Kristina Rose, Acting Director, National Institute of Justice
NIJ Conference 2010
Kristina Rose: Good morning, and welcome to the 2010 NIJ Conference. My name is Kristina Rose, and I am the Acting Director of the National Institute of Justice.
Before we begin, I would like to take a moment to give a warm round of applause to the Arlington County Police Honor Guard and to our own Rhea Walker for her lovely rendition of the national anthem.
Rose: Now, last year at this time, just a few months after I had been asked to be Acting Director, I stood right here on this stage at the 2009 conference. It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so now I know it's a twice-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, I guess.
As most of you know, President Obama selected Dr. John Laub to be the NIJ Director, and Dr. Laub is a renowned criminologist. And his appointment as NIJ Director will bring so much to this agency and to the field, and we anxiously await his arrival.
But as we wait for John's confirmation, the important work of our agency goes on. NIJ has always been a conduit, a translator or a connector in the work of criminal justice, and you, the people in this room, exemplify the diversity in the field of criminal justice research. You make up the broad constituencies that NIJ serves and works so very hard to connect.
And in that spirit, in an attempt to better inform our research efforts, NIJ has been and continues to hold a series of what we call "listening sessions." We've held listening sessions with organizations representing police and prosecutors and victim advocates and forensic scientists and many, many others. And in almost 30 sessions, we have tried to strengthen our understanding of the work that you all do and the research needs of this field.
The sessions are quite simple in structure. Our guests talk, and me and my staff, we listen. And in some ways these listening sessions are really a chance for NIJ to get a reality check on how well that we are doing.
For example, one domestic violence organization told us that they needed research evidence to prove what they felt was true in their gut, and in the new issue of the NIJ Journal, which you got when you registered for the conference, you will find an article about T.K. Logan's study in Kentucky that shows that civil protection orders can keep women safer. T.K. and her team found that half of the women who received protection orders did not experience a violation during the six months after the order was issued. So sometimes we are able to deliver the evidence, but in other listening sessions, we were reminded that we still have some work to do.
For instance, in a recent listening session with medical examiners, NIJ was urged to sponsor more rigorous research in the area of forensic pathology. So we listened, and as a result of that listening session and in response to the NAS study on forensic science, we published our first solicitation this year on death investigation and just last week held our very first symposium on death investigation.
Now, sometimes our listening sessions reveal that our current work is headed in the right direction but that we need to expand it and accelerate it a bit, and in our session with corrections professionals, we learned about the ongoing need for what works in the area of corrections. So, following that listening session, we invited Dr. Ed Latessa from the University of Cincinnati to give us a seminar on evidence-based corrections practices. Dr. Latessa was able to distill a large body of research into a very few key principles. His presentation was one of the most colorful, one of the most entertaining, one of the most insightful I have ever seen, and his lecture is part of a new seminar series that NIJ is sponsoring called "Research for the Real World," and we have done several of them this year with notable criminologists.
And I encourage you to visit NIJ's website and listen to some of these presentations for yourself. Although in the spirit of true transparency, I have to tell you that Dr. Latessa's "Research for the Real World" seminar was so, shall we say, real that we had to bleep out several of the sections. So now that I have piqued your interest, I know you are going to run and go listen to that seminar.
But, as we all know, all of us experience, we have tight budgets, and, like you, at NIJ we have had to seek creative ways to maximize our resources. So we have redoubled our efforts to forge strong partnerships with other federal agencies. For example, we are cross-pollinating with the Centers for Disease Control on issues of violence. We are learning from drug abuse experts at SAMHSA. We are partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to learn more about the correlation between traffic crashes and crime hot spots, and we are teaming with the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security to develop new technology that will keep our police officers safe when they are faced with hazardous conditions.
But you, you remain our core constituency — the researchers who care about the practical implications of your research and the practitioners who value research evidence. So we hope that the next three days will give you the opportunity to forge your own connections that will lead to the kind of partnerships that we at NIJ have experienced, and there are so many examples of collaborations right here within the Office of Justice Programs at DOJ, and let me just mention two of them.
Last week or the week before, I guess it was, Jim Burch, who is the head of the Bureau of Justice Assistance; Barney Melekian, the new head of the COPS office; and I came back from an energizing two days in Providence, Rhode Island, meeting with police chiefs and crime analysts and researchers to learn more about the role of predictive policing in controlling and preventing crime. And last month, we partnered with the Office on Violence Against Women to examine the backlog of untested rape kits in law enforcement agencies and crime labs around this country, and I can tell you it has been so satisfying to watch how much more we can accomplish together.
And there's so much more you're going to hear about at this conference about the work we are doing here at NIJ. You are going to hear about the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or what we call "NamUs" — a system of two databases that can talk to each other to help match a missing person in one state with unidentified remains possibly hundreds or thousands of miles away in another state. So far, our new system has helped identify 18 persons and brought some sense of resolution to those families. The NamUs staff are in the exhibit hall, and I urge you to stop by so they can show you how that works.
And I am extremely proud today to announce the issuance of a new report called Making Sense of DNA Backlogs — Myths vs. Reality. At NIJ, our forensic science team receives daily inquiries about the DNA backlog: how big is it, what contributes to a backlog, how can we eliminate it, and what are you doing to solve it. Well, this report answers those questions and more. Mark Nelson, on my staff, who authored that report, is here at the conference and is available to answer any questions you may have.
In all the work that we do and amid all the things that are going on in criminal justice research and practice, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that great things can result from modest beginnings.
So let me end with a story of one such small beginning that made a tremendous impact. About 25 years ago, a young police lieutenant came to NIJ as a visiting fellow. Lots of prominent criminologists and noted practitioners have served as part of our Visiting Fellowship Program, but this guy, well, he was just a cop, a street cop, wanting to learn how to use research to improve policing. And years later, that lieutenant would say that his NIJ fellowship taught him the value of research and how to apply it to be the best cop that he could be. And, well, great things really start small. That lieutenant worked his way up through the ranks and became the head of a major metropolitan police department, the chief of a department, and he is now the presidentially appointed head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and his name is Gil Kerlikowske.
Gil's story and the efforts of so many of you remind us that each step, each link that we forge between research and practice brings us one step closer to making a more positive, a more effective criminal justice system. And by the way, we have brought back that Visiting Fellowship Program, and I hope that one of you will apply and take that next small step to a big, big thing.
Before closing, I want to take the opportunity to introduce another former NIJ fellow, now a very special member of NIJ's staff. Last fall, Dr. Ellen Scrivner joined NIJ as our Deputy Director. Ellen is a well-known and highly respected police psychologist who brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to NIJ, and we are so grateful that she has joined us.
Ellen, would you please stand?
Rose: And I am going to be saying a lot of "thank yous" throughout this conference, but right now I would just like to thank the NIJ staff, all of the NIJ staff, for working so hard on this conference and for helping to make this year one of the most rewarding of my life.
And now it is my pleasure to introduce to you my boss. Laurie Robinson doesn't need an introduction with this crowd, but I am going to tell you a little bit about her. I have had the opportunity to introduce Laurie on numerous occasions throughout this past year, and last week in the elevator, she said to me, "Kris, you have got to find a way to make your introductions of me shorter," so I'll try.
But as many of you know, during the '90s, Laurie served as the Assistant Attorney General in the Clinton administration under Janet Reno, and prior to her work at NIJ, she spent many years at the American Bar Association as the director of the Criminal Justice Section. After leaving DOJ, Laurie became the director of the Master of Science Program at the University of Pennsylvania's Criminology Department, and she is a Distinguished Senior Scholar in the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology. She served on President Obama's transition team and was asked to lead OJP again on a temporary basis, and much to our delight, she returned to OJP permanently.
Laurie has been so wonderful about linking together the efforts and resources of the agencies within OJP. Her unflagging commitment to collaboration across all of the OJP bureaus has helped to make OJP stronger and more effective and has helped open avenues for research that simply did not exist before.
Laurie, we are so grateful for your leadership. It is my pleasure and my privilege to introduce to you OJP's Assistant Attorney General, Laurie Robinson.
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David Grann, Staff Writer, The New Yorker
Date created: June 30, 2010