This month's cover story features the findings from NIJ's DNA Field Experiment, which investigated the cost-effectiveness of using DNA evidence to solve property crimes. I am looking forward to discussing the experiment at the opening session of the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual meeting in November.
A critical aspect of the President's DNA Initiative is the post-conviction program. NIJ was extremely pleased recently to award nearly $8 million to five states — Arizona, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia and Washington — to help defray the costs of post-conviction DNA testing. States can use the money to review murder and rape cases, locate evidence, or analyze DNA in cases in which the innocence of a convicted person may be demonstrated through DNA.
The awards are an important first step, but frankly, we expected many more states to apply. We are taking steps to encourage stronger interest by: (1) asking states why they did not apply, (2) hosting workshops to help states build the infrastructure for a post-conviction program, (3) evaluating the efforts of states that received money and identifying lessons learned, and (4) funding an examination of exonerations nationally.
In October, NIJ will once again partner with the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense for the 10th Annual Technologies for Critical Incident Preparedness conference, which brings together first responders, business leaders and academic thinkers to share solutions for preparing for and responding to critical incidents. NIJ will feature its recent work in such diverse technologies as through-the-wall imaging and biometrics devices, the identification of human remains, and our ready-to-deploy mobile forensics laboratories.
Terrorist incidents are a common topic at the Critical Incident conference, and NIJ has recently awarded two grants to study law enforcement's role in preventing such events. Researchers at RAND are looking at how agencies shifted resources or increased spending after Sept. 11, what effect the spending changes had, and how the agencies are balancing the new demands of homeland security. Michigan State University is conducting a review of national information-sharing efforts — including an assessment of fusion centers — to identify major obstacles to effective intelligence gathering and information sharing and to develop best practices.
NIJ also recently awarded a major grant for an in-depth study of large and small law enforcement agencies. The study has three components:
- Personnel: the life cycle of patrol officers and supervisors from the time they are hired until they retire.
- Agencies: differences in leadership styles and accountability systems and their effect on the structure, practices and culture of a department.
- Innovations: how agencies introduce and test innovative training and operational issues — for example, how can we improve interactions between officers and the public in traffic stops, burglaries and domestic violence situations?
The study will work with the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government over the next several years in what I know will provide useful knowledge and insight to the law enforcement community.
As our country begins its transition to a new administration, I look forward to following NIJ's contributions to improving the justice system and making our communities safer.
David W. Hagy
Director, National Institute of Justice
About This Article
This article appeared in NIJ Journal Issue 261, October 2008.