Sgt. Ben Peterson and Patrol Officer Nick Schuler have long believed that some calls should lead to a second chance, rather than a set of handcuffs.

“LEAD is just another option so when an officer gets to a call that could potentially be resolved with a LEAD diversion, it gives them more options to help people,” Peterson said.

LEAD, which stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, has helped respond to calls involving homelessness, substance abuse and mental health, and connect these individuals with resources rather than leading to an arrest.

“When the first LEAD diversion was made, there was only a select few officers that could make the diversion,” Schuler said. “Now every officer in the department can make a diversion if needed.”

The program has taken time to build trust with the community since its launch in 2016.

“You know, this is an opportunity for them to kind of make their own plan and come up with a way to do it with a case manager,” Peterson said.

Case managers like Tara Madrid have helped get many of these individuals connected with resources like secure housing, counseling and rehabilitation. And LEAD is now expanding its process, allowing police officers to make referrals before a possible crime is even committed.

“It’s going to really offer an opportunity to individuals in the community with high needs to access the services that they need and especially without having to commit a crime that removes a barrier that they may have faced prior,” Madrid said.

Through 300 successful diversions, LEAD has opened a door for those who struggle day to day in the community, and helping them navigate what that next chance looks like.

“Giving them that second chance gives them an opportunity to grow and learn, and gain their own independence and get their own footing,” Madrid said, “so that they can learn not just to survive, but thrive.”