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A Multi-Site Evaluation of Law Enforcement Deflection in the United States

NCJ Number
Date Published
52 pages

This multi-site evaluation of law enforcement deflection in the United States found that deflection programs can take many shapes and forms.


This report describes the findings from a multi-site evaluation of law enforcement deflection in the United States using information collected from deflection programs in six sites, including information from program staff, administrative data, and program data, to describe how each program is implemented and to identify key program facilitators and barriers. The data show that deflection programs in the United States can take many shapes and forms. The findings, in conjunction with the BJA survey, indicate trends emerging across the field of deflection practice: gradual incorporation of additional pathways; overall move toward greater complexity and breadth of service provision, including the coexistence of other diversion programs in the area; and a move toward the professionalization of deflection (e.g., needing own staff, formulation of best practices). Qualitatively, perspectives from stakeholders suggest positive results in terms of (1) individual participant journeys, (2) change in policing practice and views, (3) reductions in stigma, and (4) stakeholder and community buy-in. Facilitators of implementation can also be identified, primarily as strong partnerships and champions. Barriers include persistence of stigma, distrust of police, and challenges pertaining to services for people who use drugs writ large, such as treatment capacity and payment methods. This report should be of interest to entities interested in deflection programs. For two of the six sites, the authors conducted outcome analyses to determine whether the model is effective in reducing drug-related deaths and overdoses, arrests, and treatment admissions. The study discusses the various deflection pathways in line with the results of the BJA survey (National Survey to Assess First Responder Deflection Programs in Response to the Opioid Crisis, 2021). There are clear decisions leaders of deflection programs need to make in terms of how to operationalize and structure their programs to best suit the needs of their communities. 

Date Published: January 1, 2023