When I was first trained as a police officer over 20 years ago, there was a powerful shift toward community-oriented policing. This is when a police officer engaged with a suspect involved in a low-level crime is encouraged to work with the suspect, rather than throwing them in jail at the mercy of an imperfect justice system.
The system worked on both an individual and a structural level. For example, when it came to minor crimes, like graffiti, we would work with offenders to help them make up for their transgressions. Clean graffiti throughout the city would be appropriate.
At the time, one of the things that made implementing strategy like that very difficult was the lack of community partnerships that we now have in place. Back then, if the DA or city prosecutor or sheriff's office was not involved, the police officer was forced to act as the case manager. That was tough because officers still had to perform their core duties and didn't have extra time to take on more work.
As a result, community-oriented policing just didn't have the intended effect. Ten years later, around 2002, many law enforcement agencies had reverted to their old mentality of "hook-and-book" because they didn't have time. The solution then was to send every offender to jail and allow the justice system to run its course. Of course, this model doesn't work either — and it created a lot of the problems that we're having to deal with now.
Today, there is a new system in place called LEAD. LEAD stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion and it's changing the way police and their communities interact. LEAD is a pre-booking program reserved for low-level offenders and non-violent individuals that serves as an alternative to drug courts. It brings together law enforcement agencies and community resources to help addicts and low-level offenders without throwing them in jail for the same crime over and over, a tactic that has been proven ineffective time and time again. LEAD gives offenders the resources they need to get help outside of jail.
Building a LEAD program into a community can help build trust between public safety agencies and the community at large. Rather than booking criminals and sending them to jail, LEAD acts as a diversion program, freeing up much-needed space in jails for violent offenders and allowing non-dangerous individuals to get the help they need. Best of all, programs like these have been shown to reduce recidivism by 58 percent on average.
Lately, tensions have been mounting across the country between law enforcement agencies and the communities they service, mostly centered around use of force. As a result, there's a definitive need to rebuild trust between police officers and individuals in their communities. This is what programs like LEAD are trying to accomplish. Police can work with multiple agencies to create the best possible outcome for offenders, restoring trust in what many have come to view as a broken system. With this rebuilt trust, when police do need to use force, their communities will feel safe knowing that it was necessary in an extenuating circumstance. Community members need to trust the police to do what's best. That starts with law enforcement agencies changing their tactics.
As LEAD is taking a great step towards changing perceptions and helping law enforcement restore trust with individuals in their communities that the justice system will actually deliver justice. Tribridge assists this effort by empowering those agencies with technology and solutions that make implementing LEAD programs easier. When people ask what I do, I often say I work for a technology company, but what I'm really in the business of is rebuilding trust and fostering community.