As the President highlighted recently in his remarks in Camden, New Jersey, “to be a police officer takes a special kind of courage . . . and when you match courage with compassion, with care and understanding of the community . . . some really outstanding things can begin to happen.”
Today, in partnership with the Ford Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the White House hosted a national convening on Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), an innovative pre-booking diversion program that the Seattle and Santa Fe police departments are using to enhance public safety while keeping nonviolent offenders out of jail.
We know that the long-term trend we have seen toward mass incarceration, including the incarceration of even nonviolent offenders for years at a time, has diverted funds away from other critical investments in our communities.
Seattle LEAD was built by the community. City leadership, law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, court personnel, social workers, business leaders, community advocates and public health experts all sat at the table to design the initiative. Under LEAD, officers have the option to divert individuals who have been arrested for certain low-level crimes - such as drug or prostitution offenses – to case managers, rather than into custody. Case managers connect these individuals with treatment, housing, and other services, ensuring they receive support they need to stay out of the criminal justice system.
In Seattle, the program is showing results at building a more efficient criminal justice system and a stronger, safer community. An evaluation by the University of Washington, funded by the Arnold Foundation and released in March 2015, found that participants in the program had 58% lower odds of a subsequent arrest as compared to participants in the control group.
LEAD demonstrates how, through innovation, cities can enhance public safety while building trust between law enforcement and the communities they protect. Consistent with the recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, today’s convening provided a forum for law enforcement and community leaders from more than 30 cities across the country to exchange ideas and best practices in community policing. We hope that every community is looking at the President’s Task Force Report and working to implement its recommendations to create economic opportunity, help police do their jobs more safely, and reduce crime.
Roy L. Austin, Jr. is the Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice & Opportunity.
To learn more, take a look at the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and Fact Sheet on Creating Opportunity for All Through Stronger, Safer Communities