Improving the Criminal Justice Response to Terrorism

To help improve the criminal justice system's, including local law enforcement's, ability to prevent and investigate incidents of terrorism, NIJ has sponsored research on policing in Arab communities; how terrorism laws impact State and local criminal justice operations, police work with public health agencies; and the role of prosecutors, case studies from 9/11, and terrorist group learning processes.

The Role of Prosecutors. Recently, a number of States have passed antiterrorism legislation that has refocused prosecutors' responsibility in investigating terrorist cases. Prosecutors have begun to change their process for screening, investigating, and prosecuting certain criminal offenses; emphasize intelligence collection; and pay increased attention to precursor crimes such as identity theft, fraudulent documents creation, and money laundering. More prosecutors will develop a well-defined role for their offices in responding to terrorism as they have an opportunity to use the updated legislation.

Learn more about this project in  Local Prosecutors' Response to Terrorism.

An Assessment of Defense and Prosecutorial Strategies in Terrorism Trials: Implications for State and Federal Prosecutors. (University of Arkansas) This project involves an analysis of approximately 700 prosecutions of politically motivated terrorism-related offenses. Multiple secondary data sources will be used to examine various issues related to prosecutions, including assessing the relationship between prosecutorial and defense strategies, defendant behavior, the impact of 9/11 on cases, and factors affecting terrorists' decisions to plead guilty or go to trial. Additionally, this study will enhance the American Terrorism Study database with these related strategies.

Improving the Relationship Between Law Enforcement and Arab-American Communities. NIJ funded one of the first studies undertaken to examine the effects of 9/11 on domestic law enforcement agencies and communities with high concentrations of Arab-American residents. In each of the study's sites, Arab-Americans described heightened levels of public suspicion exacerbated by increased media attention and targeted government policies.

Despite their concern about increases in hate victimization, Arab-Americans expressed greater concern about being victimized by Federal policies and practices than by individual acts of harassment or violence. Arab-Americans reported a fair amount of goodwill toward their local law enforcement agencies, even when they had little interaction with the police, but their perceptions of Federal law enforcement officials were less positive. Even though most FBI field offices in the study had reached out to Arab-American communities, many Arab-Americans remained fearful and suspicious of Federal efforts.

In all cases, law enforcement and community members expressed a desire for improved relations. Nonetheless, few jurisdictions actively adopted programs or policies in an effort to improve relations. In jurisdictions that adopted community policing measures to improve relationships, the researchers found meaningful partnerships that had better success at addressing concerns about local and national security.

Learning From 9/11: Comparative Case Studies of the Law Enforcement Response in New York . (Police Executive Research Forum) To better understand the elements of the critical incidents and to distill lessons to be learned, this is a comparative case study of the responses in the New York City and Arlington County police departments to 9/11/01. The project will create a framework for the analysis of critical incident management systems, based on the four major components of such systems: Prevention/Preparedness; Response/Crisis Management; Consequences Management; and Mitigation/Prevention.

A Cross-National Comparison of Interagency Coordination Between Public Health and Law Enforcement. (Research Triangle Institute) Investigation of how public health surveillance systems can be mechanisms for communication among and coordination of law enforcement and public health responses to terrorism. The study compares procedures in the U.S., Canada, and United Kingdom.

Impact of Terrorism on State Law Enforcement: Adjusting to New Roles and Changing Conditions. (Council of State Governments) This study examined State-level terrorism-related responsibilities and their implications for State police and criminal justice systems. It identified specific needs and suggested specific practices and procedures for State agencies to address their needs and to improve communication, cooperation, and collaboration with agencies at other levels of government.

Date Created: November 8, 2007