UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs researchers have been selected to join the Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice based at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
Michael Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning, and colleague Michael Lens, assistant professor of urban planning at the Luskin School, will lead research efforts focused on policing patterns related to misdemeanors in the city of Los Angeles. Six sites were selected by the Research Network based on proposals submitted from 39 institutions across the United States.
The Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Feb. 16, 2017, announced the six sites — Los Angeles; Toledo, Ohio; Durham, N.C.; Seattle, Wash.; Prince George’s County, Md.; and St. Louis, Mo. — selected to join New York City as part of the network. The core sites will use data analytics to inform policy discussions and reforms 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 John Jay College President Jeremy Travis.
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.
Stoll and Lens will partner with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to study data from stops and arrests over time and across different precincts. The data will be used to help them identify possible “misdemeanor hot spots” where diversion programs could be more effective.
“The larger good in studying policing related to low-level offenses will be to figure out how the LAPD can police smarter and more effectively,” Stoll said. He added that there is evidence that individuals involved in multiple misdemeanor offenses have a high probability to go on to commit a felony offense, and that intervention and diversion at the misdemeanor level can be effective in reducing felony offenses.
In looking at misdemeanors and police intervention over time, Stoll and Lens hope to build a network in Los Angeles supportive of this effort. This includes partnering with the city attorney, nonprofit organizations and diversion programs.
The selection criteria for the six 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 that includes pretrial detention. The Research Network received 39 proposals. The research partners are UCLA, University of Toledo, North Carolina Central University, Seattle University, University of Maryland and University of Missouri—St. Louis.
“To see the work of the Misdemeanor Justice Project expand from New York City to six other jurisdictions is very exciting,” said professor Preeti Chauhan, the principal investigator of Research Network. “We are looking forward to replicating the New York model to these sites and believe the results will guide smarter criminal justice reform.”
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. High-volume activity serves as the basis of public opinion about police and the legitimacy of the criminal justice system. The Research Network works 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.