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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice 3 The Research Program Offices The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is still described as “the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ),”1 as it was at its inception, yet its program looks a great deal different today. Two of the changes, mentioned in Chapter 2, are the shift from a broad program of research to research that is more heavily focused on criminal justice administration and short-term solutions to crime prevention and reduction. The second change is reduced resources for social science research and greater support for technology research and technology assistance. This chapter is an overview of the research portfolios of the two main program offices in NIJ, the Office of Research and Evaluation (ORE) and the Office of Science and Technology (OST). We start by analyzing funding support for NIJ’s research activities overall and then move on to separate discussions of ORE and OST. For each office we review the major areas of research, the context in which these areas developed, and their current status. Chapter 1 details the sources of information the committee was able to gather. See Appendix A for a listing of requests that could not be met or were met only in part. As mentioned in Chapter 1, obtaining information on NIJ’s research portfolio and presenting it in an organized way proved to be a difficult task. Although a great deal of information on NIJ research is presented on its website, research activities are not always easily differentiated from 1 See for example NIJ overview, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ or http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/about/welcome.htm [accessed August 31, 2009].
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice technology assistance or capacity-building activities. The financial data provided to the committee were often not broken down by research area or were incomplete. For example, some data were available for only a limited number of years, and some data relating to the use of contracts or interagency agreements, known sources of funding for research in certain areas (e.g., body armor), often were not provided as part of the financial history submitted to the committee or available publicly. Although we were able to construct a broadly representative picture of NIJ’s funding history, we are aware that it is at best an approximate picture. RESEARCH PORTFOLIO NIJ undertakes numerous activities designed to carry out its science mission, and foremost among them is funding research studies. NIJ is authorized to make research grants and contracts with individuals, agencies, institutions of higher education, industry, and private organizations. The planning and monitoring of these awards are undertaken at the staff level through the two program offices and their respective divisions. ORE supports social science research to advance knowledge and shape best criminal justice practices. The research portfolio of OST can be broadly described as applied research aimed at developing technologies that serve criminal justice needs. Substantive areas for both offices are listed in Box 3-1. Analysis of Awards The committee’s programmatic and financial description of NIJ’s research portfolio is based on a database of NIJ awards for the period 1995-2008 that we assembled for this purpose. The database was created from an archive of awards available on the NIJ website.2 Nearly 5,000 awards are listed online, organized by topical areas and identified with award title, principal investigator (until 2004), institution, and award amount. The topics assigned by NIJ are relatively similar across the years, although some categories have shifted from those reflecting program goals to those describing criminal justice functions and issues. Also, NIJ modified its categories in years when it received allocated funds for specific work, such as violence against women and DNA backlogs and research. (For example, see Box 3-2 for a comparison of topics in 1995 and 2006.) Seeking a consistent set of topics for the 14-year period, the committee chose to organize the awards around the following four categories: 2 See http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/awards/welcome.htm [accessed December 10, 2009].
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice social science research—including research awards in the areas of law enforcement (policing), corrections, courts, crime and criminal behavior, crime prevention, drugs, juvenile justice, victimization, and violence against women, family violence, and violence against the elderly; science and technology research and development (R&D)—including research awards in the areas of DNA analysis, forensic sciences, biometrics, communications and information technologies, policing technologies, counterterrorism technologies, less lethal technologies, and sensors and surveillance; technology assistance and program support—including funds for the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) system (described later in this chapter) as well as testing and evaluation and standards development and technology-related training and other awards to support or supplement staff, equipment, meeting, or dissemination costs for existing programs, such as criminal justice centers, institutes, or organizations; and forensic capacity-building efforts—including awards to reduce the DNA backlogs and improve forensic laboratories as well as training and outreach efforts in forensic science. To construct the research portfolio, the committee started with NIJ’s categorization of topics, reviewed the award titles and other available information, and attempted to separate the program support and technology assistance awards from the research awards. The awards to reduce the DNA backlog and improve forensic laboratories3 were identified as such and easily separated from the research awards. All duplicate entries (same award, same year, but categorized under multiple topics) were removed from the database, but continuation awards for subsequent years (to the extent they were available in the online archive) were left in. Although we recognize that, for a number of reasons, the total figures from this database of awards may not be complete and accurate, we think they present as accurate a picture of trends in NIJ funding of research in different criminal justice areas as can be estimated given the available data. Figures 3-1 and 3-2 illustrate the amounts awarded and the number of awards, respectively, over the last 14 years in the four categories identified above. The funding trends show that, over this period, NIJ allocated less to research (about $870 million) than to capacity-building efforts (about 3 Such awards include the Forensic Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program Formula Grants, the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants, and the DNA Capacity Enhancement Program Formula Grants.
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice BOX 3-1 ORE and OST Research Areas RESEARCH AREAS OF INTEREST MANAGED BY ORE Violence and Victimization Research Division Hate crime Responding to domestic violence offenders Stalking Intimate partner violence Sexual Violence Research Program Child maltreatment Victims and victimization Teen dating violence Identity theft American Indian and Alaska Native crime and justice Research and evaluation Drugs and crime Elder mistreatment research program Crime Control and Prevention Division Police operations Police organization Gangs and violence Firearms and violence Juvenile delinquency/juvenile justice Forensic policy research Mapping and analysis for public safety Situational crime prevention Data Resources Program Police use of force Eyewitness identification Response in Indian Country and the Southwest border Justice Systems Research Division Prison re-entry Prisoner substance abuse treatment Community corrections Mental health and corrections Prison rape Women offenders Children whose parents are under criminal justice supervision Corrections health care (medical) Inmate work and ex-offender employment/re-entry
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice Criminal justice systems Courts International Center* Exploratory topics in global crime Rule of law and international justice Terrorism Cyber crime Trafficking in human beings Drugs and crime TECHNOLOGY INVESTMENT PLATFORMS MANAGED BY OST Within OST, these investment portfolios are administered through three divisions: (1) Investigative and Forensic Sciences Division; (2) Information and Sensor Technologies Division; and (3) Operational Technologies Division. Aviation (sensor platforms) Biometrics Body Armor Communications Community corrections Court technologies DNA forensics Electronic crime Explosive device defeat General forensics Information led policing Institutional corrections Less lethal technologies Modeling and simulation Operations research Personnel protection equipment Pursuit management School safety Sensors and surveillance SOURCE: Pulled from presentations by Thomas Feucht and John Morgan made to the committee at a meeting on December 20, 2007. *During the course of this study, responsibility for the international crime research portfolio shifted to the Director’s Office.
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice BOX 3-2 Comparison of Award Topics, 1995 and 2006 NIJ Awards in Fiscal Year 1995 Section 1: 1994 Crime Act Awards Boot Camps Community Policing Violence Against Women Section 2: Extramural Research Goal 1: Reduce Violent Crime Goal 2: Reduce Drug- and Alcohol-Related Crime The Drug Use Forecasting (DUF) Program Goal 3: Reduce the Consequences of Crime Goal 4: Improve the Effectiveness of Crime Prevention Programs Goal 5: Improve Law Enforcement and the Criminal Justice System Corrections Policing Prosecution/Adjudication Systemwide Issues Goal 6: Develop New Technology for Law Enforcement and the Criminal Justice System Section 3: Intramural Research Crime Control and Prevention Criminal Behavior Criminal Justice System Section 4: Development, Dissemination, and Research Support NIJ Awards in Fiscal 2006 by Topic Communication and Information Technologies Computer Crime $1190 million)4 and that funding for research, NIJ’s primary function, is currently on the decline compared with other functions. Funds available for social science research have been declining almost steadily since 1998 and now constitute the smallest funding category. OST funding for research 4 All figures have been converted to constant 2008 dollars. The committee thinks that adjusting for inflation presents a more accurate picture of the NIJ budget and the net increase and decrease in funding levels. All figures represent program monies and do not include NIJ staff salaries.
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice Corrections Courts Crime Prevention Criminal Justice Research Drugs and Crime Evaluation Forensics, General Forensics, Research and Development Forensics and Investigative Sciences Convicted Offender DNA Backlog Reduction Program DNA, Missing Persons DNA, Research and Development DNA Capacity Enhancement Program Formula Grants Forensic Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program Formula Grants Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Less-Lethal Incapacitation Policing Schools Sensors and Surveillance Technology, National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Centers Terrorism and Critical Incidents Victimization and Victim Services Violence Firearms Sexual Assault Violence Against Women and Family Violence Youth Gangs has undergone several increases and decreases and received the greatest support in fiscal year (FY) 2002, right before the legislative establishment of OST in the Homeland Security Act of 2002. But in 2008, OST funding for research also declined. A similar picture emerges when one looks at the number of research grants each office funded during the same period. In general, a decline in funds allocated for research grants is reflected in a decline in actual grants awarded. But this decline has not occurred across the board in all catego-
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice FIGURE 3-1 NIJ award funding history, 1995-2008 (in constant 2008 dollars). SOURCE: Generated from information in NIJ’s online award archive (available http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/awards/welcome.htm [accessed May 26, 2010]). FIGURE 3-2 Number of awards by category, 1995-2008. SOURCE: Generated from information in NIJ’s online award archive (available http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/awards/welcome.htm [accessed May 26, 2010]).
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice ries of funding. One can see the dramatic increase in funding and number of awards in the forensic capacity-building category. In fact, since 2002 the number of forensic capacity-building awards has exceeded every other category. In 2008 there were more than seven times the number of forensic capacity-building grants awarded than all social science research grants, and there were 2.5 times the number of forensic capacity-building grants compared with all NIJ research grants. Analysis of Solicitations NIJ funds proposals submitted in response to the research solicitations it issues each year. The solicitations issued between 1996 and the present reflect trends similar to those outlined above both in funding levels and in the shift away from research and toward other kinds of activities. This shift is particularly striking after 2005. Prior to this time, the number of solicitations is fairly consistent around 21 (except for a brief addition of 10 solicitations in 1999 and 2000). The pre-2005 solicitations generally included 3-4 different fellowship programs, 2-3 open investigator-initiated solicitations for both social science research and technology-related proposals, forensic capacity-building solicitations that grew from 1 to 4 different programs, and numerous targeted social science and program evaluation solicitations. The latter category made up the largest share of solicitations. In 2005 the number of annual solicitations issued by NIJ doubled from 21 to 40. The increase in solicitations reflects the growth of the OST program, in particular the increased emphasis on technology development5 as well as a doubling of the forensic capacity-building solicitations from 4 to 8. In addition, there are increases in solicitations for social science research and program evaluations of legislative initiatives, such as the solicitation for Social Science Research on Emerging Issues in Forensic Science, with ties to the President’s DNA Initiative. Numbers of solicitations and their titles do not present an accurate picture of NIJ funding priorities. For example, in FY 2007 of the 43 solicitations, 18 involve social science research or program evaluation, 16 relate to technology development, and 6 promote forensic capacity-building programs. A review of the solicitations indicates an emphasis on research, development, and evaluation activities. However, actual awards and funding amounts for the period 2005-2008 paint a different picture. 5 In 2005, the open NIJ Science and Technology solicitation gave way to a number of solicitations targeting technology development in specific areas, such as communications, corrections, less lethal and pursuit management, electronic crime, personal protective equipment, and sensor, surveillance, and biometric technologies.
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice The majority (75 percent) of solicitations for social science research, program evaluation, and technology development generated 3 awards or fewer a year, for a total average of 100 awards annually. However, the 6 forensic capacity-building solicitations, combined, generated a total of over 300 awards a year. The forensic capacity-building solicitations resulted in award funds totaling over $300 million for the period 2005-2008. In the same period, the research, development, and evaluation solicitations combined resulted in award funds totaling less than $110 million. The committee views these trends with concern and discusses them in greater detail as part of the description of the specific research portfolios of ORE and OST that follow. OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND EVALUATION Overview of the Total Budget In the past 14 years, the total ORE budget has ranged from approximately $18 to $54 million. Figure 3-3 illustrates the considerable year-to-year fluctuation in funding levels as well as the decline in total funding after 2005. These funding fluctuations can be expected to contribute to difficulties in sustaining continuing programs of research. FIGURE 3-3 ORE funding history, 1994-2008 (in constant 2008 dollars). SOURCE: Adapted from figures provided by Edwin Zedlewski during a presentation to the committee on July 10, 2008.
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice Even more challenging to ORE’s ability to plan and execute a systematic research agenda are the shifts in its discretion over how the funds could be used. The figure illustrates the changes in the three categories of ORE funding: (1) base budget, (2) appropriated funds, and (3) interagency transfers. The base budget—the funds Congress specifically appropriates to NIJ to carry out its mission—generally allows NIJ the most discretion in funding a broad range of research topics. These funds have sharply declined in recent years. In 2004, while overall program funds for ORE dropped from its 2003 budget of $63 million in constant 2008 dollars to $55 million, its base budget funds dropped from $26 to $9.5 million. The base budget funds increased slightly in 2005 to $14 million; however, in 2008 ORE was allocated only $9 million for its discretionary base budget.6 The second source of funds comes from other appropriations—funds that Congress appropriates to other agencies but designates them to be used by NIJ for a specific purpose. The funds are then transferred to NIJ to be used in designated research areas. One of the largest sources of transferred funds from separate appropriations is the funding from the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) appropriation. These funds have been quite significant over time and have been heavily relied on by the Violence and Victimization Division of ORE to support its work. The third category of funds includes monies transferred to NIJ from other units of the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the Department of Justice, and occasionally other federal agencies for studies, usually evaluations, related to programs these agencies are sponsoring. Only rarely are these funds available for general research purposes. For example, the increase in transferred funds to NIJ between 2004 and 2006 in part reflects funds from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). These two OJP bureaus received approval to use a percentage of the funding designated for earmarked programs to support outcome evaluations. Other examples of large research efforts funded with transferred funds include multiyear evaluations of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative, the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program, and adult and juvenile drug courts. The net effect of these trends has been to erode the discretion of ORE in allocating funds, to reduce the level of funding available for many research areas, and to change the type of studies funded. 6 It is important to note that the director of NIJ determines how much ORE will receive in NIJ base funds. Base funds are used to support other activities, such as dissemination and special projects, and ORE must advocate for its share of these funds. In FY 2003, congressional appropriators designated how much of the base funds should be allocated to OST; this practice was discontinued in 2006.
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice In the early 1970s, NIJ initiated R&D on body armor for law enforcement that was quickly adopted by industry. Although less involved in the R&D of body armor today, NIJ has remained active in the area through its well-regarded program for standard development and compliance testing. The DNA technology portfolio illustrates how sustained funding over time can facilitate a long-term research agenda. Through its DNA technology portfolio, NIJ has been able to extend fruitful research in biology and medicine to forensic applications. With support from the President’s DNA Initiative and other legislative initiatives, NIJ has been able to sustain a long-term research agenda in this area, which is still thriving. The portfolio on less lethal technologies is an example of a research agenda focused on short-term solutions due to limited discretionary funding. The portfolio of less lethal technologies is illustrative of several other technology portfolios, such as those of the development of communications, corrections, information-led policing, and school safety technologies. It grew out of national controversy, makes progress by leveraging other R&D work, has covered a broad range of efforts to fill immediate knowledge gaps, and is limited from addressing priority research needs because of low funding. Body Armor In the early 1970s, NIJ initiated a research program to investigate the development of lightweight body armor that police could wear. The program identified several new materials with excellent ballistics-resistant properties that could be woven into a lightweight fabric. NIJ then funded the production and field testing of 5,000 vests made from Kevlar®, a ballistic-resistant fabric (National Institute of Justice, 2003d). The laboratory and field research determined that producing body armor suitable for police use was achievable, and an industry was born. At the same time, NIJ supported a parallel effort to develop performance standards for the body armor, which is described in Chapter 5. Today, much of the investment with regard to body armor goes to support the compliance testing program and standards revisions. However, it does still contribute to the R&D of body armor when it identifies gaps in industries’ R&D efforts. The research program in body armor aims to develop new testing methods that address environmental impacts, multihit capacity, and nondestructive evaluation; to advance ballistic materials towards lighter, flexible, and durable vests; and to improve the design, comfort, and coverage of vests. Some of the recent awards include support to Cornell University and Lawrence Technical University to work on advanced body armor designs for size and gender variations and improved area coverage, respectively,
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice and to the Office of Law Enforcement Standards at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop a conditioning process to test performance of body armor after significant use and to assist in the revision of NIJ’s standard for ballistic resistance of body armor released July 2008 (Office of Law Enforcement Standards, 2008). Because advances in weapons and ammunition technology constantly pose new threats, the need for R&D of more effective personal body armor is ongoing. DNA Technology Support of DNA technology began in 1986 (National Institute of Justice, 1987, 1992; Sensabaugh, n.d.), as techniques for mapping and sequencing the human genome, developing in both basic biology and medicine, began to be seen as having applicability to forensic science. A 1987 criminal conviction in Florida based on DNA typing began the transfer of DNA analysis technologies from research laboratories to forensic laboratories and courts (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1990). The quick adoption of DNA profiling, with significant consequences, created concerns about reliability and methodological standards among scientific and legal communities, as well as congressional interest. Several expert panels (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1990; National Research Council, 1992a, 1996a) addressed questions regarding DNA profiling and made recommendations to Congress and federal agencies. NIJ played a role in this national assessment of DNA profiling by providing support, in collaboration with other agencies, to several NRC studies; awarding a few research grants in new areas of DNA testing; and initiating a program to examine standards for DNA processing (U.S Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1990). This began what would become a significant investment in DNA technology for NIJ. As part of the 1994 Crime Act, the DNA Identification Act made monies available to NIJ to launch a research agenda as well as to assist state and local agencies more directly in building their forensic capacities (see Chapter 5 for forensic capacity-building efforts). In 1995, NIJ began a 5-year research agenda with $3-5 million a year to spend on DNA research. In 1998, the National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence was created at the request of Attorney General Janet Reno. The commission consisted of representatives from prosecutors, the defense bar, law enforcement, the scientific community, the medical examiner community, academia, and victims’ rights organizations. Its charge was to submit recommendations to the attorney general that would help ensure more effective use of DNA analysis. In addition to an R&D working group, there were also workgroups tasked with examining crime scene investigation and evidence collection, laboratory funding, and legal issues. The R&D working group
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice was asked to project the technical advances in the forthcoming decade and assess their expected impact on forensic DNA analysis (National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence, 2000). These projections helped advance NIJ’s research agenda for another 5 years. NIJ’s support of DNA research for forensic applications continues today because of the President’s DNA Initiative,28 which has tripled its budget29 for DNA research. Since 1999, NIJ has released an annual solicitation, Forensic DNA Research & Development, seeking applications for R&D that can enhance the forensic uses of DNA technology. Over the years, its forensic DNA R&D program has drawn on the research of molecular biology, genetics, and biotechnology to develop highly discriminating, reliable, cost-effective, and rapid forensic DNA testing methods. The portfolio has contained research that supports (1) developing tools and technologies to reduce the time, cost, and labor needed for DNA analysis; (2) improving the success rate of the analysis of DNA evidence that is old, scant, damaged, degraded, or otherwise compromised; (3) identifying and characterizing genetic markers that will reveal additional information about the victim, perpetrator, or the circumstances surrounding a crime; (4) increasing the discriminatory power of DNA analysis; and (5) improving the methods for separating mixtures of DNA, especially from sexual assault evidence.30 Funds from the President’s DNA Initiative also support a website (http://www.dna.gov [accessed March 17, 2010]) managed by NIJ. On the site, there is a database of DNA research supported by NIJ, sorted by research area, with links to the more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and reports resulting from this research. The DNA research portfolio is one of the few areas in which it would be relatively easy to track NIJ’s investment and assess its accomplishments externally. Some of the accomplishments of this research portfolio, according to NIJ, include the following: the development of a testing system that can generate a DNA profile from aged, degraded, or damaged samples, such as skeletal remains; 28 The President’s DNA Initiative is the cornerstone of the 2004 Justice for All Act. It provided over $1 billion over a 5-year period to improve the use of DNA in the criminal justice system and to ensure that this technology reaches its full potential. Under this initiative, the attorney general was asked to provide funds, training, and assistance to eliminate DNA backlogs, strengthen crime laboratory capacity, stimulate research and development, and provide training. See http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/dnapolicybooktoc.htm [accessed September 16, 2009]. 29 For example, in FY 2006, NIJ spent over $13 million from the President’s DNA Initiative on DNA research and development (National Institute of Justice, 2008a). 30 Briefing paper on DNA research and development prepared for the committee by NIJ, December 2008.
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice tools to enhance the discriminatory power as well as the methods used in the analysis of mitochondrial DNA; building on methods used in medicine, the development of novel tools to expedite the detection and separation of sperm cells in sexual assault evidence; demonstration that male-specific DNA markers can be detected in sexual assault evidence collected 5 or more days after a sexual assault occurs; development of a method that, in a single test, performs the simultaneous assessment of total human DNA, human male DNA, DNA degradation, and the presence of inhibitors in forensic samples; and development of a prototype miniaturized DNA testing device that can function both in the forensic laboratory and at the crime scene. Although NIJ research has contributed to advances in DNA technology, the recent NRC report (2009c) concluded that the level of support has fallen short of what is needed by the forensic science community. There are a number of open research questions, particularly for forensic techniques that receive less attention than DNA technologies (see National Research Council, 2009c, as well as a summary of that report’s research recommendations in Appendix E). According to the report, NIJ’s current awards in forensic science R&D do not appear to address these questions. The NRC report calls for the establishment of a new independent federal entity responsible for forensic science activities. Should the Congress adopt this recommendation, NIJ’s role in sponsoring forensic science R&D would need to be reconsidered (see Box 3-6). Less Lethal Technologies Like other research areas, NIJ’s research program on less lethal technologies grew out of national controversy. In the 1985 case Tennessee v. Garner (471 U.S. 1), the Supreme Court concluded that deadly force may not be used unless it is necessary to prevent suspect escape and an officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others. The decision sparked the search for weapons that would avoid injury and death but would aid in detaining fleeing suspects who posed little threat. After a 1986 national conference on less lethal weapons convened by the attorney general (Sweetman, 1987), NIJ’s research program was established. The first research award under this program was made in 1987 to assess the feasibility of a dart that could deliver a safe but incapacitating chemical to a fleeing suspect (Hart, 2002a). In the past 20 years, the program has
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice BOX 3-6 Creation of a National Institute of Forensic Science The Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Sciences Community in its report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward (National Research Council, 2009c), proposed the following recommendation: To promote the development of forensic science into a mature field of multidisciplinary research and practice, founded on the systematic collection and analysis of relevant data, Congress should establish and appropriate funds for an independent federal entity, the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) … NIFS should focus on: (a) establishing and enforcing best practices for forensic science professionals and laboratories; (b) establishing standards for the mandatory accreditation of forensic science laboratories and the mandatory certification of forensic scientists and medical examiners/forensic pathologists—and identifying the entity/entities that will develop and implement accreditation and certification; (c) promoting scholarly, competitive peer-reviewed research and technical development in the forensic science disciplines and forensic medicine; (d) developing a strategy to improve forensic science research and educational programs, including forensic pathology; (e) establishing a strategy based on accurate data on the forensic science community, for the efficient allocation of available funds to give strong support to forensic methodologies and practices in addition to DNA analysis; (f) funding state and local forensic science agencies, independent research projects, and educational programs as recommended in this report, with conditions that aim to advance the credibility and reliability of the forensic science disciplines; (g) overseeing education standards and the accreditation of forensic science programs in colleges and universities; (h) developing programs to improve understanding of the forensic science disciplines and their limitations within legal systems; and (i) assessing the development and introduction of new technologies in forensic investigations, including a comparison of new technologies with former ones. expanded to include a broad class of less lethal weapons that address a wide range of possible applications. These types of weapons include chemicals, conducted energy devices, directed energy devices, light and noise distractions, physical barriers such as nets and foams, blunt-force controls, as well as vehicle-stopping technologies. These weapons are used not only to stop fleeing suspects but also to control crowds and other potentially violent situations while protecting bystanders and preventing unnecessary injury to offenders and officers. As part of this research program, NIJ not only supports the development of improved devices but also encourages better understanding of the health and safety risks. The agency solicits research to identify new psychological and physiological vulnerabilities that such devices might exploit.
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice As a result of its investments, NIJ has assisted in the development of less lethal devices, such as the Jaycor’s Pepperball System and Sticky Shocker, improved flash/bang grenades, and Capture Net.31 In making its investments, NIJ draws on past military, civilian, and international investments in research and development of less lethal technologies. According to information from former NIJ director Sarah Hart (Hart, 2002a), NIJ invested an average of $1.5 million per year in the program from 1993 to 2002. From 2003 to 2007, according to information supplied from NIJ,32 the program supported awards totaling over $15 million. The projects from this later period cover a broad range of efforts. The committee examined the list of projects provided and defined by NIJ as its less lethal technology portfolio as of July 2008 and categorized the 37 projects: 1 research effort on laser technology that could be potentially used in a less lethal weapon; 7 technology development projects that could result in prototypes (all of which were awarded in 2005 or before); 3 projects to develop models and simulation tools for testing; 7 studies on the effects that less lethal devices have on humans; 8 studies or reviews on the outcomes (e.g., injuries) of police use of force (some of these were funded through the ORE FY 2005 solicitation Outcomes of Police Use-of-Force and some were intended to assemble databases for future investigations); 3 projects regarding standards for less lethal devices; 3 field evaluations of existing less lethal devices; 1 demonstration; 1 pilot introductory course on less lethal weapons; 2 advisory groups to monitor the field and recommend ways to leverage efforts and avoid duplication; and 1 project with mixed purposes. Despite the range of projects funded, in terms of technology development, the impact of this program on emerging weaponry is limited due to the low funding in comparison to military-sponsored R&D (Davison, 2007). With a modest budget, the less lethal technology portfolio can be characterized as leveraging past R&D of other agencies or modifying existing weapons to offer improved tools to law enforcement (National 31 These less lethal technologies were identified in the 2006 program plan for the less lethal technology portfolio provided to the committee by NIJ, April 2008. 32 Briefing paper on less lethal technology portfolio prepared for the committee by NIJ, July 2008.
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice Research Council, 2003a) as well as filling research gaps in examining the safety, effectiveness, and policy implications of existing weapons. In FY 2008, a Less-than-Lethal Technologies solicitation was posted, but no new awards were made for the program (only a few continuations were funded, totaling $1.2 million). There is no record that a Less-than-Lethal Technologies solicitation was posted for FY 2009. We are surprised at the disappearance of this technology portfolio, since it is an area that is defined by law enforcement use. No one (e.g., military or public) uses less lethal weapons more widely than law enforcement. Department of Defense investments in less lethal technology still provide an opportunity to leverage NIJ resources; however, most of this technology is geared to military requirements and requires significant investment to adapt to law enforcement needs. The agency, in its current financial state, cannot contribute to the development of new technologies or the translation of military technologies; it lacks the discretionary funding necessary to implement the less lethal program needed by law enforcement. Progress in Building Cumulative Knowledge in Technology R&D Over the years, the technology program has grown to represent a broad range of technologies that are used or could be used by law enforcement. The program addresses R&D and testing and evaluation of such technologies; the development of equipment compliance standards; the effects on humans and the implications for policy as a result of introducing these technologies; as well as the distribution of knowledge for informed acquisition by law enforcement agencies. These are all very important efforts in the service of the nation’s law enforcement. However, OST does not have the discretionary budget to adequately carry out a research program of this range. Nor, as discussed in Chapter 4, does it have the staff with the expertise necessary to adequately develop its very broad research portfolio. As a result of external priorities (i.e., nondiscretionary funding) and limited discretionary funding, OST’s research portfolio has focused more on filling the voids in getting existing technologies into the hands of law enforcement and less on advancing knowledge toward effective, safer, affordable technologies for law enforcement in the future. CONCLUSIONS This chapter describes how NIJ has gone about fulfilling its research mission over the past 14 years. It focuses primarily on its research grant-making role and excludes other supporting activities, such as technology assistance, capacity building, and dissemination. As part of this review, the committee analyzed funding patterns and identified funding sources. We
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice described selected social science and technology R&D activities in which NIJ has made a considerable investment as well as other research-related activities, such as researcher-practitioner partnerships. We also examined the evaluation research portfolio that cuts across these other R&D activities separately, since this body of work has been the subject of assessment by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and we were interested in learning the current status of efforts to improve the quality of evaluations. On the basis of this review, the committee draws several conclusions: NIJ has developed research programs appropriate to its mission. It has succeeded in developing a body of knowledge in important areas that are critical to preventing and controlling crime and improving the administration of justice. The committee considers both the social science research and the technology research and development described in this chapter appropriate to NIJ’s research mission and that both endeavors have the potential to result in useful knowledge for the criminal justice field. NIJ-sponsored research has often led the way and served as the foundation for researchers to build on and for practitioners to learn from. There is some evidence that NIJ research has influenced criminal justice practice and policy, particularly in the areas that have been sustained over time—such as hot spots policing, violence against women, drugs and crime, and crime mapping, on the social science side, and body armor, less lethal technologies, and DNA analysis, on the technology side. Cumulative knowledge has been achieved almost in spite of itself, given the inadequate or unstable resources and shifting priorities of NIJ’s leadership. However, the contributions it has made over a time span of 14 years do not compensate for what the committee observes to be the increasingly ad hoc nature of the topics from year to year and the lack of systematic planning (addressed in Chapter 4). NIJ has failed to summarize its accomplishments and to maintain the kinds of records of what has been funded and what findings and products have been produced. Several times in this chapter, we have indicated the difficulty we had in identifying NIJ’s priorities and bodies of related research. With records given to the committee and available publicly, it is difficult to discern research awards from other investments (many of which are detailed in Chapter 5). It is difficult to classify specific kinds of research supported, such as impact versus process evaluations and technology R&D versus operational testing.
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice Congressional support and stable funding have been key ingredients to sustaining a research program area over time, particularly in the case of more expensive scientific endeavors, such as longitudinal studies and complex evaluations. In particular, the evaluation research portfolio is heavily dependent on transferred funds and programs of specific interest to the Office of Justice Programs. Once congressional support ceases, as it did for research on prison sexual assaults and drug use monitoring, or declines, as it has done for violence against women, NIJ is unable to fill the funding void with its own base funds. On the technology side, NIJ is unable to sustain research in such areas as safe school technologies, information-led policing, communications, and less lethal technologies because specific appropriations in the Crime Identification Technology Act and other inititiatives as well as targeted reimbursements from other agencies have declined or disappeared. NIJ’s discretion to award research grants is also on the decline. NIJ’s discretion is impacted by the decline in its base budget and by the increase in appropriated funds that are designated for specific programmatic uses or for specific research projects. Extensive earmarking does not allow NIJ to set its own priorities or steer its own course. This substantially diminishes its ability to select research it will support on the basis of the best current science using the peer review process characteristic of strong research agencies. Later in this report (Chapter 7) we make the case for substantially more independence for NIJ, in part to ensure that like other respected federal research agencies it set its own research agenda consistent with its mission but unencumbered by earmarks. The NIJ research function is greatly diminished. The ORE budget, which primarily supports social science research and program evaluations, has been declining for the past 6 years. Research monies for many of the OST portfolio areas have also declined recently. Once amounting to 50-70 percent of its total budget, OST’s research expenditures are now less than 25 percent, and several technologies that have been traditionally studied, such as communications, less lethal technologies, and sensors and surveillance, are no longer the focus of solicitations. The number of research and evaluation awards, roughly 150 or fewer a year, stands in stark contrast to the 50 topics areas NIJ acknowledges as addressed in its research portfolios (see Box 3-1). As such, NIJ’s research program is
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Strengthening the National Institute of Justice very broad without much depth, or conversely, some of the research topics receive sustained attention while others are neglected. In addition, NIJ supports three times as many awards for program support, technology assistance, and capacity building than it does for research and evaluation. In the next two chapters we address other aspects of NIJ’s capacity to support research. In Chapter 4, the committee examines the agency’s operations and staff resources for managing its research portfolios and other activities. In Chapter 5, we look at its other functions and assess how they support or detract from its primary research mission.
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