Middlesex Sheriff Peter J Koutoujian today attended the National Law Enforcement Summit on Crime, hosted by Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration.
Law Enforcement Leaders, established in 2015, unites nearly 200 current and former police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and attorneys general from all 50 states focused on implementing policies and strategies that will reduce both crime and incarceration. Sheriff Koutoujian is a founding member and the only current Massachusetts law enforcement official in the group.
“As law enforcement leaders, I believe we have the opportunity and responsibility to speak out in support of policies that will have the greatest impact on the lives of those we are sworn to serve and protect,” said Koutoujian. “Today was an invaluable opportunity to hear from colleagues around the country on what strategies are working in their jurisdictions. Across the board almost each and every speaker touched in some way on the need to focus resources on tackling violent crime, while simultaneously increasing efforts to address the mental health and substance use disorders which lead far too many low-level offenders to involvement with the criminal justice system.”
In Middlesex County in 2016, 46 percent of all new individuals entering the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction reported a history of mental illness, while 42 percent required medical detox upon entrance. Of those receiving medication for mental illness, approximately 76 percent had a co-occurring substance use disorder.
The summit included two panel discussions. In the first, police chiefs and sheriffs including Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Washington D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham discussed innovative strategies they’ve deployed to fight violent crime, and reduce unnecessary arrests. In the second, prosecutors including New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance and Hennepin (Minnesota) County Attorney Michael Freeman – President of the National District Attorney’s Association – discussed strategies to prosecute crimes without increasing unnecessary incarceration.
“The strategies discussed by these national leaders closely align with efforts we – and many of our colleagues – are implementing in Massachusetts,” said Sheriff Koutoujian. “In Middlesex County, for instance, our office has launched a medication assisted treatment program to assist those with opioid use disorders returning to their communities, and we are partnering with Middlesex police departments who have developed diversion or intervention initiatives for those in mental health crisis.”
During the course of today’s summit, Sheriff Koutoujian spoke with national colleagues about these and other initiatives including the Housing Unit for Military Veterans (HUMV). Opened in January 2016, HUMV is the only correctional-based unit in Massachusetts specially-designed for incarcerated military Veterans.
In addition to today’s summit, the steering committee of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration sent an open letter to President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging them to join the bipartisan movement for criminal justice reform.
Today’s event at the National Press Club also included remarks from former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former Acting United States Attorney Sally Yates and retired New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas. Chief Serpas is Co-Chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration.