Transcript: NIJ’s 50th Anniversary — Looking Back, Looking Forward
NIJ’s 50th anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on how far the Institute has come, as well as its direction and priorities moving forward. In this Research for the Real World event, panelists will speak to the history and future of the Institute, drawing from decades of experience working for and closely with NIJ. Two Former NIJ Directors will reflect on their days heading the agency and their observations on how the agency has changed over time. Two police chiefs will talk about the importance of research to guide policing and the impact NIJ-funded research has had on their work.
Moderator: Dr. David B. Muhlhausen, Director, National Institute of Justice
- John Laub, Former Director, National Institute of Justice
- Hank Stawinski, Chief, Prince George’s County Police Department
- James “CHIPS” Stewart, Former Director, National Institute of Justice
- Scott Thomson, Chief, Camden County Police Department
DAVID MUHLHAUSEN: Thank you. I am truly impressed by the turnout, and I think it's a recognition of the important work that NIJ does. When I was originally asked to — actually, one day I was walking around Capitol Hill at my previous job and I got a phone call on my cellphone saying, "Do you want to interview for the Director of NIJ?" And I said, "Yes." And they said, "When do you want to come in?" And I said, "How about tomorrow?" And I came in the next day, and I walked out, and I had the best interview I ever had. And I'm like, "I had to have got this job," you know. And a week later, they offered it to me. And they said, "Well, take a day to think about it." And I said, "Well, you know what, I accept." And they said, "Take a day to think about it." So I said, "OK, I'll call you tomorrow and tell you I accept." So the next day I called and I said, "I still accept. My mind hasn't changed."
But so I want to thank everybody for joining us today, and welcome to the Office of Justice Programs. For those of you who are coming out of town, welcome to D.C. I want to extend a special welcome to eight of our former NIJ directors with us today. We have CHIPS Stewart and John Laub, who are two of our panelists. We also have former director Jeremy Travis in here, sitting in the back. And we have former acting directors Carol Petrie, Julie Samuels, Glenn Schmitt, Kris Rose, and Greg Ridgeway. Everybody please stand up for — you got this. I really appreciate the directors and former directors and everybody else for joining us today. And I'd like to say welcome back home.
Fifty years. Wow, 50 years. At NIJ our golden anniversary has been an opportunity to reflect on our roots and how far we've come since our inception back in 1968. Fifty years ago, 911, hotspot policing, and license plate reader technology didn't exist. We didn't collect substantive data on many aspects of crime and criminal justice, let alone conduct rigorous evaluation to understand the effectiveness of various interventions. We should be proud of how far we've come, and I am excited to have the opportunity today to hear our panelists speak more to that evolution and progress. To set the stage for our panel discussion, I'd like to give a little context about NIJ's roots and inception.
In the early 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson tasked a commission to examine the state of law enforcement in America and put forward recommendations for criminal justice reform and tackling crime. The commission published its final report in 1967, which called for the Department of Justice to increase its grant support to state and local law enforcement agencies. In 1968, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. This Omnibus Act established the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, LEAA, which allocated federal funding for criminal research. The Omnibus Act also established the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, which was renamed the National Institute of Justice in 1978. In 1968, this was the first year NIJ awarded grants. Back then, NIJ was still a component of LEAA. In fiscal year '68, LEAA awarded $2.9 million, or about $21 million in today's dollars. Those funds were split up over about 184 grants. Four of these grants were less than $100, and the smallest was just $45. I would love to be able to find out how to do RCT on $45. We could just fund them all over the place. To put this $2.9 million in perspective, NIJ awarded almost $221 million in fiscal year '17 through 469 awards.
Beyond an excuse to revisit stories and remember, our 50th anniversary has also been a time to reflect on where we're going over the next 50 years and beyond. NIJ has accomplished a lot in the first 50 years, and we have a bright future ahead. Looking forward, I see research playing an ever-more important role in how the criminal justice field operates. As our ability to collect and analyze data continues to improve, we will see an increase in the number of research studies and evaluations conducted as random controlled trials. Over the past decade, the evidence-based movement has begun to take hold in the criminal justice field. Over the next 50 years, I see data, evidence, and research becoming more central for practitioners and also indispensable to all aspects of the criminal justice field.
Our panelists today will discuss NIJ's history, evolution, and the role that NIJ has played in the research it has performed in the criminal justice field. I'll let each of our panelists discuss their backgrounds more thoroughly, but I'd like to briefly introduce the impressive group of panelists we have today. James "CHIPS" Stewart was the director of NIJ from 1982 to 1990 during the Reagan and Bush Senior administrations. He is now the director of public safety and senior fellow for law enforcement at CNA. John Laub directed NIJ from 2010 to 2013. He is a former president of the American Society of Criminology and is now a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland College Park. Hank Stawanski is the chief of police in Prince George's County, Maryland. He is a former Research for the Real World panelist and a longtime advocate of implementing research in policing. Last but not least is Scott Thomson. He is police chief of Camden County Police Department in New Jersey. Chief Thomson has implemented a kind of Hippocratic Oath of policing and has done remarkable work in turning around a troubled city that has very limited resources. He is also the president of the Police Executive Research Forum. And with that, I will turn it over to CHIPS.
JAMES "CHIPS" STEWART: Thank you, David. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Director. That was an incredible quick pace through 50 years. It is truly amazing. And I have to congratulate all the people that have worked at NIJ, contributed to NIJ, and have stayed with NIJ over the years. And I just want to thank a couple of people who are here today that made my time at NIJ a fabulous experience and one that made a huge difference. I'd like to introduce Carol Petrie, who became an acting director, and she was terrific, and she went on to the National Academy of Sciences and has done amazing jobs. Voncile Gowdy. Vonnie, would you raise your hand, so they can see you? Probably the best dressed person ever at NIJ. You know, she was terrific. And one of our longest serving, Joel, are you — raise your hand. Joel, stand up back there. He came on in 1974, you know. I think it was — was it about the time when President Nixon was realizing this town was not big enough for both of you. Was that right? Good, good. Well, I just want to thank you. And there may be some others here, but when you think that was 30 or 35 years ago, it's pretty incredible, and all of these people have continued to make contributions.
Let me just say that Research for the Real World is not only an important title, but it's an important motto. And I want to congratulate NIJ on 50 years of improving justice and saving lives. Too often we neglect the fact that the research that's done here has real impacts in changing people's lives, saving people's lives, and restoring a sense of justice in living in America. This work is more important in terms of having the Constitution live in communities than any other that I can think of. And can you see I'm a little biased in this thing? But I am very enthusiastic. Let me say that longevity's an important issue, but it's also what you do with that longevity that makes the difference. CNA, where I've been fortunate enough to spend the last 20 years, has done an amazing job. They've been around working and contributing analysis and solutions for 75 years. And they asked me to come in and try to establish a criminal justice practice. And I was able to take some of these ideas that I'm talking to you about and be really ably assisted and supported by terrific people like Dave Kaufman and certainly Chip Coldren and a number of other people that you all know that are here today.
In 1982 when the president nominated me, it wasn't quite as good as David described because the policymakers and Hill staffers had a depressing impression of social science. They quoted Robert Martinson ad infinitum to me, the 1974 review that concluded in social science nothing works. So I came into a fairly demoralized and diminished sort of agency that had a number of outstanding and really talented people. NIJ was a small agency, but to me, it had great promise, a great promise to help the police, the courts, corrections — by verifying what works. We needed to demonstrate that rigorous research could inform policy and to improve justice and to bring change in American policing, courts, and corrections. The highest standard was the experimental design. But NIJ didn't do experimental research. Police didn't do experimental research. Corrections was not interested in experimental research. They did studies and surveys and reviews, and they produced fairly substantial, some would call ponderous, reports that were read by the police officers only on preparation for some examination if they heard that an NIJ study might be on that exam. But the NIJ staff was very talented and eager to show what works. And the first thing — incidentally, I have about, let's see — so I was here for about nine years. I have less than two minutes a year, so I'll kind of go through pretty quickly. Time is of the essence.
So let me just say that one of the first — most controversial issues we took on was the reduction of fear experiments. And nobody liked that idea, including my staff, but I hooked up with Larry Sherman, who you all have heard of, I'm sure. And we got together with two very outstanding police chiefs, the chief in Newark, New Jersey, Hubie Williams, and the chief in Houston, who eventually became mayor of Houston, as you know, and also — I mean, what great people. So we tried this experiment. I wanted to show that police made a difference in people's lives. The RAND study had come out about four years earlier that said if you add more police, it doesn't make any difference. You remember that, the patrol experiment, where they had a lot of contamination, but they didn't talk about it at that time. That was the kind of thing that we were trying to go up against to show that police could make a difference. So let me just say that people's sense of safety — when they felt safer — that it turned out that crime went down, investment started back up again because people could make deliveries and customers could come in and people could do things. So NIJ shifted focus from policy analysis, which had winners and losers always, to something called practical real-world impacts.
NIJ can be proud of its accomplishments throughout our entire time. The kinds of things that develop — incidentally, those of you who are familiar with the Stockholm gold medal prize for criminology, virtually everyone that has won that Stockholm prize has been a recipient of NIJ research. That's the kinds of investments that have been made here. We developed hotspots policing, thanks to David Weisburd and Larry Sherman and a number of tests there. We did Eric Wish with drug testing on OR release that was implemented here in the District and across the United States that reduced pre-trial crime. We did experiments in arrests or warn in domestic violence cases. We were able to show that we could save women's lives if we made an arrest at that time. Reducing bias in police lineups was an important investment that we made. Developing standards for body armor. Lester Shubin did an amazing job in creating, on a shoestring, body armor that had saved only during my tenure there just 3,000 lives. So if you add up the 30 years since and the number of lives that have been saved, it is incredible. Darber didn't come up with this, NIJ came up with this, all right? And what about police use of force, something that was very critical back in the 1980s. We developed “less than lethal.” We had a stronger chemical spray that we developed that is now being used by police and something called electric charge devices, which is now called Tasers, have been tested here originally and the concept briefed, bunch of other stuff.
Prison crowding, something you don't think about very much today except in the immigration situation. But we worked on ankle monitors because there were people who were in prison that could be released but needed to have some kind of supervision so that people would feel safe. We also redesigned corrections facilities. We had a general plan for corrections. We eliminated guard towers and a number of things so that the prisons were less formidable but more impenetrable in terms of getting out. Private contracts for prisons. That was something that was inconceivable. It's an industry that is out there today that's been very helpful.
And the chief justice, Warren Burger, and I worked together. We formed a relationship and went on the Ted Koppel show, remember "Nightline," and a number of others, in terms of private prisons and private industries in prisons. And I want to say just a couple of words about DNA. That was something that was very, very high risk, and there were a lot of people that were absolutely unalterably opposed to such an idea in terms of science's unique personal identifier. I remember Stu Smith, who was the PIO. I think many of you remember him. He was also the union representative. He came down to me and said, "Listen, you know, you've been milking this thing with body armor for so gosh darn long, CHIPS, you guys at NIJ are gonna have to haul your weight with something else." Right. I said, "Look at all the research we've done." He said, "Body armor. You've got to come up with something better than that." So I said, "DNA." And he said, "What the hell is DNA?" I said, "That's exactly what the police, the prosecutors, the defense bar, the judges, and Congress and the FBI had to say, too. What the hell is DNA?" And today, because of the strong staff that we've had and the science that we've put into this, we have got now the gold standard, and it's being used for amazing things in terms of freeing the innocent and identifying those perpetrators that have gone free that continue to prey on people. And they use DNA for all kinds of things. I mean, if you want television, sounds like more than can be thought of.
Because of this research at NIJ, we thought that we needed a new policing strategy for America. And I convened an alliance of about nine police chiefs and imminent researchers at Harvard for something called the executive sessions. And our idea was to take research and begin to assess how the applications could be done. And the attorney general, Ed Meese at the time, went to every, every executive session at Harvard, even while they were having a debate on Supreme Court justices and they were picketing our executive sessions that the attorney general continued to be there. I think that this attorney general would also attend many of NIJ's functions. He’s very interested. I know that Jeff Sessions is very interested in this.
Let me say that true to roots of experimental design, because that's fundamental to being able to show that things are demonstrable and provable, that NIJ courageously accepted the challenge of body-worn cameras to do an experimental research on that. This was not easy because the Department of Justice and many other components thought that body-worn cameras were very controversial and that were was a lot of opposition to that and that we had done a report on police shootings, and one of the recommendations was that body-worn cameras would make a difference and it would help the police and it would help the public in terms of credibility. They said, "We think this is a bad idea." CNA stuck with me in a 13-hour meeting that we argued back and forth, and the recommendation stayed in there. But nothing was gonna happen. Fortunately, NIJ stepped up. And I'm really grateful to NIJ and to Greg Ridgeway for supporting CNA's effort. And we have in this room the man who managed this, which is Chip Coldren, Dr. Coldren. The largest police experiment, 800 people, police officers involved, zero attrition over a 12-month period. I mean, incredible. And Chip also recruited Anthony Braga to do the statistical analysis. I mean, it was an amazing job. So thank you — thank you, Greg. We appreciate it. And thank you, Chip. It was a wonderful, wonderful job that made a difference. So continue to do the research.
Now the NIJ future, just quickly, is it's essential, it's not guaranteed. It's essential, but it's being encroached by other agencies. Smart policing, something developed at CNA, was decided not to be funded by NIJ, but fortunately, BJA thought it was a great idea, where you combine researchers with police and you conduct experimental work where they implement something and have comparison districts. And I think we have about 50 different police departments that are now engaged in that, and that continues. What about safer neighborhoods through precision policing? Another thing that we came to NIJ for and they said, "No, we're really not interested in that," all right. So they looked at the idea that the COPS Office funded that.
Another area that is really important is this idea of after-action reports. In the real world, mistakes happen that are real mistakes, and we learn a lot rather from a scenario. NIJ could use that as a natural experiment. That could make a huge difference. I think that NIJ could benefit by augmenting its model in terms to focus less on process and more on outcome. I think that the work by Bill Bratton in New York City, in L.A., and back to New York City, where crime has dropped an amazing to historical lows is something that should be looked at. The work by Scott Thomson, who's here on the panel. His leadership has created a new model of policing in Camden, where crime has gone down, the drug-infested areas that nobody would live in have been restored, and he's been able to attract millions of dollars of investment. Again, I think that after-action reports are very important, and I just want to close by saying that NIJ has made a difference, can continue to make a difference, and it needs to make a difference and not to worry about the size of your budget. Let me just tell you what Teddy Roosevelt said. "It's not the size of the dog in the fight. It's the size of the fight in the dog." That's the key to make the difference, and NIJ has done an amazing job with a very little bit of money and a lot of brain power. So thank you. God bless you. David?
HANK STAWANSKI: Good morning.
JAMES "CHIPS" STEWART: What do you mean good morning? Come on, guys.
HANK STAWANSKI: On the eleventh hour of the eleventh month of the eleventh day of 2018 it will be a hundred years since we formally concluded the hostilities of the First World War. And the impact of that conflict has remained with us during the past hundred years. Prior to that conflict, we had not seen the industrial prosecution of warfare. We hadn't seen the application of science to military conflict in the same fashion. And yet, ironically, it's 50 years after we see those hostilities and what occurs in that conflict until we have NIJ. Policing in America dates back to a period of time that now exists outside of living memory. In my own county, Prince George's, policing dates back to 1696. For the sake of context, Louis XIV was actively engaged in building the Palace of Versailles when men and women were policing in Prince George's County, Maryland. There have been efforts, 1910 Edmond Locard talks about the application of forensic science, the principle of transfer, something to be found. But that isn't advanced rapidly. 1935, J. Edgar Hoover establishes the Federal Bureau of Investigation out of an aggregate of various federal resources. One of the principles of the FBI, because we can't have a national police force in America unlike our colleagues around the world, is the scientific method. And yet it's still more than 30 years until we get to NIJ. For too long, we've been doing things anecdotally. For too long, we've been concluding that what I think is going on is likely going on and formulating strategy around it as opposed to applying sound research and science to the problems that plague our communities across this nation and drawing good conclusions.
May I see by a show of hands, how many of you in attendance today have served as law enforcement officers? My thanks, but I will suggest that my colleague and I will be satisfied when at a future meeting, we need a room that's twice as large and we have all of you and as many practitioners actively engaged in advancing policing science. Scott has done tremendous things and we've known each other for a good long time. In my own county, in just the span of eight years, applying an epidemiological model to the transforming neighborhoods initiative, we've reduced crime from on average 103 UCR crimes every day, each day of the year in 2010, and for decades prior to that. Last year we concluded the year with 49 a day. And as we sit here right now, it's 43. And here's my data, because I know the audience I'm speaking to. But I carry this everywhere I go because what we've done with respect to the comments made by my esteemed colleague on this panel is we've eschewed the notion that anecdotally because the kids are out of school, we're gonna have more of this and anecdotally, because it's the weekend, we're gonna have more of that. Turns out the kids weren't responsible for all that crime. Turns out that Saturday and Sunday weren't our problem. It was Tuesday. And I know that because I have the data.
The future is tremendously promising. Fifty years of impact — listen, learn, and inform. Fifty years of advancing safety. Right, I'm wearing my body armor right now because my dad made me promise — he started on the department in 1956. My dad made me promise when I signed up that every day I would wear it. And every day I have. And I emphasize to my officers, when I go into 7-Eleven to get a cup of coffee with my team back there, they're not gonna distinguish between myself and a patrol officer. I'm just another police officer. But we have confidence in this because of NIJ. We have a host of options vis-a-vis conducted electronic energy weapons, vis-a-vis the use of various pepper sprays. We have new techniques. And most importantly what we have is an opportunity to do what they had a notion to do in 1838 in the city of Boston, right, the day police, a professional, organized cadre of committed individuals dedicated not to solving crime but to preventing crime.
Preventing crime is what's gotten us from where we started to where we are, and it's taking us further into the future every day. And the number one thing that I will ask as we work together on these issues as a community of thoughtful people —and as a nation — is that policing is not about catching the criminal. There's tremendous documentaries. As ironic as it is, people spend billions of dollars each year to watch people pretend to be police officers in movies and film. I get to do it, and they pay me. But we need to be talking about the prevention. We need to be talking about the application of the social sciences, to fundamentally understand causation, to fundamentally understand the impact of education, poverty, opportunity, and how they are the precursors to crime, and then we in policing, accepting a leadership role in attacking all of those issues across that spectrum, because at the end of that process comes what we've seen in Prince George's County, which is successful prevention and what I refer to as the structural reduction of crime. The analogy that I offered in 2011 was if you have a 10-story building and you take the top story off, now you have a 9-story building. And if you take the next top story off, you have an 8-story building. And you can't stand on the tenth story anymore because it's gone away. And I will suggest to you as I sit here, if you look at the region, they've not seen a proportional increase in crime. You can eliminate it. But you have to be thoughtful and you have to attack across a wide spectrum. It can't just be the application of the criminal law, which is a blunt instrument through which to create a better environment, a better community, and a better future.
And then I'll conclude with this. I started out this morning as I do every Tuesday, at the University of Maryland, with Dr. Kris Marsh, as we complete our implicit bias training, which is a joint venture between myself and the doctor where we're not only introducing the concept of implicit bias to my officers so that they have a point of reference for a metric that will be applied to them, but also participating in research that seeks to inform the dialogue on the concept, to draw valid conclusions about what it is and isn't, and to advance the science of a concept that, again, I will suggest to you is being applied to policing across our nation and is impacting every conversation in governance. And ultimately what my county executive knows, and I treasure his knowledge in this respect, is that it is about governance. Policing is not in and of itself an answer to anything, but policing as a function of governance in a multi-disciplinary, or some are now calling it the ecosystems approach, that's where the real opportunity lies for us to succeed, to impact fundamentally people's lives, and to make people safer. Safe people lead better lives. They see a better world and they bring that world into existence.
And 50 years on, I am so privileged, in my view, to be in the company of Scott Thomson, these esteemed panelists, to be part of that conversation. But again, I will not rest until I see as many practitioners engaged in the same way in this conversation every single day. It can't be a handful. And just imagine the promise, right. In 1968, what are we doing as a nation? We're going to the moon. Right? Great things can be achieved. And to leave it with President Kennedy, "We choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard." And if it was easy, frankly, I'd be bored and I'd look for something new to do. God bless you all. Thank you. I apologize. I have another appointment at Joint Base Andrews and I have to excuse myself, but you have my utmost respect, you have my gratitude on behalf of the nearly 2,000 men and women of my institution, and you have my commitment to be a full and active participant as we move forward together in this grand venture. Thank you.
JOHN LAUB: Just wanted to thank you for the invitation to participate in the seminar. It's really nice for me to back at 810 Seventh Street for such an occasion. It's always a pleasure, too, to see so many old friends and colleagues. Following CHIPS, I do want to mention that three people in particular supported me, gave me their shoulders to cry on during my time as NIJ Director, and I wouldn't be standing here without them — Tom Feucht, Kris Rose, and Greg Ridgeway. So thank you. Also — you should also know that even when people leave NIJ, they still think they're at NIJ. I saw my old grant monitor Joel Garner and he asked me where the final report was, so it just never ends.
So the National Institute of Justice plays a critically vital role in providing funding for rigorous scientific research projects that are relevant to practitioners and policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels. Science, not intuition or gut instinct, needs to inform justice policies, practices, and programs. Think of the topics where intuition was wrong. There are three examples. CHIPS made an important point — you reduce fear, you reduce crime. However, scores of victimization surveys have shown the opposite is not true. If you reduce crime, you may not reduce fear. Secondly, as the severity of punishment goes up, crime will go down. And one of my all-time favorites, boot camps will reduce delinquency and crime.
As a premier science agency on crime and justice, the central role of NIJ cannot be overstated. Now, it's impossible to fully document NIJ's significant contributions over the last 50 years in a 90-minute session, let alone in my 15-minute presentation. When I think about NIJ's history, some things immediately come to mind — the seminal work on body armor for police officers that CHIPS mentioned and NIJ's continued focus to this day on police officer safety. The Crime Control Research Portfolio under CHIPS Stewart's watch. This generated important research on criminal careers using longitudinal data, and this research eventually fostered developmental and life course criminology. The Harvard Executive Sessions on policing, again, under CHIPS Stewart's watch. These sessions were instrumental in the creation of community policing writ large. The project on human development in Chicago neighborhoods, the origins of which fell under CHIPS Stewart's watch and then Jeremy Travis' watch. Again, this work points to the crucial role of the social organization of neighborhoods in preventing crime and disorder. And finally, the University of Maryland project Preventing Crime conducted by my good friend and colleague Larry Sherman and other faculty members at Maryland. This project planted the seeds for crimesolutions.gov under Assistant General Attorney Laurie Robinson in the Office of Justice Programs.
So I served — as David mentioned, I served as NIJ Director from July 2010 through December 2012, and in my view, coherent theory organizes research findings, sets priorities for future research, and provides influential guides to policy and practice. Despite efforts by many to divide theory and research from policy, the fact is theory, research, and policy are deeply intertwined and central to the lives of everyone involved in explaining crime, advancing justice, and public safety. In 2003 when I was the president of the American Society of Criminology, I organized the annual meeting around the theme of the challenge of practice, the benefits of theory. I did this because I believe such distinctions are unnecessary and ultimately counterproductive. Furthermore, the distinction is inconsistent with the history of criminology. We have a strong tendency to favor dichotomies, all or nothing propositions, and subsequently, we're forced to choose theory or policy.
As I wrote in my presidential address, I believe in order to enhance policy and practice, one needs not only sound research but sound theory. One can legitimately ask the question, "What is the role of the federal government in criminology and criminal justice?" In the broadest sense, it's to support research and data collection, analysis, and dissemination. Following James Q. Wilson, the federal government can be and should be the research development arm of the criminal justice system. For instance, a key role for NIJ is designing and testing crime prevention and crime control strategies. In order to accomplish this mission, I believe you need to focus on three major areas — the nature of crime, the causes of crime, and the response to crime. In my view, this is the nucleus of a comprehensive research plan in the area of crime and justice. NIJ's mission is unique. The research it produces must be rigorous and scientifically sound, but it must also be of value to criminal justice practitioners — police, prosecutors, judges, correctional officials, and policymakers. Given this position, NIJ faces a two-fold challenge — generating knowledge that is scientifically rigorous and disseminating knowledge that is relevant to policymakers and practitioners.
In my view, the idea of translational criminology perfectly captures NIJ's mission. The idea of translational criminology is simple but powerful. If you want to produce — if you want to prevent, reduce, and manage crime, scientific discoveries must be translated into policy and practice. Translational criminology aims to break down barriers between basic and applied research by creating a dynamic interface between research and practice. The process is really a two-way street. Scientists discover new tools and ideas for use in the field and evaluate their impact. In turn, practitioners offer observations from the field, stimulating basic investigations.
Next I'd like to highlight some of the major projects generated during my tenure as NIJ director. I strongly believed NIJ needed to develop a cutting-edge research agenda that addressed the major topics of interest in the field. Consider the following — over the last 40 years in criminal justice, two of the most important developments arguably are the run up in incarceration, some call mass incarceration and the great crime declines during the 1990s into the new century. Yet NIJ had no active systematic research program in either topic. So NIJ co-funded with the MacArthur Foundation the National Academy of Science's Panel on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration in the United States chaired by Jeremy Travis. NIJ funded the National Academy of Sciences Roundtable on Crime Trends.
NIJ funded a number of new areas, including California realignment, race, crime and victimization, the victim-offender overlap, desistance from crime, police legitimacy, and swift and certain sanctions. NIJ also continued its work in signature programs such as violence against women, teen dating violence, sexual assault, emergent technologies in crime and the justice system, and police officer safety. The goal here was to develop a cumulative base of research knowledge.
NIJ also worked closely with NIST, National Institute of Standards and Technologies, and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to strengthen the sciences in forensic science. These efforts led to the creation of the National Commission on Forensic Science.
Finally, building on the earlier work of the Harvard Executive Sessions on policing, NIJ funded another executive session on policing and public safety. In my view, the executive sessions are exemplars of translational criminology, as CHIPS mentioned, bringing the leading police executives and researchers together on a regular basis to tackle the major issues facing the field. I think the executive sessions recognize in a direct way that practitioners are partners in the research enterprise, and it's not simply about pushing research out to the field, but it's rather focusing researchers and practitioners on finding what research works best for them to do their jobs better.
There's also considerable attention paid to how to influence the field through concentrated efforts to transform practice and policy. An impressive crop of papers, jointly written by police chiefs and researchers, are available on topics such as police leadership, race and policing, police professionalism, police culture, rightful policing, and social media and policing. Harvard Executive Sessions on policing are foundational both here in the U.S. and internationally. NIJ also funded a Harvard Executive Session on community corrections. That began after I left NIJ. This executive session focused on the future of community corrections, and the goal, again, was to assemble a group of experts, practitioners, and researchers to explore the key ideas related to community corrections to help shape the future of policy, practice, and research on a range of topics. And, again, as one can argue that the Harvard Executive Sessions on policing created a new paradigm for policing. My hope is that the executive sessions on community corrections would do the same.
The future. On May 17, Dr. John Holdren gave the 2018 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Lecture on Social Science and Public Policy here in Washington, D.C. Dr. Holdren served as a science advisor to President Obama and headed the Office of Science and Technology Policy. In his lecture, Dr. Holdren stated the following, "Science is essential for advancing our society, and science matters at the federal level because scientific progress is a public good that creates jobs, keeps us safe, keeps us healthy, and develops our economy." End of quote. I contend that in order for NIJ to maintain its continued influence, science, independence, and projects that have the potential to transform our thinking about crime and justice and the criminal justice response are essential moving forward.
Consider science. At the core of a strong scientific agency is rigorous and fair peer review. NIJ should embrace standing peer-reviewed panels like many other science agencies throughout the federal government. An emphasis on science also means having an active science advisory board, which meets with agency leadership and staff on a regular basis. An embrace of science also means engaging with scientific stakeholders such as the Committee on Crime, Law, and Justice as part of the National Academies of Science. Independence. The NIJ director must have sole decision-making authority regarding grant awards and publications. NIJ, I believe, should be viewed as the in-house research unit in the Department of Justice and do all it can to promote evidence-based policies within the federal government. As such, NIJ has an obligation to bring forth empirical research to inform DOJ policies on matters such as immigration and crime, crime trends, drug use and crime, forensic sciences, and sentencing policy. This is not only important for the Department of Justice, but for the nation at large. After all, it is the National Institute of Justice.
Projects. My final parting advice, echoing both CHIPS and Hank, is that NIJ must continue to focus on big, cutting edge topics in crime and justice. It should strive to be bold and tackle the hard problems. This dance is only fitting for the leading federal science agency focusing on crime and justice. Thank you very much.
SCOTT THOMSON: Well, good afternoon. I'm your last speaker, and I'll try to be entertaining and informative, hopefully. It's a tremendous honor to be invited here today. I’ve got to tell you, even I reached out to CHIPS, and I said, you know, "I'm amazed I got invited to this."
And, David, thank you for having me here.
I said, "CHIPS, I'm not sure I know what to talk about to this crowd. This crowd's far more educated and intelligent than I am." And he says — "And here I am." I said, "In your wildest dreams, CHIPS, did you ever think that I would be here speaking at the 50th anniversary for NIJ?" And CHIPS said to me, he said, "You're gonna be fine, Scott. And let me quickly remind you that you have never been in any of my wildest dreams."
So let me tell you about the appreciation that I have for the work that's been done here. And in many regards, I'm a reformer as a professional because where I sit here today as a police executive is light years from where I once was a police officer and even as my very first days as a police chief. In three weeks, I'll celebrate my tenth anniversary of being a police chief. If there was a pictorial history, you wouldn't be clapping, trust me. And how I became police chief was not a ceremonial process. I was not the best man for the job. I, in fact, was a lack of options. I was thrusted into a position at the age of 36. I had 14 years on the job. Things had been so bad in my city, three of my last four mayors back then had gone to federal prison. We had five leaders in five years. The state had come in and completely superseded control away from local government — the schools, the police department. All executive decisions were made by an appointed individual, a COO. It was kind of Detroit several years ago but on steroids. And I just happened to work my way up through the ranks. The attorney general was Anne Milgram who appointed me as police chief. She was overseeing the day-to-day operations. And I know when she looked around the room, I wasn't a prodigy. I wasn't anybody that was offering anything special. I think literally she thought I would not get indicted in the next six months and they would use me to keep the chair warm.
And really what ended up happening, and I got to tell you, I made a lot more mistakes than I did things right. You know, and what's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over again expecting a different result. And I'll submit to you that I think that's one of the challenges within policing. I didn't know what I didn't know. Now, very fortunate for me, at the same time when I was thrust in this position, the mayor of Philadelphia, which is right across the river from me, had brought in a police commissioner named Charles Ramsey. And Charles, Chuck, had saw me on TV one night and he gave me a call, and he took me under his wing and introduced me to people like Chuck Wexler, to PERF, to John Timoney, to Bill Bratton, who then introduced me to people like Jeremy Travis and CHIPS Stewart. And from there, my relationship just grew exponentially. And, you know, I spent the first year or two just keeping my mouth shut and listening and taking in as much as I could.
And, you know, and I tried to do some research on my own initially. And to be quite frank with you, a lot of times when I'd open up reports, and I think this is a challenge with a lot of police executives, if it's got an "x" and a "y" graph on it, it's not for me. And I would close it. And I really couldn't take much value from it. So I would learn a lot from others, and then I would find some reports, and a lot of them also came out of here that were actionable. And there were things that I could learn. And I also quickly learned that, you know, policing being a social science is not — it's not a static environment. There is no linear progression to success. You know, there are fundamentals that you need to know and that really are going to give you a foundation for achieving progress, because let's face it, it's never success, it's always progress, but that's constantly evolving because people are constantly changing and society is constantly changing, technology is far more advanced today than it once was. And when I finally got to the point where I stopped trying to do things unilaterally and started to take the help from others and enlist the assistance of people that were far, far smarter than I, good things started to occur.
And when I also realized that change in my community was never going to be a unilateral police effort, things in the positive started to occur. You know, I — just for example, I worked narcotics for many years. I put more handcuffs on people than most police officers. If the opportunities presented, I locked up as many people as I could. And at no point in time did I ever ask myself, "Why is this that I can leave police headquarters, go to the same corner, and every day make an arrest?" What was I changing? Why am I doing this? And at the time, I was operating in a system, and this was kind of a management and a leadership lesson for me, was the metrics in which I was being measured upon was exactly that — how many people are you locking up and how many drugs are you seizing and what's the cash seizure? And every day I'd get a nice pat on the back. And one year they gave me a narcotic detective of the year award. But I didn't fundamentally change the difference for one person's life in any of those neighborhoods I went in. In fact, I would argue that I probably made it a lot worse because I created — or I attributed to a cyclical deficit, apparently, or particularly when I would lock up a 15 year old that was selling marijuana. You know, all I did was, you know, make that situation worse than what it was. And, you know, I'll go full circle with this and what I'm trying to relate to you and my appreciation and where I think we are now and where we're going in the future.
We had a couple of neighborhoods in the city at that point in time that were so challenged that if we were to go in as a uniformed police presence and make an arrest, we would have to grab the suspect or the prisoner and get out of there as quickly as possible because the community would descend upon us and they would steal the prisoner back. And large times, these were based off of drug arrests and the like. And, you know, we thought we were doing something good at the time and not realizing the challenges that plague that particular community and that block didn't need a heavy-handed law enforcement approach. And there were a couple of well-documented incidents where we didn't get out of there in time and the community descended upon us and bad things occurred and, you know, police officers were injured, multiple people were arrested, and the like. And I give you that as an example to say because of a lot of work of a lot of really smart people that I listen to and working with, we had gotten to a point now in that particular neighborhood, and this was chronicled in a New York Times article. It was about two and a half years ago. We had a New York Times reporter come in and had written about Camden. And the headline back then was, "From Bad to Worse." And we had been consecutive in the nation's most dangerous city for like three years in a row. And this reporter went into this block — and here we are now, you know, we're experiencing some progress, we're reducing crime, and a lot of people are wondering how we're doing this and is it real. Is it just a statistical anomaly? So, of course, you know, reporters doing their due diligence would go in the neighborhoods and knock on doors and want to speak to the people that were there. And they knocked on one mother's door — and this really for me is really the heart of everything that we did and continue to do. And this woman had lived there for years. And they asked her about what she thought of this new police and this new type of policing. And she said, you know, "My child used to be scared of the police. Now he wants to be one." And for us to be able to change that dynamic within that neighborhood, it wasn't by accident, right. It was because we applied principles that work, things that we learned through evidence-based studies, and we abandoned what we thought were just traditional — or what had always been traditional, we always just thought was the only antidote to the problem.
Now, this in large part for us is underscored by the statistics that we've been able to achieve during the same period of time. So as we sit here today, we've reduced murder 69 percent in our city. Now, we went from a point in time, this was in 2011. You know, the murder rate in the United States of America is 4.8 per 100,000. The most violent country on the planet is Honduras. It has a murder rate of 82 per 100,000. In 2012, we had a murder rate of 86 per 100,000. And to go from that to where we are today on a five-decade low with not just murders and shootings but in crime across the board, particularly violent crime. I don't think that because of this progress that it's mutually exclusive the fact that our graduation rate has increased by 30 percent during this period of time as well, and, again, because it wasn't just a unilateral police effort. There's been us working with the schools, us working with our hospitals. One thing — and I was just talking with Jeremy Travis about this earlier today. You know, there is — particularly in light of all the data that we have, we have more data than we know how to really analyze at this point in time in policing, and I submit to you as scientists as well, right. But the intersection that exists between public education, public health, and public safety and where are the opportunities that are in line with them?
And I also submit to you that I think in light of the increasing rate of the epidemic that we're seeing with opioids and how that is driving a lot of the homelessness issues within cities. It's driving a lot of the mental health issues within cities. And all of this is still conveniently being delegated to police officers. Go fix it. And the tools we're gonna give you is a pair of handcuffs and a service pistol. And that's not by accident that you’re starting to see mass incarceration rates going through the roof. But fortunately, there are some of us that realize we're not going to do this. I just had this conversation recently. You know, we're a county seat, so we have a lot of panhandling that takes place, and it frustrates people and it's not pretty to see. And I'll have some leaders that will say to me, "We've got to fix this." And they're calling me to fix it. And I'll say, "Listen, I'll work with you on this, but I'm not arresting those folks." That's not a solution to this problem here, right? That's just gonna make things worse. When I go and hit that guy with a $250 ticket that's panhandling for money, what do you think he's gonna do to try to get $250 to stay out of jail? Right? But, again, it's this definition of insanity that keeps repeating itself. But I do believe that there's tremendous opportunity if we start to look at things holistically.
I know that from my experiences and that what we've been able to do to change the dynamic within what was once labeled as the nation's most dangerous city to within the past three and a half years, to underscore CHIPS' point, you know, we've got three and a half billion dollars in private equity coming into our city now because there's a sense of safety. And that never would have happened if people were worried about their investment. You can't give land away in Juarez, Mexico. You can't attract companies to build their factories or put their headquarters there. But here we were and we made that safer again through a joint effort, and because of that, you know, a rising tide lifts all boats. And we're now starting to see tipping points hit not just in public safety, but in economic redevelopment as well. And I'll leave you with this because my timer's going off that I'm at my mark. The work that gets done here, and I know a lot of what I said was pretty anecdotal, but here's one thing I can assure you. You know, that which you provide to the field — and one thing I think we've definitely got to get better with as law enforcement professionals is opening our doors up to you to be laboratories.
Again, I've learned to say yes to very smart people and good things occur. Greg Ridgeway, you know, I had heard from a lot of my colleagues about this amazing, brilliant individual, and he was right across the river from me at the University of Pennsylvania. And lo and behold, one day I get a phone call and it says, "Chief, my name's Dr. Greg Ridgeway, and I'm interested in doing," and I said yes. He said, "I haven't even finished." I said, "I don't care what it is. I hear you're brilliant. And whatever it is you want to do, I'm willing to partner with you." He says, "I haven't even met you yet." I said, "I haven't met you either. I hear you look like you're 12 years old, but...I'm very interested in doing something with you." And, you know, I opened up my door, I contacted my commanders. And to be quite honest with you — now, I asked him to help me with another thing to develop an early warning system because I saw that I was having challenges within my organization. I wanted to get in front of it and, again, having him in my vantage. But I told my command staff, "I've got this professor from University of Penn coming over and whatever he wants and needs within our legal ability, we're going to provide it." And so I think that we got to do a better job as a law enforcement profession of opening up our doors and allowing you all in. And I would request of you to continue to reach out and make those phone calls to police chiefs. A lot of us in this field, we don't know what we don't know. And that's to be as frank as I can with you. And when you do have a finished product, make sure it's actionable, make sure it's something that can be consumed by the user, and hit them over the head with it. Continue to hit them over the head with it until they take it in. So, Director, thank you for having me here today, and I look forward to continuing this conversation.
DAVID MUHLHAUSEN: I'm greatly impressed by our panelists' comments, and I really thank you for your time here. We're gonna move to a question and answer period, and I promise not to hog all the time. Members of the audience will be encouraged to ask questions. After I ask a couple questions, we're going to take questions from the audience first, and for those of you on WebEx, please use the Q&A tab to submit your questions, and we hope to be able to read those questions to the audience. So my first question: "What can and should NIJ do to help criminal justice practitioners see the value of research for improving practice?" Basically, how can we have a bigger impact on the field? Someone take a stab?
JAMES "CHIPS" STEWART: Go ahead, Scott.
SCOTT THOMSON: Yeah, I pretty much just closed with that, right? Like I think that you do amazing work here, and I'm embarrassed to say that — I would say that probably a fraction of the profession — there's 18,000 police departments in this country, right? And we just can't stay myopically focused on the New Yorks and the Chicagos or those that will come up here and sit and speak, because who would have ever thought we would have heard of a Ferguson three or four years ago. But yet that seemed to define American policing across the world. Colleagues of mine from the U.K. asking about this Ferguson. So there really is no jurisdiction too small. But I think that one thing that I do see as a deficiency — look, and I struggle with this even as president of PERF, is when we're trying to lead efforts of reform, is to get this on the radar of those that may not see the importance of it right now and really get them to understand the unintended consequences that they create by continuing to do business as usual in a fashion that is, quite frankly, you know, three decades old.
JAMES "CHIPS" STEWART: I have an idea that I want to add on to what Scott said, and that is that something you said, Scott, that you couldn't digest the reports that came out with complexity, formulas and sort of tables that were very challenging, particularly to undergraduates. I would encourage NIJ to be more nimble, to be more responsive. It's hard to wait 18 to 24 to 36 months to find out anything about Ferguson, because everybody is sort of talking about it. So I would encourage you to think about after-action reports that are not looking to blame people but looking for solutions and improvement. I would encourage you to do more research and briefs. One of the things we did was we did something called, sort of research in action where we would have these meetings in Arizona during the hot summer months and inside the air conditioning. And we'd have police departments and researchers talking about issues that they were collaborating on together.
And then I would say, one of the things that's of interest to me is, why is New York and L.A. experiencing dramatic drops in crime, and also Scott in Prince George's County, and Chicago and Philadelphia are experiencing large, large murders and things like that? What is the difference, and what could be done? Because there may be things that could be done at the margins that are really practical that you don't have to have lots of stuff underway. The other thing is that police use of force is something that has not come up and is one of those things that the more information we have about the circumstances that lead to that can help in terms of training academies, in terms of final reviews, in terms of talking to the community. There are a number of things that I think NIJ could be more nimble and responsive to, and I would encourage you to think about that. I talked a little bit about augmenting your model so that you could do some things like this that had not been. Let me turn it over to John.
JOHN LAUB: I think one of the ways of getting at that issue is to flip the question. I think a lot of us have been thinking about the need to supply research, but we haven't asked the question, what's the demand for research? What do you need to know? And I also think we could learn a lot by looking at what in fact are the obstacles for people to use research evidence? We've already identified one, reports with formulas, graphs, too many tables, too many figures, but I think there's other things as well. Some of the research that the William T. Grant Foundation is doing. They're looking at how people actually learn about research, and social networks become very important. You know Greg Ridgeway's over there, so you call him up. And so how can NIJ facilitate social networks to get research evidence into the hands of people who need it and at the same time ask them what they need to do their jobs better.
DAVID MUHLHAUSEN: Good. I guess one of the things that I instituted when I came to NIJ was a new series of articles called "Notes from the Field." And they're not research based, but they are contemporary problems that police chiefs and other criminal justice executives are facing each day and how they're addressing it. These are ideas that are currently implemented. They have a crisis of opioids. How is the police chief trying to tackle this issue? And so what we're doing is we're just trying to highlight ideas that are being done because we can't always wait three to five years for the results to be published. And this "Notes from the Field" I think is a good segue into whatever potential research topics that we'll need to assess in the future at NIJ. But it's also a way of just being connected to the field and showing that we're giving law enforcement officials a voice at NIJ. Next question is, and this one can be tough to ask, but, "You'll be focused on NIJ's accomplishments, but where has NIJ fallen short, and how can we improve?"
JAMES "CHIPS" STEWART: At the risk of, you know, incurring the ire of everybody in the audience, I would say that NIJ's biggest challenge is to be relevant, and I have felt that over the last few years — I don't want to offend anybody in the room — but I think that the question of relevancy has been diminished and that police chiefs that need to know, like in Prince George's County or Camden and other places, don't look to NIJ for answers. And that's a disappointment to me. And I think that that ought to be the first stop that somebody makes. So, the other thing is I don't think you — not you, David — but you, institution, have not pursued a lot of the good things that you have done, and I think that's a mistake, because when I called up and I asked how many lives have been saved through body armor, the answer is 3,000. I said wait a minute. That's probably inaccurate because that's the number that Carol and I were using 35 or 40 years ago. You know? And one of the things I think NIJ could use is an archivist or a curator, because CNA celebrated the 75th anniversary, and when we were at the American History Smithsonian, they brought out items that were in the archives that CNA had done and it saved lives. And I was thinking, wow, NIJ ought to be able to do that, because they really have done some tremendous things. So, that's a couple of ideas that I give you. How’s that?
DAVID MUHLHAUSEN: I just want to add staff I hope you’re taking notes.
JOHN LAUB: I think I, believe it or not, agree, in a large part with CHIPS. I think NIJ has not done a good job at telling its story. I think NIJ has not really put together how they have actually built the cumulative base of knowledge, and I think that that should be the starting point. And particularly, I think, what could be a better way of doing that with the 50-year anniversary?
SCOTT THOMSON: Well, I think NIJ fell woefully short of not having coffee ready this morning's meeting. And taking the train ride down, that's what I was looking for when I got here. Now, you know, I think that one of the challenges, I would say, if I was in your seat, and, you know, David, when I first met you, and I gotta tell you, I was thoroughly impressed when, you know, even before the man had the job, him and CHIPS came up and he spent a day riding around in a squad car, got out into the field.
And really, you're not going to understand a problem until you're proximate to it. And one of the challenges, and I push this to researchers all the time, is, you know, when you turn to me — and it's a frustration that I have, too, sometimes — is that people will — researchers, very well-intended people will say, "What do you need?" And I don't know if I can always articulate what it is. I don't know if I fully understand it. And you gotta remember, I'm looking at things through a culture and a silo that I came up in, and really, if you got next to the issue, I think you would probably see it maybe in a different way, and you would have a better solution or remedy or idea that's never going to occur if you're continually partitioned off and just relying upon the articulation of one individual from that organization to tell you what it is that they need. So I would challenge you to get out into the field, roll up the sleeves, and do what you did that day.
DAVID MUHLHAUSEN: I think those are wise words. One of the things else we're doing at NIJ is we have sort of revived the practitioner fellowship. And we're actually going to have hopefully by the end of the summer or early fall, two individuals, very talented individuals, who — one is a police officer who will be working part time at NIJ, and we want to embed somebody who's an actual law enforcement officer at NIJ to work with staff in developing ideas, but we’re also taking somebody who works in the corrections field. And one of the things what this person is going to do is gonna help me tell Bureau of Prisons that, yes, you can do randomized control trials in a correctional setting. It's being done all the time. Maybe not as much as we want, but it can be done. So we're taking some steps here that I think are important. But now I’d like to turn it over to the audience. We have three strategically placed mikes — or microphones. If you could walk up and ask a question and say your name and affiliation, and then we hope we have good answers.
CHIP COLDREN: I'm ready. So I think I'd like to ask a question, and, Chief, I’m going to put you on the spot, if you don't mind. It's based on a conversation that we've had in the past, but I think it's very relevant to what we're talking about here. We're all familiar with police-research partnerships. I think NIJ funded something called law enforcement research partnerships a while back, and you have this practitioner program. You mentioned, Chief, about police agencies being laboratories for research, and I'd like you to just kind of articulate that notion a little bit, and how does that actually get operationalized? I know it's been tried in the past. I think it was tried up in New Haven about five years ago, where they tried to create the New Haven Police Department as — like a university teaching hospital. And it didn't work very well. I don't think it's easy to do, but if you don't mind, I'd like to just ask you that question, and how does that look to you, you know, from your perspective?
SCOTT THOMSON: Well, I think from an organizational perspective from my side of that issue that would be entering into a partnership with essentially as much full disclosure as we can, and obviously there's things that we can't share. But traditionally, there's a reluctance for law enforcement to open up its doors and to let people inside. But I think that there's tremendous opportunity that can take place when something like that occurs. Now, I imagine from your side of the issue, that would be something that would require funding and the ability to have somebody that you could put in there. But I don't think it's that heavy of a lift, particularly from a law enforcement side. I think, really, the more challenge would be the logistics of getting the right research people to be able to put the time they need in to let us know the type of information that they need to be a part of. Some of it is — and, again, I think that there's tremendous value to getting as close to the issue as possible. And you will see things differently than we see things. You'll ask questions, and I think that you'll present solutions and ideas that will be novel.
CHIP COLDREN: Okay, thanks.
JAMES "CHIPS" STEWART: I want to follow up, Scott, with Dr. Coldren’s question, and that is that if I was a researcher and I came to you and I suggested that we could do a research project that was an experimental design, and it would mean that part of your city would get the treatment and part of the city wouldn't get the treatment. Would that be something that you could agree to? I mean, we're talking theoretically here. That has been a bit of a stumbling block in the past.
SCOTT THOMSON: You know, I guess it would depend on what that treatment was, to be quite frank with you. You know, I could speculate on what that would be, but, I mean, there would just be things that it would be very difficult and we could not do when it came to securing areas with guardian figures, right? Like, for us, and, again, that really has been the most important aspect for us, is not going and locking people up, it's having that guardian figure there to facilitate the thing.
JAMES "CHIPS" STEWART: Let me give you a quick example. In Minneapolis we had this domestic violence experiment, and the police officers agreed to random assignment of treatments, and they would take out a card and it would say, "Arrest the perpetrator." This was before they went into the house. Or they'd take out a card and it would say, "Counsel the perpetrator" — or the suspect. Or, then the final card was, "Say nothing and let the guy go." And that would be an example of something that we'd require not the police officer to make a decision but to follow this kind of random assignment. I mean, to me, we were able to convince the police department it would be a great idea. They were very concerned about that in terms of liability issues and things like — you know. This was 30 years ago. But it would be something like that, something that would be really a big deal.
SCOTT THOMSON: Well, look, I wouldn't say no to anything right up front. I mean, there's a process of people that would have to be brought to the table, from prosecutors to attorneys and the like that would have to say this was within the boundaries of what we could and couldn't do. But I wouldn't just shut it down because of all the normal fears that would jump up. I think it's a conversation worth having.
DAVID MUHLHAUSEN: I just want to add in a plug for one of NIJ's programs that I think is central to the mission we're talking about, and that's the LEADS program. It's the Law Enforcement Advancing Data and Science. And for those who are unfamiliar, we currently have about 40 mid-rank police officers who are engaged in this program. We offer them mentoring. It's conducted with IACP, and they are doing their own rigorous research of different approaches or different tactics in their police departments. And so what we're doing is we're cultivating a field of mid-rank police officers who one day, some of them actually are very high-ranking now as they moved up. And I hope to have 40 police chiefs, 50 police chiefs in the future who are going to be very open to doing rigorous research.
WILLIAM LEISERSON: Billy Leiserson, BL Insights. I was a Science and Technology Policy fellow at NIJ from 2015 to 2016. One of the themes that I've gotten from the panel is the need for practitioners to have a seat at the table for their research to be consumable and available and for collaborations to take place. I came from the biomedical research community, and in the medical field there are lots of opportunities for the practitioners all the way down to public health officials and doing similar kinds of things in public health through the practitioners, the doctors, to clinical researchers and basic researchers. So when I look at, you know, to the criminal justice area, I wonder whether it wouldn't be a good idea to have more opportunities, those same kind of advisory boards, clearinghouse, guideline clearinghouses of all of these rich infrastructures, which not only deliver information out and advice, but they provide an opportunity for people to present all points of view. And the latest version of that, I think, was the National Commission on Forensic Science, for an example. We also have the OSACS that I'm aware of. There may be others. But it seems to me that is something that NIJ or other places facilitate, the bringing together of the different stake-holders, and I just wonder whether that is a crazy idea or whether that is something that you folks could look into.
JOHN LAUB: Well, I can't speak for the director, but ... I think one of the things that NIJ does, obviously it provides funding for research, but I think NIJ has tremendous power as a convener. When I organized a working group on neighborhoods and crime, I invited 10 people on my wish list, and they all came. I could tell you, as a professor at the University of Maryland, I could invite those same 10 people and I'd get one, my friend Rob Sampson. And I'd have to buy him dinner. So, I think this idea of NIJ being the convener is absolutely crucial. And I'm glad that you mentioned other fields, because when I hit upon the idea of translational criminology, I actually stole it from my daughter who was a pediatrician at the time at University of Pennsylvania and was telling me about this thing called translational medicine. And basically all I did was erase medicine, put in criminology, and kind of copied everything she told me. So I think there are models out there that NIJ should use, but, again... [INAUDIBLE]
DAVID MUHLHAUSEN: One of the things that I've done in this job, closing in on a year, is to talk less and listen more and absorb what people have to say. And so this is also a good experience for me to hear these perspectives, And, I always don't have the answers, but my staff have a lot for me.
CLIFFORD KARCHMER: Hello. My name is Cliff Karchmer. I received an NIJ grant in 1969, and I've been on and off, was on for many of those years, as CHIPS knows. I have two concerns I want to raise today, more or less observations. Scott mentioned that to get a chief to adopt an innovation that perhaps research had advocated for, you have to keep hitting them. At least that's what I heard — or actually I heard hitting them over the head. Getting chiefs to accept innovations is difficult. I worked for PERF for 19 years designing, developing new programs, most of which were funded by CHIPS. And the number of PERF chiefs who adopted PERF-generated, validated innovations was a handful, a tiny handful. It may anger people in the room; I really don't care. It's something very important as the law enforcement profession moves from a craft toward a profession. My real concern is, we don't know why chiefs adopt innovations unless the money is there. When money runs out, oftentimes the innovations trail away. Secondly, more important, the core of my concern, even more important than getting them to adopt it, because many do because there is a lot of money, is the institutionalization. NIJ, to my knowledge, and I really apologize if I missed this, has never looked into what is involved in institutionalizing reform, whether it's something Larry Sherman did, whether it's problem-oriented policing or something involved with abusive force, and unless and until we know that, I really don't think we can say policing has moved fully toward a profession. Because that's what professions do in evidence-based science. You accept it and then it's there forever, passed on. And I'm curious whether you have some observations about why that wasn't done or whether it could be done.
JAMES "CHIPS" STEWART: Let me just start the ball rolling here and just saying that, Cliff, that's always been a concern of mine and I think a concern of everybody on the panels. One of the things is, is that contextually or situationally, police chiefs are very constrained. And that is that they don't have control over their resources. I know this will come as a surprise to most people, but 9-1-1 sort of hijacks all the people on patrol, pretty much. And it's very difficult to make a big change when even the sergeants can't control their men and women who are working for them. But Scott Thomson has done something that is very radical, and that is that he has 80 percent of his patrol force walking in the communities on their beats, not taking 9-1-1 calls, and he only has 20 percent handling it. And no other police chief that I know has taken that kind of a risk. So there may be hope on the horizon, but I'll turn it over to my learned colleagues here.
SCOTT THOMSON: So you had a 1969 grant? How did you spend your $125?
CLIFFORD KARCHMER: I've got a great answer for you. I had a Selective Service issue and I could not accept the grant.
SCOTT THOMSON: Look, I think you bring up a challenge that we — and I don't think you're wrong, right? I think there's many dynamics that go into change and what causes leaders to change. Some leaders have the freedom to be able to do that. I've been very fortunate to be in one of those situations. You know, there's more to change than just the will of the leader. There is a political environment in which they exist. There are unions oftentimes that can be very resistant to any type of change outside of a negotiation, which will generally have some type of financial increase attached to that type of movement, which makes it a non-starter for that police leader in the first place. And we also see that a lot of times, a change in policing is driven by crisis. You know, if not for the incident occurring in Ferguson, Ferguson's never changing, and even those that are around them. So, unfortunately, sometimes that. is the catalyst to getting us to do things. But quite frankly, again, 18,000 police departments in this country. You're talking 22 years ago, Bill Bratton and NYPD institute the fundamental philosophy of COMSTAT, which is essentially the measurement of things. And there are still organizations to this day that don't practice that type of philosophy. So, some of this is, we can't let good be the enemy or perfect be the enemy of good. And hopefully we keep continuing to make the changes that we make and understand there's only going to be a very small group of individuals that will be out in front, and you just try to create a momentum in which the rest will follow, either by hook or by crook.
CLIFFORD KARCHMER: Thank you.
JAMES "CHIPS" STEWART: I have one more — Cliff, there is some good news out here, and that is the smart policing efforts that have been involved in local teams of researchers combined with the police department, and not just the chief, but typically a lieutenant or a captain and several others. At CNA, we’ve worked really hard on trying to institutionalize the change and act as a host department for other people to come and see how that change looks. And that's been something that has continued to endure and hasn't been dependent on funds. So I think it's important to realize that I think there's a hunger out there by police professionals just to figure out what works, what helps them do a better job so they can do less harm. I'd like to say do no harm, but I just think that's what I do. John?
JOHN LAUB: I appreciate that comment. I think one of the things that I had to remind myself, with the Harvard Executive Sessions, was these were not necessarily representative of policing in America. They were the best and the brightest. And I think your point underscores that very point. I also think that what Scott mentioned — I mean, a lot of my discussions with Larry Sherman, particularly around police shootings, he has really focused in on this idea of police consolidation as a way of institutionalizing reform. I think that has to be something that we could put on the table for discussion. Move from 18,000, we're not going to have one, but couldn't there be some middle ground?
CLIFFORD KARCHMER: I'll conclude by just observing that everything that was said, and every response, is a researchable question that to me hasn't been asked yet by NIJ.
JAMES "CHIPS" STEWART: Thank you.
DAVID MUHLHAUSEN: All right. Well, I'd like to thank everybody. I think we're going to wrap it up, and I'd just like to thank—
JAMES "CHIPS" STEWART: I actually have one more comment. As a person that will, you know — is to say that NIJ is in good hands today, with the early nomination of David, and the fact that he has very strong support at the top of the Department of Justice and also has people paying attention to the kinds of research that goes on. And I think, talking to some of the people that are here, he has some really good people that are supporting him. And the idea of this panel to have a researcher and two eminent police officials that participated, I think it, you know, visibly shows the commitment that David and his team have to this idea that — you know, if it doesn't — if the operator can't understand it, then it doesn't make any difference how good the research is. It's the same way in the medical profession. And it's the same way that research has to be — the ultimate test is getting in there. And you're supported by other agencies here at OJP, and BJA has done a lot of things in terms of research. They're looking to fill a gap, and I think that NIJ is standing up with you and the efforts you're making here, David. So thank you very much for your leadership.
DAVID MUHLHAUSEN: It's always great to get together and reminisce [and speculate] on NIJ's future, but also I think we have a great 50 years ahead of us. And I'd like to thank our panelists for coming. I greatly appreciate it. But also I want to give a shout-out to all the NIJ staff sitting in the audience. You know, one of the things that I often get compliments how things are going at NIJ from people higher up in the Department of Justice, and that's a reflection of my staff and how dedicated they are, so I just want to give a shout-out to you all. Thank you.
Date Created: August 7, 2018