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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at the National Institute of Justice National Research Conference


Arlington, VA
United States

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Amy, for that kind introduction. And thank you for your leadership of the Office of Justice Programs and its science agencies.

And thank you, Nancy La Vigne, Director of the National Institute of Justice, for having the vision to bring this conference back after a 12-year hiatus.

I particularly like the conference theme: “Evidence to Action.”

Far too often, research findings do not reach the people who can best use them to improve outcomes for individuals and communities. 

This conference  which brings together researchers, practitioners, and policymakers  gives us an opportunity to bridge that divide.

I also want to recognize Alex Piquero, the Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Alex, I know that you and Nancy are making important efforts to reach a diverse set of practitioner and policymaker audiences throughout the country. Thank you both.

And thank you to the staff of NIJ  representing scientists, grant managers, communications professionals, and operations team members.

I know that planning this gathering represents just a fraction of the work you are doing every day. I am grateful to each of you.

Finally, I want to express my gratitude to all of our partners who are here today.

You are taking time away from your work and home to exchange knowledge and identify new ways that research evidence can improve criminal justice policies and practices.

Welcome. And thank you for being here.

The Justice Department has a broad and wide-ranging mission: to uphold the rule of law, to keep our country safe, and to protect civil rights.

In pursuit of that mission, and together with our partners in communities and law enforcement agencies across the country, we work to meet some of the most urgent challenges our country faces.

Good data and sound science are essential to every part of that effort.

Research is essential to the development of new technologies, policies, and programs that help the Justice Department fulfill its mission.

And rigorous evaluation helps tell us what works. Importantly, it also tells us how and why programs work, so we can replicate and build on their success.

For example, when it comes to keeping our country safe, we know that research and data are critical tools in our fight against gun violence.

Professionals across the Department are involved in our work to prevent and combat gun violence.

Experts from the ATF work every day with their state and local partners to coordinate comprehensive crime gun tracing and ballistics evidence analysis.

Our prosecutors bring cases against those responsible for the greatest violence.

And we invest in evidence-informed, community-centered initiatives aimed at preventing and disrupting that violence.

Earlier this year, I traveled to St. Louis where the Department hosted our partners for a first-of-its-kind convening on community violence intervention strategies.

As I said at that meeting, the Department is encouraging grantees to collaborate with researchers to conduct rigorous evaluations of their program models.

We know that research will help us build more effective programs that are rooted in a deeper understanding of effective violence reduction strategies.

NIJ grantees are on the frontlines of this work.

For example, NIJ has invested resources in the development of “Risk Terrain Modeling,” an analytic method that helps local governments better understand the relationship between a community’s physical conditions and crime.

Through this method, cities can develop tailored strategies to prevent and disrupt violence in collaboration with the people experiencing it.

Grantees have also conducted essential research related to understanding, and preventing, mass shootings.

This includes the development of a mass attack defense toolkit.

That toolkit is an evidence-informed guide to deterring, detecting, and stopping plots to commit mass shootings and other mass attacks.

Researchers studying the tragedy of mass shootings in schools have identified the impact of measures like threat assessments, tip lines, and safe storage of firearms in reducing the risk of those shootings.

NIJ’s grantees also have a critical role to play in the Department’s effort to protect our communities from deadly fentanyl.

Research featured at this conference demonstrates the value of methods for the early detection of emerging drugs that are subject to misuse.

Those methodologies can aid in understanding and addressing national challenges like the fentanyl epidemic.

I also appreciate the growing body of research by NIJ grantees studying officer wellness, training, and accountability.

This knowledge will help guide our efforts to provide the support that police officers need and to help build trust between police and the communities they serve.

As I have said many times to the Justice Department’s workforce, our responsibility to uphold the rule of law is one that must guide all of our work.

The rule of law dictates that our prosecutors treat like cases alike, that there not be one rule for the powerful and another for the powerless; one rule for the rich and another for the poor.

The rule of law dictates that we apply the law in a way that respects the Constitution.

I am grateful that NIJ has funded research on how prosecutors can better use data to drive decision-making in the pursuit of those principles and achieve more just outcomes.

Finally, I am grateful for the work NIJ grantees have done to help the Department fulfill its founding purpose to protect civil rights.

Grantees have conducted important research that strengthens our efforts to combat and prevent hate crimes, improve hate crimes reporting, and address the needs of victims.

In short, across the wide breadth of the Department’s responsibilities – your work informs ours.

I know the efforts I have noted are just a small sample of the work being done by NIJ’s grantees across the country and by so many of you in this room.

I am sorry that I can’t mention every single one.

But I can say that we are grateful to count everyone in this room as our partner in upholding the rule of law, keeping our country safe, and protecting civil rights.

Thank you for being here today.

I look forward to our continued work together in the days ahead.

Updated May 23, 2023