This is an op-ed written by Community Justice Center Director Monalita Smiley. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit op-eds, please send them to Matt Butler at

In response to the work of Reimagining Public Safety people are asking, “what is community healing?” You would almost certainly answer the question differently than your neighbor, and that’s what makes it equally difficult and necessary to answer.  

For the purposes of Reimagining Public Safety, healing should result in a more trusting relationship between police officers and community members, especially community members of color.  

Healing looks like listening to and acknowledging the traumas of Black and brown people in Tompkins County who experience policing and the criminal justice system more frequently and more harshly than our white neighbors. It looks like taking action to make sure those people feel heard and building trust that those terrible outcomes won’t persist.  

It looks like engaging police officers to hear and acknowledge the traumas of others, and to share their own experiences because their profession and its role in society is being called into question.  

Healing is coming to terms with our privileges and prejudices and addressing them in a way that rights for past wrongs while building a foundation for communication and trust in the future. 

Prepare to be uncomfortable in order to heal. This work will challenge us in ways we can’t expect. We need to be able to hear hard truths and perspectives we haven’t considered before.  

I have faith that we will heal the traumas and divisions in our community. It will take patience, listening, and grace – it will also take time. Healing will not be a document that’s put on a shelf and there will be no report card or due dates. The outcomes of healing will show up in moments of community building and when we can act on what we learned when we listened to one another.  

Share your ideas on what community healing looks like to you by visiting: Learn more about what’s included in the 2022 and 2023 Reimagining Public Safety Work Plans related to Community Healing, visit: