The Benefits of Law Enforcement Advocates within the Denver Police Department

On 2003, the Denver, Colorado, Police Department partnered with the Denver Juvenile and Family Justice Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (DJFJ TASC), Colorado Judicial Branch, to create the Law Enforcement Advocate (LEA) program, with the goal of improving citizens’ perceptions of law enforcement, increasing officer satisfaction, and reducing criminal recidivism among high-risk populations. The initial LEA program included specially trained officers who were assigned to work with extremely high-risk juvenile offenders living in neighborhoods known for high levels of calls for service by law enforcement. The officers were trained in motivational interviewing and in the stages of change techniques designed to promote positive behavior change for clients. In addition to conducting neighborhood- and home-based accountability checks, the officers were charged with forming supportive relationships with project participants and their families that would hopefully continue beyond justice system involvement. Interviews with law enforcement advocates indicated a high level of satisfaction related to making a positive difference within the lives of youth, along with improving public safety. Program outcome data over a course of three years markedly supported all goals of the LEA program, including decreased levels of criminal recidivism and substance abuse, reduced calls for service, and improved perceptions of the police. In addition, exit interviews concluded that project participants’ attitudes and trust toward the police significantly and positively shifted between baseline and post-program interviews. Based on the successful results of the initial LEA partnership, the program was expanded to additional projects within the DJFJ TASC and has since seen equally impressive results.