The Impact of Police Attitudes Towards Offenders on Law-Enforcement Assisted Diversion Decisions [2020]

Diversion is a prevalent alternative to traditional criminal justice processing, especially at the pre-trial stage. More recently, pre-arrest diversion has been implemented to avert the consequences of arrest, pre-trial proceedings, and future incarceration. Pre-booking diversion programs rely on the willingness of officers to use their discretionary authority to divert low-level offenders to community-based treatment programs in lieu of arrest, raising considerations about how law enforcement view offenders. Using data collected from a survey distributed during a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) training session for officers in one jurisdiction in the Rocky Mountain West (N = 118), the current study examines the impact of officer attitudes toward offenders on their decision to divert individuals. Findings indicate that officers who hold an optimistic view toward offender rehabilitation are more likely to divert offenders. Results and their significance for practical implementation of law enforcement pre-arrest diversion efforts are discussed.

Lonnie Schaible, Lauren Gant, Stephanie Ames
Police Quarterly, September 22, 2020