Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) was first implemented in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood on a pilot, demonstration basis in October 2011.
Even before any evaluation data were available residents and business groups in other downtown Seattle neighborhoods were impressed enough by the observable, qualitative changes in Belltown that they requested funding from the City of Seattle to expand LEAD. Since then LEAD has expanded to four of the Seattle Police Department’s five precincts, with plans to expand to a fifth precinct and at least two other
King County cities in 2019. LEAD has also been widely replicated nationally (please see here for a current
list of other jurisdictions).
A unique coalition of law enforcement agencies, public officials, and community groups collaborated to create this pilot program. These groups make up LEAD’s Policy Coordinating Group, which governs the program.
LEAD is a pre-arrest and pre-booking diversion program that allows officers to redirect individuals committing specified law violations due to behavioral health conditions such as substance use or mental health to community-based services instead of jail and prosecution (for a current list of Seattle eligibility criteria see here. When an officers determine a referral is appropriate, they call a case manager and there is a direct warm hand-off from officers to case managers. LEAD participants begin working immediately with case managers to identify needs and goals. LEAD’s aims are to reduce the harm individuals cause to themselves, as well as the harm that they may be causing the community. This public safety program has been shown to reduce recidivism rates for those diverted and to be less expensive than using the criminal justice system as normal and thereby preserving expensive criminal justice system resources for more serious or violent offenders.