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Seattle Police Department Joins John Jay Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice

The Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice announced Seattle as one of six cities selected to join New York City as part of the Network. The core sites, which Los Angeles, CA; Toledo, OH; Durham, NC; Prince George’s County, MD and St. Louis, MO will use data analytics to inform policy discussions and reform regarding trends in the enforcement of lower level offenses. Through a generous $3.25-million, three-year grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), the Research Network builds upon the success of the Misdemeanor Justice Project in New York City.

“We are excited to work with the core sites and to help inform their policy decisions on critical issues regarding the role of the criminal justice system in responding to low-level misconduct,” said President Jeremy Travis of John Jay College.

The Research Network is a national alliance of seven jurisdictions that will examine trends in the enforcement and disposition of lower-level offenses at a local level and, for the first time, at a cross-jurisdictional level. The Research Network, working with research institutions, data partners and stakeholders, aims to build data infrastructure at a local level. The Network also seeks to inform smarter criminal justice policies that enhance public safety, increase public trust in the police, and implement fiscally responsible policies particularly surrounding behaviors that involve officer discretion.

The selection criteria for the six new sites included a commitment toward evidence-based reform in their local jurisdiction and the availability of high quality administrative data on arrests for lower level offenses, summonses, pedestrian stops and case outcome data including pretrial detention. The Research Network received 39 proposals, which indicates that there is an appetite for research in this arena. The local research partners are University of California, Los Angeles, University of Toledo, North Carolina Central University, Seattle University, University of Maryland, and University of Missouri – St. Louis.

Enforcement of lower-level offenses has a profound impact on the criminal justice system. It can overwhelm the courts and delay case processing, often resulting in large numbers of individuals held on pretrial detention. It is also this high volume activity that serves as the basis of public’s opinion of the police and their assessment of the legitimacy of the criminal justice system. The Research Network is fully committed to working with criminal justice stakeholders to obtain accurate data, provide objective analyses, and disseminate findings to key stakeholders in the community, renowned scholars, and policymakers to spur a national dialogue on this high volume activity in the criminal justice system.

“The Seattle Police Department uses real-time quantitative and qualitative data to inform our decision making,” said Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole. “We appreciate this opportunity to share our knowledge and learn from our partners while developing effective strategies to address low-level offenses.”

Seattle’s selection as one of the sites in the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Misdemeanor Justice Research Network is an unprecedented opportunity to examine trends in misdemeanor arrests, pretrial detention, and detention in Seattle as part of a national network of academic-agency partnerships. Misdemeanors are the largest entry point into the criminal justice system and what occurs at this stage of the criminal justice process is critical to increasing capacity for justice and decrease in disparities in arrest, pretrial detention, conviction, and incarceration. Seattle University Department of Criminal Justice faculty Drs. Jacqueline Helfgott and William Parkin are partnering with the Seattle Police Department, Seattle City Attorney’s Office, the City of Seattle Office of City Auditor, Municipal Court of Seattle, King County Prosecutor’s Office, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and King County Department of Adult & Juvenile Detention for this three year research collaboration.

The Research Network was launched in 2016 and is based on the successful experience of the Misdemeanor Justice Project, a research initiative at John Jay College led by Professor Chauhan. With support from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, MJP has published a series of reports examining trends in the enforcement of low-level offenses in New York City and State including misdemeanor arrests, criminal summonses, and pedestrian stops as well as jail admissions. These studies have substantially informed criminal justice reform efforts now underway in New York.