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Director's Message: NIJ Journal Issue No. 259

Date Published
March 17, 2008

As this issue of the NIJ Journal goes to press, 2008 has just begun. I want to take this opportunity to say a few words about NIJ's work over the past year.

Law enforcement is undergoing rapid change in the areas of recruitment, training, technology, immigration, and counterterrorism, among others. How, for example, are police departments balancing their daily operations with the post-9/11 pressure to prevent and respond to another terrorist attack? Last year, NIJ joined forces with Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government to take a hard look at these changes and the new demands they are creating for police departments. The 3-year collaboration will not only help refine NIJ's research agenda, it also will produce practical policy and best practices for policing.

In addition to the big-picture view of post-9/11 policing, we are looking at specific cases. We know that agencies have been asked to shift resources or increase spending—or both—to accommodate new requirements related to counterterrorism and homeland security. In 2007, we began an indepth examination of the expanded role of law enforcement agencies in five major cities to gain a better understanding of the financial and operational impacts that these changes have placed on policing.

NIJ is also gaining expertise from our ongoing partnership with Israel's Ministry of Public Security. The partnership culminated in a 2007 symposium in Jerusalem where U.S. and Israeli experts met to finalize research, which will be collected in a joint book on policing in an era of terrorism. Release date: 2008.

Other major NIJ accomplishments in 2007:

  • DNA and property crime. We wrapped up a field experiment in five cities that looked at the effectiveness of using DNA to solve property crimes and whether doing so helps us catch more dangerous criminals. Findings and recommendations are due in early 2008.
  • Missing persons and unidentified human remains. NIJ launched NamUs, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. NamUs is the Nation's first online database—available to medical examiners, law enforcement, the families of missing persons, and the general public—that will help solve these difficult and often cold cases.
  • Gangs. Gang violence poses serious problems for communities of all sizes across the country. We issued a major solicitation to address the problem.
  • Justice information sharing. NIJ launched a new service, called the Nlets Interstate Sharing of Photos (NISP), that vastly streamlines the way law enforcement officials request a drivers license or corrections photo. In the past, the information was available only via fax when the department of motor vehicles or corrections office was open; with NISP, officers can receive images instantly on their computers. The service is being pilot tested in several States.

Some of NIJ's most exciting work this past year took place behind the scenes where we are changing how we do business:

  • Expanding the NLECTCs to include testing and evaluation. In a vigorous competition, we awarded grants to four Centers of Excellence to strengthen the capability of our National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Centers in the areas of communications; forensic science; weapons and protective systems; and sensors, surveillance, and biometric technologies. New testing and evaluation functions will push the Centers to determine what works and how to use new technology.
  • Enhancing scientific assessments. We have taken a number of steps to strengthen NIJ: The National Academy of Sciences is conducting an independent evaluation of our office, and we are updating our strategic plan. We also are hiring two evaluation specialists to: (1) help integrate the efforts of NIJ's social and physical sciences to ensure that we understand how new technology affects day-to-day criminal justice work, and (2) assess initiatives sponsored by our sister agencies within the Office of Justice Programs.
  • Internationalizing our portfolios of research. What works in the criminal justice field is not confined by U.S. borders. We are expanding our International Center to ensure that all of our research portfolios consider what we can learn from—and share with—other countries.
  • Redesigning our Web site. When people want answers, they go to the Web. We gave our Web site a thorough overhaul to make it easier to search and find answers to crime and justice questions. In January 2008, we went live with what I hope will become the premier location for crime and justice research.

Some things, of course, did not change last year. The President's DNA Initiative continues to make significant strides in eliminating backlogs, strengthening crime laboratory capacity, providing training, stimulating research and development, and helping to identify missing persons. NIJ's Technology Working Groups and focus groups continue to ensure that our work addresses the Nation's most pressing needs. We rely on expert practitioners to set our agendas . . . so that our research has the greatest impact on the everyday needs of the professionals who keep us safe.

I am excited to be leading an organization whose mission is to provide innovative criminal justice ideas to the Nation . . . because the evidence shows that the ideas work.

David W. Hagy
Acting Principal Deputy Director, National Institute of Justice

About This Article

This article appeared in NIJ Journal Issue 259, March 2008.

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Research and development
Date Published: March 17, 2008