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The DOJ is investing millions of dollars in research to spy on students at public schools nationwide


The Department of Justice’s National Institute for Justice funds law enforcement research to the tune of tens of millions of dollars each year. The full list of grants, posted each year, is a valuable insight into future of law enforcement trends in the United States. NIJ funding for 2014 appears to have primarily focused on two issue areas: school safety and clearing DNA backlogs at police departments across the country.

Among the dozens of projects that focus on school safety, there are some that appear progressive, at least judging from the limited amount of information available online. But while a slice of the funding explicitly aims to examine and interrupt the school to prison pipeline using restorative justice methodologies, a lot of the money is going toward research that will probably further entrench disparate outcomes based on race in the criminalizing trend in school discipline.

One of those projects is a City of Chicago Board of Education program called “Connect and Redirect to Respect (CRR),” which aims “to use social media monitoring to identify and connect youth to behavioral interventions.” In other words, the DOJ is giving $2.1 million dollars to the Chicago public schools to conduct research on how spying on student social media can impact school discipline. In New York, police spying on youth social media has resulted in the criminalization of speech.

Elsewhere, DOJ awarded nearly $2.5 million to the University of Virginia to study how “student threat assessment” is a “safe and supportive prevention strategy.” DOJ gave the Miami-Dade public schools $4.2 million for research on a project called “Enhancing School Safety Through Digital Intelligence: Evaluating Campus Shield.”

Among the projects DOJ funded that are not related to DNA testing or schools are the following:

  • Nearly $4 million to the private Rand Corporation to identify law enforcement technology needs;
  • $200,000 to Rand for something called the “Electronic Surveillance Continuation Project”;
  • About $500,000 to Carnegie Melon University for research into something called an “Adaptive Expert System that Learns to Detect and Track Patterns of Crime in Internet Advertisements”;
  • Follow-up funding, to reach a total of nearly $5 million, to FBI-connected private firm ManTech for “contactless finger print assessment”;
  • $261,000 to Arkansas State University to study internet “radicalization”;
  • About $4 million to war contractor Lockheed Martin “to operate a National Criminal Justice Technology Information Resource Center (NCJ-TIRC) within the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) System”;
  • $330,000 to Boston’s Children’s Hospital for research on “Gang Affiliation and Radicalization to Violent Extremism within Somali-American Communities”; and
  • $500,000 to the Chicago Police Department’s predictive policing program.

Read the full list of NIJ projects funded in 2014.