, the nation has watched repeatedly as peaceful demonstrations followed an incident that highlighted an unresolved division within a community. Sometimes the demonstrations escalated to confrontations, arrests, property damage, and violence, and left in their wake a more bitterly polarized community.

One antidote to destructive civil unrest is a solid plan for constructively handling unrest, created in more tranquil times. That plan can help a community deal effectively with community division, so that those concerned about public policies and practices feel less need to escalate their actions. The plan can also help community leaders to act wisely in the early hours and days of civil unrest, should it occur. In this respect, this document focuses on how leaders throughout the community can listen for the broader concerns underlying unrest, encourage broad participation in a process for solving problems, act in ways to maintain and enhance public trust in its leaders, and establish consultation and decision-making protocols among law enforcement and other leaders.

The focus of this planning process is on developing communitywide relationships, but it does not cover all aspects of what might cause community unrest or be involved in solving it. For example, sometimes unrest occurs because a segment of the community views public officials as having made unjust decisions or does not trust local officials who do not reflect the racial or other diversity of the community. This document does not focus on making policy recommendations or suggesting new governance structures, except to note here their importance as a source of civil unrest or a barrier to resolving differences constructively and to discuss how to create warning mechanisms that alert governments about mounting concerns. This document focuses on how leaders across the board should plan to interact and coordinate but does not provide counsel on police procedures to restore order.

The planning envisioned by this document does not seek to dilute the voices of those who express concerns but rather to support their being heard and considered before some of those expressing concerns escalate their actions in ways that might be destructive to the community, endanger lives, and leave enduring bitterness.