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As this issue of the NIJ Journal goes to press, I have been director of NIJ for just over six months. My nomination by President Barack Obama and confirmation by the United States Senate was personally gratifying. The ultimate reward, however, lies in the opportunity to lead NIJ in its renewed commitment to science.
The beginning of my tenure coincided with the release of the National Academy of Sciences' evaluation of NIJ, Strengthening the National Institute of Justice. The NAS report provided a foundation from which NIJ can engage in critical self-examination and change. But I am certain that one thing will remain the same: We will continue to produce research that makes a difference for criminal justice professionals, such as those who read the NIJ Journal.
Several articles in this issue exemplify NIJ's commitment to presenting research in a way that makes its practical implications clear and demonstrates to our readers how the findings can affect their daily decisions.
The research on injuries from less-lethal weapons, for example, is something community leaders and members of police-citizen review boards will find useful. The data show that using conducted energy devices, known commonly by the manufacturer name Taser, can reduce injury rates for suspects and officers when compared to other less-lethal options, such as fists or batons. Though proper training is always essential before officers use CEDs, this research demonstrates that both officers and civilians may benefit from their use.
The articles on interviewing child victims of sexual abuse and on understanding crime at the level of the city block are examples of research that builds on previous work. These studies tease out finer details, allowing us to consider innovative ways to apply these research findings. Through these studies, we also begin to build a cumulative base of knowledge.
The article on improving death investigations is about the needs of the forensic death investigation community and its response to another NAS report — Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward — particularly to the report's controversial recommendation to eliminate the coroner system. NIJ emphasized cooperation and communication among experts on all sides of the issue by bringing them together for the first time to discuss that recommendation and other important issues in forensic death investigation. Convening the Forensic Death Investigation Symposium was a bold, but important, step. I firmly believe that discussing challenging topics in an open and honest way is the first step toward finding creative solutions.
I welcome your feedback on the Journal and all of NIJ's publications. Your input is vital as we communicate findings and incorporate wisdom from the field toward the ultimate goal of building a strong body of knowledge that is supported by science.
John H. Laub
Director, National Institute of Justice
NIJ Journal No. 267, Winter 2010