How To Citizen with Baratunde

How To Citizen with Baratunde

How To Citizen with Baratunde reimagines the word “citizen” as a verb and reminds us how to wield our collective power. So many of us want to do more in response to the problems we hear about constantly, but where and how to participate can leave us feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Voting, while critically important, simply isn’t enough. It takes more to make this experiment in self-governance work! Listen in to learn new perspectives and practices from people working to improve society for the many. Join writer, activist, and comedian Baratunde Thurston on a journey beyond politics as usual that will leave us all more hopeful, connected, and moved to act.... Show More

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September 3, 2020 70 min

Baratunde builds off the last episode of his previous podcast, We’re Having a Moment. He speaks with two esteemed guests, Dr. Phil Goff, who works directly with police departments around the country, and Zach Norris, who works with communities, about ways we can reclaim public safety that don’t always need to involve the police.

Show Notes + Links

Find Phil @DrPhilGoff and visit Center for Policing Equity and @policingequity on social media.

Find Zach @zachwnorris and at Visit Ella Baker Center, and @ellabakercenter on social media. Also grab his book, We Keep Us Safe here.

Find this episode, a transcript, show notes and more at Please rate and review this podcast and share feedback at Use #howtocitizen on social media. 

For this episode, here is what you can do.


It starts with you. Explore your own relationship to feeling safe and living among your neighbors. Answer some of the following questions for yourself AND in discussion with at least one other member of your community.

  • What do you need to feel safe in your community?
  • What makes you feel unsafe in your community?
  • How do you get to know your neighbors?
  • When was the last time you made eye contact with someone in your neighborhood?
  • When was the last time you talked to one of your neighbors?
  • What can neighbors do to keep each other safe?
  • Has a neighbor ever made you feel unsafe? What happened and what would have made it better?

  • Don’t look away. Get educated on how policing works where you live.

  • How much of your city and county budget go to police. What percentage is this of the total? What rank is police expenditure among top spending categories?
  • Who runs law enforcement in your area? City? County? Sheriff? Chief? Who has hire/fire authority? 
  • What is your most local access to law enforcement? Where is the nearest station or precinct? 
  • Who is already working on public safety issues where you live? 
  • Identify who is responsible for and makes public safety decisions where you live and find out which positions get voted in. 
  • When is the next election for these positions in your community and who is running?

  • Good neighbors don’t just call the cops. Know who you call instead of the police.

  • Create a resource you can keep on hand or enter into your phone that looks like this great example from DSMNTL IG account for Washington, DC. 
  • Bonus: Create these alternative number guides physically and digitally and share them widely with your neighbors, local businesses, and online. 


    Work with local groups to help get new policies enacted that we know work.

  • Read Dr. Phil Goff’s Center for Policing Equity Roadmap for Exploring New Models of Funding Public Safety. It’s been requested by over 950 communities, and now people locally are starting to implement the roadmap themselves.
  • Lend your voice to CampaignZero by supporting its nation-wide campaign to end police violence. You can track state legislation on their homepage to see progress.
  • Join or create an event as part of the Night Out for Safety and Liberation on  October 6. If you don’t feel comfortable going to or hosting a physical event, host a discussion with your family or online with community based on the NOSL discussion guide.

  • Be a supportive bystander and report police interactions.

    Download the Mobile Justice App (created in 2015 by the ACLU to help people report on police interactions). According to the ACLU, it is completely within a US citizen’s Constitutional rights to record interactions with the police. *Note that if you do film a crime, you may become a key witness as a part of an investigation. 

    Share your answers with us. Send and email to Include “public safety” in the subject line.

    And if you liked what you heard here, please share the show, leave a review, AND sign up for Baratunde's newsletter at where he announces upcoming live tapings.

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