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Crime and Justice News Archive

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Seth Watts

6 days ago

2 min

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Research Backs Police Response To Drug Overdoses

Should the police be responding to opioid overdoses? If you ask some public health experts, drug users, and even the police themselves, the answer might be no. Public health experts who are concerned about police involvement point broadly to the idea that this approach is not harm-reduction based. More specifically, their concerns revolve around the police criminalizing drug users and others on scene, the impact of drug induced homicide laws, and exacerbating overdose likelihood in the future. People who use drugs often have similar concerns, and police involvement in overdose calls for service may cause citizens to be reluctant in calling 911 when an overdose situation arises due to the fear of arrest. Lastly, the police are concerned with the training and cost, fear of exposure to opioids, liability (civil or criminal), inappropriately administering naloxone, and aggression from the victim post-naloxone administration. Recently published researched in the American Journal of Public Health casts doubt on the prevalence of some of these concerns regarding police responding to overdoses, at least in Tempe, Az. Using an innovative method of assessing incident characteristics, the authors review body-worn camera footage of Tempe police officers responding to overdoses where a local fire department (FD) or a Tempe police officer administered naloxone. The data included 168 overdose incidents where an officer was on scene from February 3, 2020, to May 7, 2021. Police concerns were largely not supported in Tempe. No officer improperly administered naloxone; no officer was accidently exposed to an opioid; no officer was disciplined or sued; one officer did hesitate to administer naloxone (FD was on scene and the officer let them provide aid); and the overdose victim was aggressive in just 3.6 percent of the incidents. Similarly, public health concerns were infrequently observed. The overdose victim was arrested in six incidents (3.6 percent); ticketed or cited in five incidents (3 percent); and two incidents led to others at the scene being arrested (1.2 percent). All the arrests were for felony warrants. Also, officers exercised their discretion and chose not to arrest the overdose victim in eight incidents despite having a warrant. While these findings are promising, it’s important to consider some contextual factors. In Arizona, the opioid crisis has been recognized at all levels of government and within many police departments. In 2015, Arizona State Legislature passed HB 2489, which allowed police to be trained and outfitted with naloxone. The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board has also promoted naloxone in police departments through funding, training, and access to naloxone. Additionally, in 2018, Arizona legislature passed a Good Samaritan law that provides protection against arrest for the overdose victim and caller. However, this law does exclude felony or outstanding warrants. Lastly, the Tempe Police Department has de-emphasized the need to arrest through training and has emphasized the role of being a conduit to social services. State, local, and departmental buy-in is critical for a successful program of this nature. This is achieved through both formal and informal policies or training. In Arizona, and specifically in Tempe, the ingredients are there for a successful police-led naloxone program.

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Heaven LaMartz

6 days ago

2 min

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'Stepping Up' Cites Gains In Cutting Jailings In Mental Illness, Drug Cases

Since its launch in 2015, an initiative called Stepping Up has worked to reduce the overincarceration of people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The partnership between The Council of State Governments Justice Center, the National Association of Counties, and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation says it has been able to engage more than 550 counties across the U.S. in reforming justice and behavioral systems and reducing racial disparities. Over the past seven years, Stepping Up communities have been assisted by a data driven framework to provide different approaches. The counties have worked to reduce citizen contact with law enforcements and lower the booking of individuals with mental illnesses into jail. In a webinar Seven Years of Stepping Up, experts from three counties praised Stepping Up for its ability to connect community responder programs, law enforcement and mental health providers in aiding vulnerable residents. Director Karhlton Moore of the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance, which funds the initiative, cited the role of data in Stepping Up's success, " Data provides communities with the ability to quantify the number of people with serious mental illnesses in the justice system and to identify the policy and program improvements to address these needs," he said. Counties that have established  baseline data  suggested reduction targets for four key measures: the number of people booked into jail who have serious mental illnesses, their average length of stay in jail, the percentage of people who are connected to treatment, and their recidivism rates. Moore said the availability of data allows counties to offer different alternatives to lower jail populations and help provide better behavioral health care responses. People with complex mental health needs enter jails at higher rates than others and tend to stay significantly longer. This puts them at a higher risk of returning to jail than those without mental health conditions. Sheriff Kelly Rowe of Lubbock County, Tx., said jails operate as the nation's "de facto mental institutions." He said that nearly half of inmates have received some level of mental health services at some time in their life. Rowe said his facility contracts with a local mental health provider that is available 24 hours a day to assess prisoners. This, along with other resources, allows for proper care and staff awareness. Lisa Potter, director of diversion initiatives in Fairfax County, Va., said data collected for the program allows her to see both successes and gaps that can lead to quality improvements. As part of the initiative, Fairfax signed on to a program called "Set, Measure, Achieve" to "advance the goal of reducing the prevalence of the behavioral health population in jails." From 2015 to 2021, there has been a 35 percent decrease in the jail behavioral health population charged with misdemeanor. The reductions started before the COVID-19 pandemic. Ruchelle Pride, Director of Justice Policy and Programs in Franklin County, Oh., said her office is focusing on advancing goals to achieve racial equity. She said racism is a root cause of poverty, bad health, and broken families. The county's program emphasizes the need for better data collection efforts to help act as a guide in decision making. Data reports include length of stay in case processing, race inequities in arrests, bond trends and population and demographic density.

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Crime and Justice News

6 days ago

2 min

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Experts: Place-Based Strategies Are Effective, Central to Police Reform

By Cynthia Lum, Christopher Koper, David Weisburd, Robin Engel, John Eck, Anthony Braga, John MacDonald, Rod Brunson, and Michael Smith A recent Washington Post article asserts that place-based policing approaches led to Breonna Taylor’s death. This claim is unsubstantiated and wrong both legally and scientifically. And, it fuels policy that hurts communities of color where high-quality police services are most needed. Let there be no mistake; a botched no-knock warrant led to Breonna Taylor’s death, not place-based policing. Place-based approaches are grounded in research showing that crime is highly concentrated within communities. Half of reported crimes occur at about 5 percent of street blocks in a locality. Thus, most of any community is reasonably safe from serious crime. Crime concentrates at these locations due to intersecting routines of potential victims and possible offenders. And if crime concentrates, it makes sense to focus on the specific areas where it does, rather than spread police across neighborhoods. According to two National Academies of Sciences reviews conducted in 2004 and 2018 on a multitude of research studies, place-based policing is one of the most evidence-based and scientifically supported approaches police can take to prevent crime in their communities. But what police do at these locations matters greatly. Place-based approaches are complex and specific. An over-emphasis on aggressive enforcement or simply “flooding” a place with cops aren’t smart hot spots approaches. Instead, place-based approaches require good analysis and a deep understanding of the factors contributing to persistent crime problems and their solutions. Once identified, regular police presence emphasizing problem-solving prevention work and community engagement works best at preventing crime at these locations. This includes focusing on the small number of people driving crime problems in these places. Place-based policing doesn’t just involve law enforcement; it includes working with residents, businesses, and other agencies to make places safer. Feedback from communities most affected is also critical; indeed, hot spots are often identified based on citizen calls for service, reflecting areas of intense community concern. The place network investigations (PNI) of Prof. Tamara Herold of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas align with these principles. The PNI strategy is specifically designed to improve community health and resiliency in historically disenfranchised and vulnerable neighborhoods. In the absence of place-based strategies, there are few evidence-based alternatives. Police would have to fall back on general enforcement, chasing offenders, and responding to calls, tactics that contribute little to safety and remove police further from the community. These tactics have led to the current police-community crisis, so we should not go back. Place-focused approaches in policing bring communities a more thoughtful and high-quality approach to policing than traditional policing approaches which are often unfocused across communities. The science supports police adopting place-based approaches. Ignoring the needs of these places would be irresponsible and contribute to higher victimization. The authors are criminologists and policing scholars from George Mason University (Lum, Koper, and Weisburd), the University of Cincinnati (Engel and Eck), the University of Pennsylvania (Braga and MacDonald), the University of Maryland (Brunson), and the University of Texas at San Antonio (Smith).

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