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


Application Period Closed

That thank you to everyone who applied to join the next class of civilian scholars. NIJ plans to notify those selected by mid July. 

For civilian government professionals working with law enforcement, the Law Enforcement Advancing Data and Science (LEADS) Scholars program offers a unique opportunity to partner with other LEADS Scholars in an effort to use evidence-based strategies and locally-tailored research to advance their agency’s mission. 

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; the RAND Corporation, in partnership with the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF); and the National Policing Institute (NPI) support the implementation and development of the LEADS program.

The program has grown to over 115 sworn officers, civilians, and academics across the country, both current Scholars and alumni, who have formed a strong network of individuals committed to using evidence and data to inform law enforcement policy and practice.

Conducting practitioner-led research and applying evidence-based practices requires the efforts and commitments of police professionals throughout an agency. Law enforcement civilians perform a growing number of police functions and are often integral in conducting and promoting research and evidence integration. Those professionals include (but are not limited to) crime analysts, intelligence analysts, law enforcement planners, project managers, legal analysts, technology specialists, and trainers. There is often collaboration among these professionals in law enforcement agencies and the LEADS Scholars program seeks to strengthen the foundation for this type of networking among multi-disciplinary experts to better solve challenges in their communities.

Eligibility and Expectations

Civilian applicants to the LEADS Scholars program must be employed full-time in the United States by a law enforcement or government agency working directly within or with a law enforcement agency and must have responsibilities relevant to advancing the use of data and integration of research into policies and practices. Such roles include (but are not limited to):

  • Crime analysts
  • Law enforcement planners
  • Project managers
  • Legal analysts
  • Technology specialists
  • Trainers

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.

Program Activities

The LEADS Scholars program is a three-year commitment, and participants 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:
    • Attendance at the IACP Research Advisory Committee (RAC) and the newly formed IACP Police Research Advancement Section (PRAS) meetings.
  • 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), IACP, and NPI.
  • Opportunities to present research and findings at law enforcement conferences and be published in practitioner-focused magazines and journals.
  • Attendance at the annual International Association of Crime Analysts meeting or comparable meeting based on their role in their agency.
  • Participation in professional development activities hosted by the IACP and NPI.
  • 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, civilians may request assistance from the LEADS supporting organizations through IACP’s online community of practice. 

NIJ covers all U.S domestic 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 participants 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

When NIJ is accepting applications, interested applicants must submit the following materials to [email protected]. In the email subject line please put LEADS CIVILIAN APPLICATION.

  • Current CV
  • Letter of support from your 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, 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]. Applications are due May 3, 2024, 11:59 p.m. ET.

Date Published: February 6, 2024