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NIJ and IACP’s Law Enforcement Advancing Data and Science (LEADS) Scholarships for Law Enforcement Officers


Update: The 2019 application period has closed. Thank you to everyone who submitted an application and congratulations to our new class of LEADS Scholars!

On this page find:

Overview of the Program

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 Scholars program grew out of a desire to support and develop 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 since grown to 50 men and women officers across the country, who have formed a strong network of individuals committed to using evidence and data to inform law enforcement policy and practice.  Currently, NIJ has partnered with the RAND Corporation, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), and the IACP to support the implementation and development of the LEADS program.

NIJ LEADS Scholars are pioneers in the evidence-based policing movement, and present and publish frequently about their research and findings. LEADS Scholars 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, Scholars 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.


LEADS Scholars must be mid-career, sworn law enforcement officers working full-time in a law enforcement agency in the United States.  Scholars 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. 

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.  This year, NIJ is committed to broadening representation even further by prioritizing the inclusion of at least one LEADS Scholar whose law enforcement responsibilities include public safety in tribal jurisdictions.  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.

Structure and Expectations

The LEADS scholarship is a three-year commitment, and officers are expected to be active participants in all applicable activities, including:

  • Attendance at the IACP Annual Conference, including:
    • A pre-conference training and orientation day, including master classes in research methods and data analysis.
    • Attendance at the NIJ Saturday Session, "What Works and What Matters in Policing."
    • Participation in the IACP Research Advisory Committee meeting.
    • Attendance at the IACP Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Awards ceremony
    • Participation in a private roundtable event with NIJ and IACP leadership to discuss priorities in policing research. 
  • Attendance at a two-day LEADS Summer Session, held in and around Washington, DC.
  • Collaborative brainstorming events between LEADS Scholars, NIJ science staff, PERF, RAND, and IACP executives.   
  • Opportunities to present research and findings at law enforcement conferences and be published in practitioner-focused journals.
  • Participation in professional development activities hosted by the IACP.
  • Integration into an on-line community of practice moderated by the IACP.
  • Participation in NIJ peer reviews.
  • Free PERF membership for duration of 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 LEADS Scholars program.

This program does not include direct funding to support original research. 

A note to supervisors of potential applicants — The LEADS Scholars program acknowledges that all participants are working full-time as sworn law enforcement officers, and all associated activities are 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 (4-5 days) and the NIJ Summer Session in Washington DC (2 days). NIJ covers the cost of all travel and per diem associated with these events.

The most critical element of this program is that LEADS Scholars have the option of receiving 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.  Scholars are encouraged to pursue projects that directly respond to the priority needs of their agency.  While in the program and after the three year commitment, LEADS Scholars will have access to researchers and program staff to support these efforts.  Additionally, 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).

Date Created: June 10, 2018