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National Institute of Justice: Strengthening Science and Advancing Justice

Mark Greene, Division Director; Office of Research, Evaluation, and Technology; Technology Division and Standards; Gregory Dutton, Physical Scientis, Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences; Andrea Borchardt, Physical Scientist, Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences; Amy Leffler, Social Science Analyst, Office of Research, Evaluation, and Technology; Brett Chapman, Social Science Analyst, Office of Research, Evaluation, and Technology

This video, produced for IACPTV, describes the mission of NIJ and highlights body armor research, forensic advancements, human trafficking work, and the Policing Strategic Plan. 

[Narrator] The National Institute of Justice, NIJ, is the research development and evaluation agency of the United States Department of Justice. Dedicated to improving the knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues, NIJ offers science-based knowledge and tools to inform decision making by the justice leaders across the nation. We know that science can reduce crime and advance justice and our research investments are strategically focused on the challenges facing practitioners in the field. We help test and develop solutions for your community. We find what works.

From our first year in 1968, NIJ has granted funding across the spectrum of justice issues for law enforcement, forensics, victims advocacy, and more. Let's take a deeper look into what NIJ does.

[Mark Greene] NIJ's predecessor agency the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, or NILECJ, published the very first performance standard for body armor in 1972. NIJ has continued developing standards and studying the effectiveness of body armor on officer safety throughout the years. The NIJ compliance testing provide confidence that body armor used by law enforcement in the U.S. meets minimum performance requirements. It's important to consistently test and research body armor because materials change and there are constantly new material stores also getting back to officer safety there are new threats that emerge and we need to stay abreast of all the different changes out there that may affect officer safety.

[Narrator] As the world moves into the future it is necessary for law enforcement to advance as well. To keep up with these challenges NIJ is involved in advancing forensic science.

[Greg Dutton] Pattern and impression evidence is an assembly of forensic science disciplines that include things like latent fingerprints, firearms. Trace evidence mostly refers to tiny chemical or material traces that might be found at crime scenes we're always looking to expand the capabilities that forensic examiners have to collect trace evidence and try to draw the strongest conclusions that they can from that evidence. One of the big trends in pattern disciplines is working toward automated methods to help examiners assess the information in a pattern. There's an ongoing need to increase speed, reliability, accuracy of forensics and examinations.

[Andrea Borchardt] NIJ provides funding for researchers those researchers use the funding to perform what's called the developmental validation. This type of validation sets the foundation of the research then is used by the crime labs to do what's called an internal validation. They use that validation to support the work on the crime scene evidence which is then used by the courts.

DNA research supports law enforcement in so many ways from the sensitivity of the testing throughout the years. Funding has supported testing on smaller and smaller quantities of DNA evidence. This has allowed law enforcement to go back to cold cases that previously had the inability to provide useful information to the court system.

[Narrator] NIJ is also helping law enforcement to tackle a growing and difficult challenge in the world today -- human trafficking.

[Amy Leffler] Human trafficking in the United States is something that happens everywhere. It's prolific. It happens in our cities, it happens in our rural areas, it happens in factories, it happens in agriculture and so when we define human trafficking we're looking for those individuals who are being forced, frauded, or coerced into either selling their bodies for sex or engaging in labor. NIJ's research program started about years ago with the passage of the trafficking Victims Protection Act and how we as a research institute break up our portfolio and understand human trafficking is through the three P's, which is protection, prosecution, and prevention. So research is really important in understanding human trafficking because it's a crime that happens right in front of us and we might not be able to identify it. So what we do in our research program is to try to understand the vulnerabilities of those and that may be the most at risk of being trafficking victims. By better understanding a crime that's not well understood in the first place we can help law enforcement prosecutors and victim service providers be able to best tailor how they tackle the problem through an evidence-informed lens.

[Narrator] NIJ supports over , law enforcement professionals across the country, from the largest agencies to the smallest departments.

[Brett Chapman] Since 1976 our main function is to support law enforcement. It's a difficult job it's not easy and we have challenges like you do in that profession. There are questions that need to be answered. What works? what matters? What's effective? What's ineffective? What should we be doing? Are we getting it right? So our task over the years has been to inform those practices, inform that decision making at the executive level, at the command level, at the first-line supervisor level, and down to the patrol level. So if you look at our plan, it's a very comprehensive plan and it has really three essential elements. It's dealing with the workforce. It's looking at the organization in terms of their organization operations, in terms of their strategies, and then it's forward-leaning and its facing outward towards the community and it's focusing on strengthening police community relationships.

[CHIPs Stewart] Too often we neglect the fact that that the research that's done here has real impacts in changing people's people's lives, saving people's lives, and restoring a sense of justice and living in America. NIJ will continue to support the men and women of United States law enforcement by strengthening science and advancing justice.

Date Created: October 31, 2019