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Director’s Corner: Developing the Future of Law Enforcement Leadership


I had a chance recently to meet some remarkable up-and-coming policing leaders and watch them in action at IACP’s annual conference. They are participants in a collaborative effort to mentor sworn, mid-rank officers who have shown a desire to advance and integrate science into their police departments. The joint NIJ/IACP program is called “Law Enforcement Advancing Data and Science (LEADS).”

Over the past two years — and after judges have scored more than a hundred applications — 19 law enforcement officers from around the county have been awarded scholarships to serve in the LEADS program.

Mid-rank officers are well-suited within law enforcement agencies to infuse research into policy and practice. They are responsible at times for policy development, and they regularly oversee policy implementation and operations. They are close enough to the line to observe and understand the effects of policies in the field, and far enough up-the-chain to effect change as needed. NIJ and IACP believe that supporting mid-rank officers means we are supporting the future leaders of law enforcement.

As part of their participation in the LEADS program, the scholars attend the IACP Conference and Expo, where they network with law enforcement leadership from across the country, learn about the latest policing research, and see how other agencies and jurisdictions operate—all of which they take back to their own agencies.

During this year’s IACP Conference, I had the opportunity to meet with the scholars and get an idea of the challenges they face in their day-to-day working environment. I know the insights they shared with me and my colleagues at NIJ will be invaluable in helping to better define NIJ’s research agenda and ensure that the voice of the practitioner is apparent in our work.

I believe the benefits of the program will have long-term impact:

  • NIJ gets to communicate directly with highly qualified future leaders and gain their perspective about how to better serve the law enforcement practitioner community.
  • The LEADS scholars get to work together, sharing successes and challenges, and serving as sounding boards for their own research questions and methods. Scholars also get the opportunity to attend presentations from leading criminal justice researchers and law enforcement leaders and participate in behind-the-scenes, post-presentations with the researchers and nationally recognized law enforcement leaders.

The goal of the LEADS program is simple: Take what you learn as scholars and apply it to your own unique situations.

It is my hope that through this program, NIJ will spread the word to other future law enforcement leaders about the value of science and hence knowledge on what works.