The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program is a community-based police diversion approach to addressing those involved in the criminal justice system because of addiction, mental illness, and poverty. In LEAD, police officers exercise discretionary authority at point of contact to divert individuals to a community-based, harm reduction intervention for law violations driven by unmet behavioral health needs. In lieu of the normal criminal justice system cycle -- booking, detention, prosecution, conviction, incarceration -- individuals are instead referred into a trauma-informed intensive case-management program where the individual receives a wide range of support services, often including transitional and permanent housing and/or drug treatment. For more information about the LEAD Program click here.

In December 2015 the Albany Police Department received a grant to aid the Department in the implementation of the recently adopted LEAD program. Click here to view the press release.

A $70,000 grant from the Touhey Family Foundation provided 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. Introduced in Seattle in 2011, LEAD reduces recidivism while advancing public safety and public health. 

In conjunction with this grant, the APD also introduced new training for its officers on cutting-edge approaches to policing in the areas of implicit bias, procedural justice, and harm reduction.  

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. 

Click here to view Albany's LEAD First Year Report.

Background on LEAD:

In 2016, in an attempt to move away from the War on Drugs paradigm and to reduce gross racial disparities in police enforcement, LEAD® -- a new harm-reduction oriented process for responding to low-level drug, alcohol and mental illness based  offenses-- was adopted and launched in Albany, NY. 

An MOU was signed by community stakeholders ensuring collaboration between police, the district attorney, civil rights advocates, public defenders, political leaders, mental health and drug treatment providers, housing providers, and business and neighborhood leaders.  All involved agreed to work together to find new ways to solve problems for individuals who frequently cycle in and out of the criminal justice system. 

  • Improve public safety and public order.
  • Reduce criminal behavior of participants.
  • Build trust between participants, police, case managers, and the community.
  • Reduce the harm the individual is causing him or herself and the surrounding community.