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NIJ's Law Enforcement Advancing Data and Science Scholars Program for Law Enforcement Officers

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Application period closed. 

Thank you to everyone who submitted an application the LEADS Scholars program for law enforcement officers. Selected scholars should be notified by the end of July 2022.

The Law Enforcement Advancing Data and Science (LEADS) Scholars program supports the professional development and research capacity of mid-career, sworn law enforcement officers dedicated to advancing the police profession through science.

The LEADS program grew out of a desire to support and develop research capacity in the next generation of law enforcement leadership in America. In 2014, NIJ partnered with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) to establish an annual award of 10, three-year scholarships for research-minded law enforcement officers. The program has expanded in recent years to include opportunities for civilians working in and with law enforcement agencies and academics with experience in policing research and practice. Currently, the IACP and the RAND Corporation, in partnership with the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), support the implementation and development of the LEADS program.

The program has grown to more than 70 men and women officers across the country, both current Scholars and alumni, who have formed a strong network with LEADS civilians and academics committed to using evidence and data to inform law enforcement policy and practice.

NIJ LEADS Law Enforcement Officers are pioneers in the evidence-based policing movement, and present and publish frequently about their research and findings. They have led research projects to test the effectiveness of automatic license plate readers in California, the impact of stress on officers in Ohio, the effectiveness of various patrol vehicle lighting schemes in Connecticut, how to increase gender parity and female retention in police academies, and many other issues. With support from the LEADS program, they have used data to answer empirical research questions on body-worn cameras, GPS monitoring of convicted felons, the development of risk assessment tools, and how to integrate high-quality research and evidence-based practices into police academy curricula.

The intent of the program is two-fold —

  1. Strengthen the Scholars as researchers and strengthen the use of research and evidence-based practices in policing
  2. Build the next generation of police leaders who champion these practices in their agencies. 

The success of the program is seen most clearly in law enforcement practitioners producing more and better research that informs policy and practice in policing, melding the strengths of rigorous data collection and analysis with the insights gained when research is done by individuals with direct experience in the field.

Eligibility and Expectations

LEADS Law Enforcement Officers must be mid-career, sworn law enforcement officers working full-time in a law enforcement agency in the United States.  They must have demonstrated experience advancing the police profession through science.  This may be in the form of partnering with researchers, independently conducting their own research, or infusing research into policies and practices.  The ideal candidate will be in a position to impact policy and practice in their agency. 

The LEADS program acknowledges that all participants are working full-time for a law enforcement or government agency, and the program is designed to be flexible and dependent on the capacity of the Scholar and the demands of their agency.  There are however two meetings LEADS Scholars are expected to attend that require travel away from their agency: the annual IACP Conference, including a pre-conference LEADS meeting and discussion (4-5 days) and the NIJ Summer Session in Washington DC (2-3 days). NIJ covers the cost of all travel and per diem associated with these events.

In focus - Tribal Law Enforcement

Over the years, the LEADS program has grown to be a diverse community of practice with broad agency representation across the country, from small and rural agencies to the largest metropolitan departments in the US.  Tribal law enforcement officers who meet the application criteria for LEADS Scholars are encouraged to apply.  Federal law enforcement active in tribal jurisdictions (e.g., Bureau of Indian Affairs Police Services) will also be considered.

Program Activities

The LEADS scholarship is a three-year commitment, and officers have the opportunity to participate in a variety of other activities and take advantage of other available resources, including:

  • Programming at the IACP Annual Conference, beyond the expected participation in the pre-conference meeting and orientation day discussed above, including:
    • A dedicated LEADS program roundtable with NIJ and IACP leadership to discuss priorities in policing research.
    • Attendance at and potential participation in the NIJ Saturday Session, "What Works and What Matters in Policing."
    • Participation in the IACP Research Advisory Committee meeting and the newly formed IACP research section.
  • Additional training opportunities provided around the LEADS Summer Session, held in and around Washington, DC.
  • Collaborative brainstorming events between LEADS Scholars; NIJ science staff; RAND; the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and IACP.   
  • Opportunities to present research and findings at law enforcement conferences and be published in practitioner-focused magazines and journals.
  • Participation in professional development activities hosted by the IACP.
  • Integration into an on-line community of practice moderated by the IACP connecting both active Scholars and alumni, and acting as a repository for participant information sharing related to research in policing.
  • Participation in peer review of research applications submitted to NIJ.
  • Technical assistance on projects (e.g., improving data collection and analysis, integrating existing research into policies and practices, designing research projects) of their own choosing. During their three-year LEADS commitment, Scholars may request assistance from the LEADS supporting organizations through IACP’s online community of practice. 
  • LEADS Program participants are also provided with a free PERF membership for the duration of their LEADS scholarship (3 years) and opportunities to attend and participate in PERF conferences.

NIJ covers all travel, accommodation, and per diem costs associated with the events Scholars participate in as part of the LEADS program.

LEADS Scholars are encouraged to pursue projects that directly respond to the priority needs of their agency. This program does not include direct funding to support original research.  However, LEADS Scholars will regularly be exposed to multiple federal resources and programs with relevance to your agency, including such entities as the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office).

Application Process

During the open application period, interested applicants must submit the following materials to [email protected]. In the email subject line please put LEADS OFFICER APPLICATION

  • Current CV
  • Letter of support from supervisor (acknowledging the three-year commitment)
  • Personal essay. Applicants should address the following questions in a 3-page, double-spaced essay (12-pt, times new roman font)
    1. Why do you want to participate in this program?
    2. How have you advanced the use of data and research at your agency? To the extent possible, briefly describe a specific effort, your role in it, and how the results of that effort were put into practice.
    3. If you become a LEADS Scholar, what unique experiences or capabilities do you bring that could benefit the other members of the LEADS Scholar network of participants and alumni?
    4. How could participation in the LEADS program assist in your efforts to strengthen research and evaluation in your agency or policing more broadly over the next three to five years?  What are your near, mid and longer-term plans for doing so?

Direct all questions to [email protected].

Date Published: May 3, 2022