Advocating for change

As a company, we believe Black lives matter. In the face of continued police brutality, racial disparities in law enforcement, and limited accountability, we demand an end to systemic racism, endorse restrictions on police use of force, and seek greater accountability for police actions. We believe police misconduct, militarization of police, and unchecked abuse of power are issues that we as Americans should protest.

Giving time, money, and attention

In this spirit, I have reaffirmed our employees’ right to protest without reprisal or retaliation. While there’s certainly no account of who has and hasn’t, I’m aware that many of our employees have recently marched to end systemic racism and police brutality.

To support understanding and discussion, we created a #solidarity channel on our company Slack. Conversations there grew rapidly as we shared research on social policy and upcoming legislation, including policies that have been analyzed by social scientists studying criminal justice:

  1. A large-scale analysis of racial disparities in police stops across the United States
  2. Collective Bargaining Rights and Police Misconduct: Evidence from Florida
  3. Evidence that curtailing proactive policing can reduce major crime
  4. Good Cop, Bad Cop: Using Civilian Allegations to Predict Police Misconduct
  5. The Wandering Officer

Many of our employees also decided to “protest with our wallets” and use our existing charitable donation matching program to support organizations we believe can effect change. In the last two weeks, employees have donated $12k and the company matched $12k ($24k total) to a number of related non-profits, including:

More we can do now: Calls to action

Advocacy is not new to us—Trail of Bits is among the largest employers of cybersecurity professionals in NYC, and has frequently advocated for policy change as part of Tech:NYC and the Coalition for Responsible Cybersecurity. As an NYC-based company, we urge the NYC Council to take action.

The June 18 legislative session of the NYC Council will be livestreamed, and we’ll be watching. We urge our representatives to:

  • Pass all five bills that were heard in the last meeting of the Public Safety Committee
  • Pass the POST Act and require reporting on NYPD use of surveillance technology
  • Commit to NYC Budget Justice and reallocate funds towards social programs

While policing is largely a state and local matter in the United States, federal action has a strong effect on state and local policies. We call on the US Congress to:

Local and state action may have the most direct impact on policing practices. If you want to lobby your representatives as an individual, use “Who are my representatives?” to find their contact information and give them a call. Personal, authentic contact with local representatives can be very effective at shaping policy decisions.

If you’re an individual motivated to support a charitable organization, consider reviewing the following resources first:

When donating, strongly consider a charitable donation matching program. If your employer does not offer one, suggest that they sign up for the Technology Partner program from RaisedBy.Us. Trail of Bits uses their service to facilitate donation matching through Brightfunds.

If you are planning to attend a protest, research what local activists in your area are recommending to protect yourself and others. There are widespread disparities in treatment of protesters across the United States: a “March for Families” in NYC may be completely unlike a similarly named event in Oregon. Consider advice from the Legal Aid Society of NYC or Vice (and their digital guide) and put on a mask before attending a protest.

We can always do more

We know our efforts are modest, and that the problems will not be fixed by a few waves of donations and legislation. Our own efforts to advocate for change started small, but they are growing.

We also recognize the diversity deficit in our own company. As part of our effort to close that gap, we are working with diversity and inclusion-focused recruiting groups and conducting implicit bias training. We’ve created the CTF Field Guide to help eliminate the knowledge gap for industry newcomers and we host yearly winternships that provide inroads for people new to computer security. We’re also increasing the matching for our existing charity matching program and making the most of our diversity-focused donation to the Summercon Foundation. Finally, to help ensure this is not a one-off effort, we are listening to our employees and community to hold us accountable.

The protests have been extraordinarily effective in moving legislation forward; so much so, it can be tough to keep up. We realize it’s only a long-overdue beginning, but the more we know about what’s gaining ground, the better we can advocate for it. To help, we’ve assembled a summary of the changes we’ve seen at the NYC, New York State, and federal levels.

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