Seattle U and Seattle PD Join Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice

Seattle University’s Criminal Justice program and the Seattle Police Department have joined similar public/private partnerships in six localities across the country as part of the Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice, which is based at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

February 16, 2017

Seattle University’s Criminal Justice program and the Seattle Police Department have joined similar public/private partnerships in six localities across the country as part of the Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice, which is based at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

“Seattle's selection as one of the sites in the 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,” said Jacqueline Helfgott, chair of Seattle U’s criminal justice department. “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 decreasing disparities in arrest, pretrial detention, conviction, and incarceration.”

Helfgott and criminal justice professor 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 other six sites in the network are Los Angeles, CA;  Toledo, OH;  Durham, NC;  Prince George’s County, MD; and St. Louis, MO; and New York City. The sites 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.  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.

The Research Network 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.

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.  This high- volume activity also serves as the basis of the public’s opinion of the police and their assessment of the legitimacy of the criminal justice system.