WASHINGTON (Dec. 2, 2020)—Covid-19 has changed nearly every part of how we do things as a society. This includes how police officers perform and execute arrests.

Since traditional arrest requires close physical contact, COVID-19’s ease of transmission has rendered the practice far less safe. For this reason, alternatives to arrest (such as expanding the use of citations, de-prioritizing police stops for minor transgressions and changing how law enforcement officers receive and respond to certain civilian complaints) are a natural solution to help curb the virus’s spread.

Accordingly, in a new policy short, R Street senior fellow of criminal justice and civil liberties, Lars Trautman, and criminal justice and civil liberties research and policy associate, Camille Infantolino, survey the most common COVID-19-inspired shifts in alternative-to-arrest policy and discuss how they were covered by media and received by the public.

They discovered that while many members of law enforcement appeared somewhat defensive about these policy shifts, media coverage was frequently neutral or even somewhat positive, even when law enforcement officers provided the majority of quotes. Further, not only did public outcry fail to materialize in most jurisdictions, sustained attention did too.

“With so many of these new programs and strategies passing this initial optics and public opinion test, the next step for most departments will be to assess the future of these initiatives,” said Trautman and Infantolino. “Although spurred on by the pandemic, the benefits from many are likely to persist even after that threat subsides.”

Read the full policy short, “Covid-19 Inspired Alternative to Arrest and their Public Reception” here.