For Immediate Release
ALBANY, NY – Today, the Albany Police Department announced it has received a grant to aid APD in the implementation of the recently adopted Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, or LEAD, which allows police officers to exercise their discretion and divert certain low-level offenders from the criminal justice system into coordinated, managed, health-based services. Albany is the first East Coast city and the third city in the nation to adopt the progressive LEAD approach.
A $70,000 grant from the Touhey Family Foundation will provide funding for the hire of a Project Manager to begin the implementation of the LEAD program, which gives officers the discretion of diverting individuals to a network of services to treat many of the root causes of crime, such as drug dependency, mental illness, or homelessness. LEAD, introduced in Seattle in 2011, reduces recidivism while advancing public safety and public health.
APD also announced today that it will introduce new training for its officers on cutting-edge approaches to policing in the areas of implicit bias, procedural justice, and harm reduction.
“This hire means that LEAD will become a reality in Albany, once again putting the Albany Police Department on the cutting-edge of smart, progressive policing,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “LEAD provides options for officers to divert people into treatment rather than going to jail or prison, helping them become productive, healthy members of society. And the new training continues to break down the walls between officers and the people they protect, one of the hallmarks of Albany’s community policing program.”
“This generous grant from the Touhey Foundation puts Albany at the ready to fully implement LEAD in 2016,” said Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox. “We have a great partnership that is ready to start creating options where we can move people with addictions away from the criminal justice system and into the public health system. My officers have been hard at work developing an operations protocol and I am looking forward to seeing LEAD take hold. I thank the Touhey Family Foundation for having the faith in us to invest in such a worthy initiative.”
Mayor Sheehan was joined by other elected officials at the event, including State Senator Neil Breslin, Assemblmembers John T. McDonald III and Patricia Fahy, Albany County District Attorney David Soares, County Executive Dan McCoy, and Albany Common Council Members Dan Herring and President Pro Tempore Richard Conti.
In June, APD signed a Memorandum of Understanding to pursue LEAD with a broad range of community stakeholders, including Albany District Attorney David Soares’ Office, the Mayor’s Office, County Executive Dan McCoy, business and community leaders, and health organizations. The LEAD Project Manager will oversee the collaborative efforts of law enforcement, government, health care providers, housing providers, community advocacy groups, and social welfare organizations to help manage the process of diverting individuals into appropriate services.
LEAD was developed from a growing consensus that the war on drugs has failed and that it has disproportionately and unjustly hurt communities of color. In Seattle, individuals diverted into LEAD were up to 60% less likely to be re-arrested.
The new 2-day APD training for officers will focus on three areas. The harm reduction approach emphasizes meeting drug users “where they’re at” and working to reduce the negative health and other consequences associated with drug use, rather than focusing all resources on arrest and cessation. The training on implicit bias addresses how unconscious attitudes and beliefs can affect the everyday judgment and decision-making of police officers. The training on procedural justice emphasizes that having officers treat people with dignity and respect during interactions improves the way people perceive the criminal justice system, increases compliance with the law, and leads to higher regard for police officers and their actions.
“This new training is really about building respect and understanding between our police officers and all the people they come in contact with,” said Ward 1 Council Member Dorcey Applyrs. “This isn’t just about better policing, it’s about building better lives and stronger Albany communities.”
“As a former Albany police officer, I often was in the situation where I knew that treatment for an addiction would be better for everyone – our communities and these individuals – than jail time,” said Ward 4 Common Council Member Kelly Kimbrough. “This step forward will provide police officers today the option of getting people with addictions the treatment they need and prevent crime. That’s a real solution to crime, and I applaud this new direction.”
“For the past 30 years, the Center for Law and Justice has documented and worked to address racial bias and the over-reliance upon incarceration, which has had a devastating impact on our communities,” said Dr. Alice Green, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Justice. “LEAD, as well as implicit bias and procedural justice training for our police department, spell a new day in Albany. These new approaches in our community can move us toward true social justice and public safety.”
“The Touhey Foundation is pleased to support Albany’s efforts to move away from arrest and incarceration, and toward a more community-centered approach to law enforcement and social justice for all its citizens,” said Charles Touhey, Director of the Touhey Family Foundation, which addresses underserved communities who are affected by social inequities and supports initiatives around social justice in Albany. “We hope this commitment will inspire other local foundations to also support this important initiative.”
“Across the country, there’s a strong and growing bi-partisan consensus that it’s time to end the war on drugs and mass incarceration,” said gabriel sayegh of the LEAD National Support Bureau. “But the federal government or the state governments have been too slow to show us the way out of this failed war, so cities are leading the way. With this big step forward in the LEAD program, Albany is set to become a national leader in developing innovative approaches to advance community health, safety, and equity.”
Chartered in 1686, the City of Albany is the oldest continuously chartered city in the United States, and has been the State Capital since 1797. Although the City is the seat of State Government and a thriving center of education, culture and commerce, its real spirit lies in its diverse and vibrant neighborhoods. In January 2014 Kathy M. Sheehan became the City’s 75th Mayor.