Policing on the Front Lines of the Opioid Crisis

Law enforcement officers play three important roles on the front lines of the opioid epidemic: They are responsible for emergency response and preserving public safety as well as law enforcement. This report from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) discusses the challenge of reconciling the conflicts that can arise among these roles and presents recommendations for alleviating these difficulties and improving law enforcement response to the opioid crisis.

The COPS Office is the component of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for advancing the practice of community policing by the nation’s state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement agencies through information and grant resources.

The COPS Office publishes materials for law enforcement and community stakeholders to use in collaborativ​​ely addressing crime and disorder challenges. 

These free publications provide best practice approaches and give access to collective knowledge from the field. You can find their recent and featured publications, and search the Resource Center or their Community Policing Topics pages for specific issues ​by visiting ​​https://cops.usdoj.gov/recentreleases or by calling the COPS Office Response Center at 800-421-6770.

Photo by camilo jimenez | Unsplash.com

Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice Releases Final Report

Following months of virtual meetings, testimony and study, on Tuesday, December 22, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr submitted the final report of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice to the White House. This report represents the first comprehensive study of law enforcement in more than 55 years.

On Oct. 28, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order No. 13896, which directed the Department of Justice to establish the “Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.” The purpose of the Commission was to conduct a modern study of the state of American policing and determine specific measures to reduce crime and promote the rule of law. 

To accomplish this task, the Commission was asked to research “important current issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” and recommends a variety of subjects for study, such as, but not limited to:

  • The challenges to law enforcement associated with mental illness, homelessness, substance abuse, and other social factors that influence crime and strain criminal justice resources;
  • The recruitment, hiring, training, and retention of law enforcement officers, including in rural and tribal communities;
  • Refusals by State and local prosecutors to enforce laws or prosecute categories of crimes;
  • The need to promote public confidence and respect for the law and law enforcement officers; and
  • The effects of technological innovations on law enforcement and the criminal justice system, including the challenges and opportunities presented by such innovations.

The Commission principally conducted its study through a series of hearings, panel presentations, field visits, and other public meetings. At these events, the Commission heard from subject matter experts, public officials, private citizens, and other relevant stakeholders and institutions who can provide valuable insight into these issues.

The Commissioners, appointed by the attorney general, included urban police chiefs, state prosecutors, county sheriffs, members of rural law enforcement, federal agents, U.S. attorneys, and a state attorney general. In addition to their diverse experiences and backgrounds, each member brought an expertise in formulating and shaping law enforcement policy and leading police departments and law enforcement organizations.

Commissioners on the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice included:

  • Chair: Phil Keith, Director, Community Oriented Policing Services
  • Vice-Chair: Katharine Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs
  • David Bowdich, Deputy Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Donald Washington, Director, United States Marshals Services
  • Regina Lombardo, Acting Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives
  • Erica Macdonald, United States Attorney, District Of Minnesota
  • D. Christopher Evans, Chief of Operations, Drug Enforcement Administration
  • James Clemmons, Sheriff, Richmond County, North Carolina
  • Frederick Frazier, City Council, McKinney, Texas/ Police Officer, Dallas Police Department
  • Robert Gualtieri, Sheriff, Pinellas County, Florida
  • Gina Hawkins, Chief of Police, Fayetteville, North Carolina
  • Ashley Moody, Florida Attorney General
  • Nancy Parr, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Chesapeake, Virginia
  • Craig Price, South Dakota Secretary of Public Safety
  • Gordon Ramsay, Chief of Police, Wichita, Kansas
  • David B. Rausch, Director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • John Samaniego, Sheriff, Shelby County, Alabama
  • James Smallwood, Police Officer, Nashville Metropolitan Police Department

At the conclusion of this study, the Commission was to issue a report.

“This report is the result of significant effort and commitment by hundreds of working group members, dozens of staff, nearly 200 individual testimonies, and of course the 18 distinguished commissioners, who, as I’ve said before, truly reflect the best there is in law enforcement,” said Attorney General Barr. “We could not have foreseen the challenges 2020 would present when we set out to accomplish our goal of researching important current issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Yet despite these challenges, the Commission produced a thoughtful and comprehensive report.”

At a ceremony in January 2020, Attorney General Barr announced the establishment of the Commission and the individuals who would serve as commissioners. From January through July, the Commission met formally more than 50 times – adjusting to the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic – with the goal of making improvements to American law enforcement for years to come. Throughout that time, the Commission assembled a report that reviewed a variety of important issues affecting law enforcement and their capacity to safeguard American communities.

The full report can be found here: https://www.justice.gov/file/1347866/download

Attorney General William P. Barr Announces Results of Operation Legend

Attorney General William P. Barr announced the results of Operation Legend, which was first launched in Kansas City, Missouri, on July 8, 2020, and then expanded to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, on July 22, 2020; to Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on July 29, 2020; to St. Louis, Missouri, and Memphis, Tennessee, on August 6, 2020; and to Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 14, 2020. His announcement was made on Tuesday, December 22.

“Operation Legend removed violent criminals, domestic abusers, carjackers and drug traffickers from nine cities which were experiencing stubbornly high crime and took illegal firearms, illegal narcotics and illicit monies off the streets. By most standards, many would consider these results as a resounding success—amid a global pandemic, the results are extraordinary. I commend our federal law enforcement and prosecutors for seamlessly executing this operation in partnership with state and local law enforcement,” said Attorney General Barr. “When we launched Operation Legend, our goal was to disrupt and reduce violent crime, hold violent offenders accountable and give these communities the safety they deserve in memory of LeGend Taliferro, whose young life was claimed by violent crime, undoubtedly, we achieved it.”

Since Operation Legend’s launch on July 8, 2020, over 6,000 arrests – including approximately 467 for homicide – were made; more than 2600 firearms were seized; and more than 32 kilos of heroin, more than 17 kilos of fentanyl, more than 300 kilos of methamphetamine, more than 135 kilos of cocaine, and more than $11 million in drug and other illicit proceeds were seized.

Of the more than 6,000 individuals arrested, approximately 1,500 have been charged with federal offenses. Approximately 815 of those defendants have been charged with firearms offenses, while approximately 566 have been charged with drug-related crimes. The remaining defendants have been charged with various offenses.

The Attorney General launched the operation as a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime. Operation Legend is named in honor of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept early in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City.

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) provided a total of $60 million to fund 290 officers as part of Operation Legend and related efforts. Additionally, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) awarded nearly $9 million in grant funding to support Operation Legend.

Breakdown of Operation Legend charges:

Kansas City, MO.

196 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 75 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 107 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 14 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Chicago, Ill.

176 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 40 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 130 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • Six defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Albuquerque, NM.

167 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 60 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 85 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 22 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Cleveland, OH.

119 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 60 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 55 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • Four defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Detroit, MI.

100 defendants have been charged with federal offenses outlined below.

  • 33 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 64 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • Three defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Milwaukee, WI.

74 defendants have been charged with federal crimes, broken down as follows:

  • 34 defendants have been charged with firearm related offenses;
  • 32 defendants have been charged with narcotic related offenses;
  • Eight defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

St. Louis, MO.

450 defendants have been charged with federal crimes.

  • 193 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 231 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 26 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Memphis, Tenn.

124 defendants have been charged with federal offenses outlined below:

  • 53 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 47 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 24 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Indianapolis, IN.

94 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 18 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 64 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 12 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

 The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

Department of Justice Establishes Community of Practice for Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness

The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) has established the first-ever Community of Practice for state, local and tribal grantees  to connect, learn, share experiences, and network in an effort to continue the growth of law enforcement mental health and wellness work. Good mental and psychological health is just as essential as good physical health for law enforcement to be effective in keeping our country and our communities safe from crime and violence. The Community of Practice recently launched its work with a virtual meeting establishing short and medium term goals.

“Supporting the health and well-being of the nation’s front-line law enforcement as they ensure public safety is paramount to the Department of Justice,” said COPS Office Director Phil Keith. “The Department has dedicated resources to critical areas of concern for officers including resilience; officer suicides; felonious and other assaults on officers; and mental health peer support networks. Establishing this new Community of Practice will provide the guidance, assistance, resources and support needed to further develop solutions to keep law enforcement safe and well, as they keep our communities safe and well.”

Working with the National Police Foundation, the COPS Office will convene the law enforcement grantees and others to host a series of ongoing webinars each quarter that will provide insight on a number of topics including:

  • How to start a wellness program for small, medium and large agencies;
  • Understanding the critical considerations and benefits;
  • Identifying needed resources, including staffing, and scoping a program consistent with the available resources;
  • Gaining support and resources from local, state, federal, tribal, and elected officials, as well as private and public business and community sources;
  • Building trust and confidence between governmental leadership and law enforcement members;
  • Identifying promising practices related to implementing and maintaining confidentiality and compliance with confidentiality requirements;
  • Identifying and exploring multi-jurisdictional approaches;
  • Extending mental health and wellness to family members;
    Developing program administration promising practices; and
  • Identifying the training and technical assistance needed to develop and implement programs.


The COPS Office is the federal component of the Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. The only Department of Justice agency with policing in its name, the COPS Office was established in 1994 and has been the cornerstone of the nation’s crime fighting strategy with grants, a variety of knowledge resource products, ​​and training and technical assistance. Through the years, the COPS Office has become the go-to agency for law enforcement agencies across the country and continues to listen to the field and provide the resources that are needed to reduce crime and build trust between law enforcement and the communities served. The COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of more than 134,000 officers.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.  

DOJ Announces Joint Final Rule Regarding Equal Treatment of Faith-Based Organizations in Department-Supported Social Service Programs

The Department of Justice announced a joint final rule with eight other agencies — the Agency for International Development and the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and Veterans Affairs — to implement President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13831, on the Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative (May 3, 2018).  This rule ensures that religious and non-religious organizations are treated equally in DOJ-supported programs, and it clarifies that religious organizations do not lose their legal protections and rights just because they participate in federal programs and activities.

“The freedom to exercise religious beliefs is a cornerstone of our Constitution and the federal government must uphold this right for all Americans.  The Constitution and Federal statutes require all agencies of government to treat religious groups fairly,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.  “This joint final rule is another in a long line of steps this Administration has taken to restore and protect religious liberty and ensure equal treatment for people of faith.”  

This final rule ensures equal treatment for faith-based organizations, consistent with the Constitution and other federal law.  It removes requirements in prior regulations that placed unequal burdens on religious organizations, cast unwarranted suspicion on them, and were in tension with their religious liberty rights.  This final rule also clarifies that religious organizations do not lose various legal protections because they participate in federal programs and activities, such as the rights to accommodations and conscience protections under the First Amendment, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and other federal laws.

This final rule preserves most of the existing regulations governing participation of religious organizations in DOJ’s financial assistance programs, including provisions barring providers from discriminating against beneficiaries based on religion and requiring that any religious activities by the organization be separated in time or location from any services directly funded with federal money.  

The final rule was drafted in response to Executive Order 13831, issued in May 2018.  The nine Agencies worked collaboratively to draft notices of proposed rulemaking that were published or delivered to Congress in January 2020.  These Agencies then received over 95,000 public comments from a range of interested parties, including Members of Congress; state and local governments, agencies, and officials; faith-based services providers and umbrella organizations; advocacy organizations; and individuals.  The Agencies considered those comments, modified their regulations to address concerns raised in the comments, and drafted responses included in the final rule.

Department of Justice Releases New Report on Implementing Effective Unmanned Aircraft System Programs

The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) today released a new report, Roadmap to Implementing an Effective Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program, with its partners at the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). Drones, as UAS are generally known, present one of the most exciting frontiers in law enforcement by giving departments an essential tool with which to gather vital situational data without placing law enforcement professionals in harm’s way. This report is an eight-step guide to launching a drone program and is available on the COPS Office website.

“This Roadmap is the first of a series of deliverables essential to expanding the safe and appropriate use of UAS technology,” said COPS Office Director Phil Keith. “The deliverables will form a body of best practices for agencies using or managing the public’s use of drones. I urge any agency considering a drone program to carefully read this Roadmap and contact the resources included within, who stand ready and willing to assist. A critical step in developing a drone program involves transparency and community engagement. The benefits of a drone program to public safety are substantial and a game changer for community safety.”

This report details the critical steps to starting a drone program, from planning and preparation to purchasing the right equipment, staffing and training a drone team, and writing policies and procedures. The recommendations and tips included in this guidance were developed in consultation with members of the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial (SLTT) UAS Working Group, convened by the COPS Office in 2019 following a two-day forum on the police use of drones and response to the threat of malicious drone attacks. The findings from that forum were compiled into Drones: A Report on the Use of Drones by Public Safety Agencies—and a Wake-Up Call about the Threat of Malicious Drone Attacks, which was released early this year.

The SLTT UAS Working Group meets quarterly to identify the most pressing needs pertaining to deployment and produce guidance for the law enforcement field. The group is made up of leading practitioners and subject matter experts from the law enforcement field, stakeholder groups, and federal partners. The working group members, the staff at PERF, and the drones team at the COPS Office dedicated every effort to create a deliverable by the field and for the field that will help departments quickly and appropriately engage with this incredible technology.

This work has been informed by first-hand encounters with successful and innovative UAS programs across the country. Site visits to the Drones as a First Responder program in Chula Vista, California, as well as site visits and demonstrations at the Torrance (California) Police Department, the Alameda County (California) Sheriff’s Office, and agencies working on the southern border, illustrated the urgent need for guidance in both the use and countering malicious use of drones for SLTT law enforcement agencies.

The COPS Office is the federal component of the Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide.  Since 1994, the COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of more than 134,000 officers and provide a variety of knowledge resource products including publications, training and technical assistance.

Five Things to Know About NIBRS

Transitioning to the National Incident-Based Reporting System Will Offer More Robust Crime S​​tatistics Data to Police, Public

Next year, the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) will become the national crime data collection program. The result will be more robust and complete data for law enforcement, researchers, and the public.

And while the transition to NIBRS is new, publishing reliable, informative crime statistics has been part of the FBI’s role since its earliest days. This transition is the latest in a more than 90-year effort to ensure police and communities have accurate crime data.

Here are some key facts about NIBRS:

1. NIBRS will have better data. That makes police more effective and communities safer. The original UCR data collection, the Summary Reporting System (SRS), has existed in some form since the 1920s. But NIBRS, which was created in the 1980s, offers much more detail and context around crimes. NIBRS has more thorough data and will help law enforcement target their resources to fight crime effectively. For example, SRS only counts the most serious crime at one particular incident. So, if there is a robbery and a murder at the same time and place, SRS would only count the murder. NIBRS will count both the robbery and the murder and provide much more context, such as the day and time of the crime and the relationship of the victim to the offender.

2. Most of the country has already transitioned to NIBRS. Many more agencies plan to by the beginning of next year. Transitioning to NIBRS requires technological upgrades and staff time for police departments across the country. To help, the FBI partnered with the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to increase the number of NIBRS participants. This helps create nationally representative crime statistics using NIBRS data through the National Crime Statistics Exchange initiative. Through this initiative, the FBI and the BJS provided more than $120 million in financial support to state and local agencies to help them move to NIBRS.

This transition has been in progress since 2015, when the January 1, 2021 deadline for the transition to NIBRS was set by the FBI and law enforcement partners. (The deadline was not pushed back due to the pandemic because departments were already years into the transition when the pandemic began early 2020.) In 2021, the FBI expects 75% of law enforcement agencies to have moved to NIBRS. Those departments serve more than 80% of the U.S. population.

NIBRS will have better data. That makes police more effective and communities safer.

3. Crime statistics experts will use statistical modeling to fill in gaps. In the current SRS system, FBI and Department of Justice statisticians use advanced methodologies to estimate national crime statistics when a particular state or locality doesn’t provide data, or the data does not meet the criteria to be published. The same will occur with NIBRS. When estimates are used, they will be disclosed.

While communities that have not transitioned may be missing data for a year or two, estimates will still allow people to understand crime patterns and national trends. Those communities will have more comprehensive data after they make the switch to NIBRS.

4. Researchers and the public will still have access to long-term trends. Even with the transition to NIBRS, the public will still be able to see long-term crime trends. That’s because the FBI will convert the NIBRS data back into the SRS format, specifically for long-term trend analysis. This will offer researchers and the public an “apples to apples” comparison.

5. The FBI is working to help law enforcement transition to NIBRS. For more than five years, the FBI has worked with law enforcement agencies across the country to provide technical expertise, data integration support, and free training to move to NIBRS. Federal grants are also available to help them with the cost of upgrades.

The transition to NIBRS is a shift for police departments, both culturally and technologically, but the higher quality data will be worth the effort in the long term.

Resources: NIBRS

Recruiting and Retaining Officers in Small and Rural Agencies

In December 2019, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services held a day-long forum to discuss the challenges of law enforcement recruitment and retention and specifically focused on th​​ese issues in relation to smaller and more rural law enforcement agencies. The 32 participants included police chiefs, captains, lieutenants, academic experts, researchers, and agency directors of state police standards.

The forum’s small size allowed for a wide-ranging discussion that focused on the qualities that make an effective police officer, an in-depth examination of why people leave a department, the most significant challenges to recruiting and retaining officers, and a brainstorming session on the range of strategies these departments use to attract and keep officers. The result was an exchange of ideas and success stories that reflected the unique regional and size differences between the departments.

– Click here to view the publication –

The COPS Office publishes materials for law enforcement and community stakeholders to use in collaboratively addressing crime and disorder challenges. These free publications provide you with best practice approaches and give you access to collective knowledge from the field. By clicking on this link, you can find our recent and featured publications, and you can also search the Resource Center or our Community Policing Topics pages for specific issues or call the COPS Office Response Center at 800-421-6770.

Major County Sheriffs of America to Join COPS Office Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center

The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) today announced that the Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA) has joined the COPS Office Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center (CRI-TAC) as a new partner. Led by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), CRI-TAC is a partnership between the COPS Office and a number of professional law enforcement organizations throughout the field to provide premier law enforcement technical assistance to law enforcement agencies on request. The COPS Office “by the field, for the field” approach combines collaboration and professional advancement, making the technical assistance provided practical, while creating greater capacity for law enforcement to address the ever-changing challenges and landscape of policing.

“Under the leadership of the IACP, we have assembled an exemplary coalition of professional standards-making partners, driven by research and best practices, working to meet the training and technical assistance needs of law enforcement. I am excited that the Major County Sheriffs of America is joining this remarkable coalition,” said Phil Keith, Director of the COPS Office. “The expertise, leadership and resources from MCSA will help ensure we continue to meet the diverse needs of all law enforcement and their communities, and provide much-needed training and technical assistance across the country.”

IACP President Steven R. Casstevens, Chief of the Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Police Department, said, “The IACP is excited to have Major County Sheriffs of America join the coalition of leading law enforcement associations partnered with the COPS Office to bring CRI-TAC to the field. Representing the largest elected sheriffs’ offices, their innovation and expertise will further enhance CRI-TAC in building customized, field-driven training and technical assistance solutions to support law enforcement, corrections, and communities throughout the U.S.”

“MCSA is proud to join the COPS Office, IACP and all the partners on this critical initiative. Ensuring that agencies large and small across the nation have access to cutting-edge, customized training and technical assistance strengthens not only individual departments, but our profession as a whole and most importantly, the communities we serve,” said MCSA President and Middlesex (MA) Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “We look forward to sharing our expertise in developing and implementing best practices with our colleagues across the country.”

In its first two years since it began, CRI-TAC has fielded more than 400 requests for assistance from campus, local, county, tribal, and state agencies on critical issues such as school safety, active shooter response, de-escalation, crisis intervention, and intelligence and information sharing. More information can be found in the second annual review of CRI-TAC at https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/ric.php?page=detail&id=COPS-W0897.

In addition to the MCSA, IACP’s partners in CRI-TAC include:

Federal Bureau of Investigations National Academy Associates (FBINAA)
Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)  
International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA)
International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST)
National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE)
National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE)
National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA)
National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA)

The Collaborative Reform Initiative provides critical and tailored technical assistance resources to state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement agencies on a wide variety of topics. It features a “by the field, for the field” approach while deliver​​ing individualized technical assistance using leading experts in a range of public safety, crime reduction, and community policing topics. Law enforcement agencies that are interested in receiving technical assistance through the Collaborative Reform Initiative should visit the COPS Office website at https://cops.usdoj.gov/collaborativereform.

The COPS Office awards grants to hire community policing officers, develop and test innovative policing strategies, and provide training and technical assistance to community members, local government leaders, and all levels of law enforcement. Since 1994, the COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to help advance community policing.