National Institute of Justice Law Enforcement Advancing Data and Science Program, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Natalie Todak, a law enforcement researcher and assistant professor in UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences Department of Criminal Justice.Four junior policing researchers were selected to be the inaugural class of the
The NIJ LEADS Program, in partnership with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, was originally established in 2014 as a way to advance evidence-based policing by supporting the development of research-minded law enforcement personnel.
This year, NIJ is piloting a new branch of the LEADS Program to early career academics.
LEADS academics will provide guidance and training to LEADS scholars regarding research methodology and ethical concerns associated with conducting research.
“I believe the primary reason for being selected is my experience collecting original data with police agencies,” Todak said. “I spent three years in Spokane, Washington, working on two studies with the Spokane PD. During that time, I went on dozens of ride-alongs, attended trainings, and conducted interviews and focus groups.”
All LEADS scholars will help the LEADS academics improve their understanding and skills related to working with law enforcement agencies and practitioners.
“I am working with Jefferson County sheriffs, Midfield PD, Adamsville PD and Hoover PD on an evaluation of their body-work camera programs,” Todak said. “Our goal is to understand officer, deputy and citizen perceptions of body-worn cameras in the Birmingham area.”
LEADS scholars are mid-career police officers who show particular interests and talents in conducting empirical research in their own agencies. Each LEADS scholar receives a three-year scholarship, travel funding and support to pursue research opportunities and networking.
Over the past three years, Todak has been heavily involved with the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing, an organization run by law enforcement personnel that encourages practitioner-led research and police-researcher partnerships.
“As part of my involvement with ASEBP, I have developed invaluable police contacts and carried out original research in partnership with officers from across the country,” Todak said. “Currently, I am working on a national study of women on elite police specialty units, and another on women in leadership positions in law enforcement, with Sgt. Renee Mitchel, Sacramento PD; and Lt. Rachel Tolber, Redlands PD.”
Todak is collaborating with Tolber and Justice Clearinghouse to host a webinar on promoting women to police leadership positions.
In November 2018, Todak was asked to participate in a Summit on Women in Policing, a two-day event involving 100 female police officers, leaders, researchers and policymakers, all with the same goal of furthering the status of women in policing.
|“UAB is the perfect setting for a researcher who wants to make a difference in their field. I have been encouraged by my chair Jeffery Walker and the Criminal Justice faculty to pursue networking, research and funding opportunities, and no accomplishment goes unrecognized. A number of the faculty, including Heith Copes, Beth Gardner, Martha Earwood, Kay Morgan and others, have been invaluable mentors to me as I navigate my new academic career.” - Natalie Todak|
“I think my involvement in both of these events, combined with my previous research experience, was instrumental in helping me to get selected,” Todak said.
“UAB is the perfect setting for a researcher who wants to make a difference in their field,” Todak said. “I have been encouraged by my chair Jeffery Walker and the Criminal Justice faculty to pursue networking, research and funding opportunities, and no accomplishment goes unrecognized. A number of the faculty, including Heith Copes, Beth Gardner, Martha Earwood, Kay Morgan and others, have been invaluable mentors to me as I navigate my new academic career.”
“This is a great honor for the department and for Natalie,” said Jeffery Walker, Ph.D., professor and chair of UAB’s Department of Criminal Justice. “This is a highly respected program of the National Agency for Criminal Justice Research. It is an honor for any faculty member to be selected for the program, but especially someone as early in her career as Natalie. This is evidence of the impact she is making in the discipline.”