The Law Enforcement and Parole (L.E.A.P.) program was initially started in 1990 by San Diego Police Department Community Relations Officer Michael Cash.
Officer Cash was approached by the Education Instructor at Richard J. Donovan State Prison about being a guest speaker for one of the pre-release classes held at the prison. Officer Cash arrived at the prison and found a hostile, yet attentive, audience of about 25 inmates.
The inmates had never been taught by a law enforcement officer in an environment that gave them the freedom to express themselves openly and honestly about their fears regarding treatment by the police. At the end of this two-hour training session, the inmates shook hands with Officer Cash and thanked him for the interchange. Thus began the L.E.A.P. program.
Officer Cash knew this type of interaction was not occurring anywhere else in the State of California. He developed learning goals and objectives, a resource manual, a training class outline and a rights and responsibilities information sheet to accompany his training sessions. The training consisted of a one-day, two-hour session at a selected site each month. This project was outside the scope of his assigned duties. The majority of his research work was done on his own time without compensation. He has since recruited more than 20 officers that have gone into the prison and participated with the inmates in the training. This opening of dialogue between future parolees and law enforcement officers has assisted in bridging the gap from prison to release for inmates and decreasing tensions between parolees and law enforcement personnel.
The program is now in its ninth year, with more than 2,000 inmates having participated. Two years after the initiation of this training, Officer Cash was promoted to Sergeant and transferred to another assignment. He continues to find time to teach the program and expose other officers to the curriculum. Even after being promoted to Lieutenant, Cash still teaches every class.
Officers have expressed a better understanding of parolees and the difficulties they face readjusting in the community after prison life. Parolees have expressed a better understanding of the duties and responsibilities of law enforcement and how the negative decisions they make as parolees affect not only themselves but others as well.