State Policy Papers

April 2021

Community Policing

With approximately 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, states are well positioned to improve policing practices and enact policies that prioritize just and fair policing. Drawing from our collective experience, we recommend the following policies to advance the policing profession in service of justice for all: (1) raise statewide use of force standards and require reporting, (2) incentivize culture change, (3) strengthen police accountability mechanisms, (4) encourage the expansion of diversion and co-responder models, and (5) adopt new, modern metrics of successful policing.

Juvenile Justice

Involvement in criminal and juvenile justice systems causes children lasting harm that can limit their potential to thrive in adulthood. Justice-involved children are at higher risk of school dropout, substance abuse disorders, and future offending. To reduce unnecessary youth incarceration and crime, we recommend that states: (1) raise the ages of criminal and juvenile court responsibility and stop automatic transfers of youth to the adult criminal justice system, (2) reduce reliance on incarceration and invest in prevention and community-based treatment, (3) provide counseling, medical care, and appropriate programming to incarcerated youth, and (4) stop charging youth criminal justice fees and fines.

Mental Health and Diversion

People struggling with mental health issues and substance use disorders interact with law enforcement and the criminal justice system at disproportionately high rates. Because incarceration often fails to address the underlying causes of crime, incarcerated people with mental illness and substance abuse challenges are at higher risk of recidivism. To save states money, improve public safety, and reduce unnecessary incarceration and recidivism, we recommend that states: (1) invest in and support community restoration centers and treatment services, (2) expand the use of diversion and harm-reduction programs, and (3) promote treatment programs in jails and prisons.

Recidivism Reduction

To reduce future crime and unnecessary incarceration, we must focus on reducing recidivism. Recidivism rates across the United States are too high: on average, 68 percent of people released from prison are arrested within three years. To stop the revolving door, we recommend that states: (1) improve education and vocational training in jails and prisons, (2) provide transitional services to ease reentry, (3) expand access to housing, medicaid, and public benefits, (4) reduce barriers to employment, and (5) reduce parole revocations due to technical violations.

Sentencing Reform

With estimates that up to 40 percent of the U.S. prison population is incarcerated without a “compelling public safety reason,” states should continue reforming their sentencing laws and reducing unnecessary incarceration. We recommend that states: (1) eliminate or reduce mandatory minimums, (2) reclassify minor crimes, (3) offer sentencing alternatives to incarceration, and (4) offer early release credit and second look resentencing.

Policy recommendations and statements, including those herein, do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of all individual members of Law Enforcement Leaders.

We currently have nearly 200 members hailing from all 50 states, from all divisions of law enforcement, and from across the political spectrum.

Members Include:

  • Sim Gill

    District Attorney, Salt Lake County, Utah

  • Joseph Lombardo

    Sheriff, Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Brett Tolman

    Former U.S. Attorney, District of Utah

  • Ronal W. Serpas

    Executive Director, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration

    Former Police Superintendent, New Orleans, Louisiana

    Former Police Chief, Nashville, Tennessee

    Former Police Chief, State Patrol, Washington

  • William Scott

    Police Chief, San Francisco, California

  • Peter Newsham

    Police Chief, Prince William, Virginia
    Former Police Chief, Washington, District of Columbia

  • Beth McCann

    District Attorney, Denver, Colorado

  • Carmen Best

    Former Police Chief, Seattle, Washington

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