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What 21st Century Public Service Means to Me

After six years of working for the City of Long Beach, culminating in three years as the chief of staff for a former Long Beach councilwoman, I began to think about how I could better serve my community. All signs pointed to making space for innovative ideas and affordable technology.

I saw greater opportunities to affect that change outside of my government job so I decided to take a leap. I learned to code through the web development immersion program at General Assembly and hosted study groups on HTML, CSS, and Javascript as City Director of Women Who Code Los Angeles.

It all started at Code Across

It was at Code Across where I met the 2014 Long Beach fellows: Molly McLeod, Dan Getelman, and Rhys Fureigh. I watched as they made real changes in Long Beach through user-centered design. They were thoughtful about pairing their ideas with those of forward-thinking government leaders and the local tech community.

Code for America fellow Tiffany Andrews at the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Code for America fellow Tiffany Andrews at the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

It became clear to me that the Code for America fellowship was a way to redefine how I imagined public service in the 21st century. By combining the skills I had been cultivating over the last eight years in government with my new front end development knowledge, Code for America seemed like the perfect next step. I applied for the fellowship and got accepted. Next stop: San Francisco and Indianapolis.

Safety and Justice in Indianapolis

Right now, the Indianapolis fellowship team is working to strengthen and create paths for citizen oversight within public safety. I have always been interested public safety and justice, and correctly anticipated that the project would be challenging. In a time where we see police departments in the news almost everyday, we are working to create a culture change, moving from citizen complaints to officer feedback, limited external accountability to transparency, that will drive internal and city wide policy. In partnership with the police department, we’re opening datasets and revamping the citizen police complaint process to increase police accountability.

“Service is rent we pay for being”

I have been surprised at how much I have learned so far about the vital role mental health education and services relate to the justice system. As we continue our work in Indianapolis, my teammates and I are learning about how the environments in which we live really define our relationships with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. And for those juggling the complexities that come with poverty and poor health, entering into the system often has little to do with the intent to commit crimes. At the end of the year, it is my hope our project will reflect this and will help the Indianapolis police department identify deeper ways to work with their community, as they indicate they want to do.

As I make my way through this year-long fellowship, I often think of the quote by Marian Wright Edelman: “Service is rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

If you’re considering applying for the 2016 Fellowship, consider Marian’s words. Do they hit home for you? Do you define success by how you make a difference? If yes, then I invite you to apply for the Fellowship.

Applications open on May 15th. Fill out an interest form today and you will be the first to know that they’re open.