Leading Criminal Justice System Change: The Critical Role of Local Law Enforcement

Law enforcement leaders can sometimes be guilty of pointing the finger at someone else in the criminal justice system, laying the blame for breakdowns and responsibility for fixes on them. However, implementing effective change across the justice system cannot be solely one stakeholder’s or group’s responsibility. Systemic change requires collaboration from all stakeholders in the system—judges, prosecutors, defenders, policy and law makers, and law enforcement leaders, among others.

Chiefs of police and sheriffs are the most publicly visible and accessible figures in their local criminal justice system. As such, law enforcement leaders are in a unique position of responsibility and influence in their communities and in the wider society. They have an opportunity to not only influence the system, but to lead changes in the criminal justice system that will have a direct impact on local public safety. Involvement of local law enforcement leaders in criminal justice system reform is critical for reform to be informed, effective, and focused on public safety and justice. The voice of law enforcement needs to be driving any conversation about justice system reform that will impact public safety.