National Institute of Justice
Seal of the United States Department of Justice
Logo of the National Institute of Justice
Bureau/Office overview
FormedOctober 21, 1968; 55 years ago (1968-10-21)
JurisdictionFederal government of the United States
Headquarters810 7th Street NW
Washington, D.C., United States
Bureau/Office executive
  • Nancy La Vigne, Director
Parent departmentOffice of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the research, development and evaluation agency of the United States Department of Justice.

NIJ, along with the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), and other program offices, comprise the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) branch of the Department of Justice.


The National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice was established on October 21, 1968,[1] under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, as a component of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA). In 1978, it was renamed as the National Institute of Justice.[2] Some functions of the LEAA were absorbed by NIJ on December 27, 1979, with passage of the Justice System Improvement Act of 1979.[3] The act, which amended the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, also led to creation of the Bureau of Justice Statistics.[4] In 1982, the LEAA was succeeded by the Office of Justice Assistance, Research, and Statistics (1982–1984) and then the Office of Justice Programs in 1984.[5]

NIJ was notable among U.S. governmental research organizations because it is headed by a political appointee of the president rather than by a scientist or a member of the civil service. The Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 removed the need for Senate confirmation of the NIJ director.

In 2010, the United States National Research Council released a report on reforming the NIJ, and identified issues with its independence, budget, and scientific mission. While it considered making the NIJ separate from its current department, Office of Justice Programs, it recommended retaining the NIJ within the OJP but giving it increased independence and authority through clear qualifications for its director, control over its budget, and a statutory advisory board. It also recommended that the NIJ: (1) a focus on research rather than forensic capacity building activities,(2) increase funding for programs for graduate researchers, (3) increase transparency, and (4) do periodic self-assessments.[6]

Research areas

A police officer using a ballistic shield NIJ Level IIIA[further explanation needed]
NIJ directors (and acting directors)[7][8][9][10]
Name Dates
Ralph Siu October 21, 1968–March 1969
Robert L. Emrich (acting) February 1969–May 1969
Henry S. Ruth Jr. May 1969–June 1970
Irving Slott (acting) June 1970–September 1971
Martin Danziger September 1971–August 1973
Henry Scarr (acting) August 1973–October 1977
Gerald Caplan October 1973 – 1977
Blair Ewing (acting) 1977–1979
Harry Bratt (acting) 1979–1981
James Underwood (acting) 1981–1982
W. Robert Burkhart (acting) 1982
James K. Stewart 1982–1990
Charles B. DeWitt 1990–1993
Michael J. Russell (acting) 1993–1994
Carol V. Petrie (acting) 1994
Jeremy Travis 1994–2000
Julie Samuels (acting) 2000–2001
Sarah V. Hart 2001–2005
Glenn R. Schmitt (acting) 2005 – June 2007
David Hagy June 2007 – January 2009
Kristina Rose (acting) January 2009 – June 2010
John H. Laub July 22, 2010 – January 4, 2013
Greg Ridgeway (acting) June 2013–June 2014
William J. Sabol (acting) August 2014–February 2015
Nancy Rodriguez February 9, 2015 – January 13, 2017
Howard Spivak (acting) January 21, 2017–July 2017
David Muhlhausen July 25, 2017 – January 20, 2021
Jennifer Scherer (acting) January 20, 2021 – May 9, 2022
Nancy La Vigne May 9, 2022–present

NIJ is focused on advancing technology for criminal justice application including law enforcement and corrections, forensics, and judicial processes, as well as criminology, criminal justice, and related social science research. Much of this research is facilitated by providing grants to academic institutions, non-profit research organizations, and other entities, as well as collaborating with state and local governments. Areas of social science research include violence against women, corrections, and crime prevention, as well as program evaluation.[11]

Grants for technology development help facilitate research and development of technology and tools for criminal justice application, which is a need that the private sector is otherwise reluctant to meet. NIJ also supports development of voluntary equipment performance standards, as well as conducting compliance testing.[2] Areas of technology research and development include biometrics, communications interoperability, information technology, less-lethal technologies (e.g. tasers), and officer safety including bullet-proof vests. Crime mapping and analysis is a topic that includes both technology and social science (geography) aspects. The National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Centers, which are located throughout the United States, play a role in law enforcement technology development, testing, and dissemination.[11]

In the 2000s, NIJ developed the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.[12]

DNA initiative

A major area of research and support is for forensics and the president's DNA initiative. The Federal Bureau of Investigation developed the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) system as a central database of DNA profiles taken from offenders. In the late 1980s and 1990s, all of the states and the federal government required DNA samples to be collected from offenders in certain types of cases. The demand (casework) for DNA analysis in public crime laboratories increased 73% from 1997 to 2000, and by 2003, there was a backlog of 350,000 rape and homicide cases. In 2003, President George W. Bush proposed the Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology initiative, which would include $1 billion over five years to reduce backlogs, develop and improve capacity of state and local law enforcement to use DNA analysis, support research and development to improve the technology, and additional training for those working in the criminal justice system.[13]

Technical working groups

This section needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (March 2022)

Technical working groups (or TWGs) were created by the National Institute of Justice to create crime scene guides for state and local law enforcement.[14] The guides were individually developed by a separate Technical Working Group tasked with a single topic. The groups were a multidisciplinary group of content-area experts from across the United States. The groups included urban and rural jurisdictions as well as Federal agencies representatives. Each participating member was experienced in the area of crime scene investigation and evidence collection in the criminal justice system from the standpoints of law enforcement, prosecution, defense, or forensic science. The Technical Working Groups were designed to be short term in duration to respond to a topic. Longer term groups exist under other organizations such as the FBI's Scientific Working Group (SWG's) on Digital Evidence.

Technology Working Group topics have included:[15]

  1. Aviation
  2. Biometrics
  3. Body Armor
  4. Communications
  5. Community Corrections
  6. DNA Forensics
  7. Electronic Crime
  8. Explosive Device Defeat
  9. General Forensics
  10. Geospatial Technologies
  11. Information-Led Policing
  12. Institutional Corrections
  13. Less-Lethal Technologies
  14. Modeling and Simulation
  15. Officer Safety and Protective Technologies
  16. Personal Protection Equipment
  17. Pursuit Management
  18. School Safety
  19. Sensors and Surveillance
  20. Weapons Detection

During the several years of their existence they developed numerous guides including the following:

See also


  1. ^ "Compendium of National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Pamphlets". Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  2. ^ a b "The Evolution and Development of Police Technology" (PDF). National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC). July 1998. pp. vi–vii.
  3. ^ Tonry, Michael. "Building Better Policies on Better Knowledge". Archived from the original on 2007-03-02. Retrieved 2007-06-10.
  4. ^ Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice (1983). Federal Assistance to State and Local Law Enforcement Systems (hearing). Government Printing Office.
  5. ^ "Records of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration". National Archives. Retrieved 2007-06-10.
  6. ^ Center for Economic, Governance, and International Studies. (2010). Strengthening the National Institute of Justice. National Academies Press.
  7. ^ "25 Years of Criminal Justice Research". National Criminal Justice Reference Service. December 1994. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
  8. ^ "Speeches and Presentations: NIJ Directors". National Institute of Justice. Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
  9. ^ United States Congress House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime (1977). "Federal Role in Criminal Justice and Crime Research: Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Subcommittee on Domestic and International Scientific Planning, Analysis, and Cooperation of the Committee on Science and Technology, House of Representatives, Ninety-fifth Congress, First Session ..." U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  10. ^ National Research Council (2010). Strengthening the National Institute of Justice. The National Academies Press. p. 31. ISBN 9780309162944. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  11. ^ a b "2005 Annual Report" (PDF). National Institute of Justice. December 2006.
  12. ^ "About NamUs". Retrieved 2013-02-23.
  13. ^ "Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology" (PDF). White House / U.S. Department of Justice. March 2003.
  14. ^ National Institute of Justice, United States Department of Justice. "About NIJ". ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. ^ NIJ. "Current Technology Working Groups". ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ NIJ Technical Working Group. "Crime Scene Investigation: A Reference for Law Enforcement" (PDF). ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ NIJ Technical Working Group. "Death Investigation: A Guide for the Scene Investigator" (PDF). ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ NIJ Technical Working Group. "Fire and Arson Scene Evidence: A Guide for Public Safety Personnel" (PDF). ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ NIJ Technical Working Group. "Guide for Explosion and Bombing Scene Investigation" (PDF). ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ NIJ Technical Working Group. "Electronic Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide for First Responders" (PDF). ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  21. ^ NIJ Technical Working Group. "Electronic Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide for First Responders" (PDF). ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)