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Focus Areas

Agency Workforce and Workplace Challenges

Strengthening the health and performance of employees and organizations through research, practical solutions, and data-driven evaluation

Law enforcement and their forensic partner agencies—including crime laboratories and medical examiner and coroner offices—are complex organizations and face numerous challenges including with their internal operations and the well-being of their staff. The RTI Center for Policing Research and Investigative Science’s research addresses issues concerning health and wellness, recruitment and retention, and understanding officer behavior and the impact that it has on police operations and stress and resiliency among medicolegal death investigators.

Working with federal partners and with local law enforcement agencies, we are examining ways law enforcement agencies can better recruit women and, in turn, increase female representation in the policing workforce. To better understand how stressful incidents affect officers and their decisions, we partnered with the Durham Police Department in North Carolina to monitor police officers’ levels of emotional and physical stress through personal wearable devices. We are furthering this work through a partnership with the International Association of Coroners & Medical Examiners to investigate ways to combat burnout and promote workforce resiliency in the medicolegal death investigation field.

Project Highlight

Medicolegal Death Investigator (MDI) Health and Wellness

To understand how stress and trauma manifest among MDIs and to identify moderators in the relationship between exposures to stress and trauma and health and well-being outcomes, RTI is conducting a two-part study to examine MDIs’ experiences of work-related stress, trauma, and organizational supports through a national survey. We are also implementing a mixed-methods impact study to test the effectiveness of a mindfulness intervention to reduce the effects of work-related stress and trauma on this workforce.

Project Highlight

Women in Policing

There are multiple benefits to increased representation of women in policing—including greater trust between community members and police—yet agencies still struggle to recruit and hire women proportionally to the communities they serve. Extant research has failed to illuminate the processes by which different recruiting strategies and materials impact recipients’ attitudes and behaviors. Using the concepts of person-environment fit and diversity climate, RTI is using randomized controlled trials in both lab and field settings to help researchers and police practitioners understand (1) barriers and facilitators to increased representation of women in policing and (2) recruiting content and strategies to draw more women into the field.

Project Highlight

Criminal Justice Testing and Evaluation Consortium (CJTEC)

CJTEC informs the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) research and development efforts, as well as standards and testing for law enforcement body armor. The project assists criminal justice practitioners, policymakers, researchers, federal partners, and private industry by conducting technology evaluations; administering the NIJ Compliance Testing Program; and supporting the development, validation, and maintenance of criminal justice equipment standards.