UofL Criminal Justice Research

Current Projects

The faculty of Criminal Justice at UofL are currently involved in a number of research projects, ranging in size and scope, concerning a variety of issues relevant to the practice of Criminal Justice. The purpose of this page is to summarize these projects.


Kentucky Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) Kit Backlog Research Project

Project Description: In 2017, The Kentucky Office of the Attorney General’s Office on Victims Advocacy provided funding for the Kentucky SAFE Kit Backlog Research Project to examine the problem of unsubmitted sexual assault forensic examination (SAFE) kits that were collected but never submitted to a crime lab for anlysis.  The SAFE KIT Backlog Research Project is employing a holistic research approach to examine this problem by providing data-driven insights into the statewide response to sexual assault.  The research team is collecting information to understand the factors that contributed to the number of unsubmitted SAFE kits, the characteristics associated with SAFE kits, kit submission rates throughout the Commonwealth, as well as testing results and case outcomes.  Additionally the project is evaluating the impact of efforts by the Sexual Assault Response Team Advisory Committee (SART-AC), the DANY Grant Sexual Assault Evidence Taskforce, the Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT), and the impact of Senate Bill 63 (SB 63) on responses to sexual assault in Kentucky.

The SAFE Kit Backlog Research Working group is comprised of members from the following groups:

  • Kentucky Office of the Attorney General’s Office of Victims Advocacy
  • Kentucky Office of the Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigations
  • Kentucky State Police Crime Laboratory
  • Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs
  • Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training
  • Kentucky Sexual Assault Response Team Advisory Committee

Project Staff -Bradley A. Campbell, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville &  David S. Lapsey, Doctoral Research Assistant, University of Louisville

Project Status   Ongoing (January 1, 2017 – Present)

Project Reports and Publications:

Project Report #1 – Kentucky SAFE Kit Backlog Research Project Initial Report: Data collection, Sources, Methods, and Research Questions (PDF)


School Climate, Student Discipline, and the Implementation of School Resource Officers

Project Description:  Although school resource officers (SROs) are one of the most common interventions for enhancing school safety, relatively little is known about their effects on schools. Existing theoretical frameworks and prior research indicate that SROs may have effects on both school climate and student discipline. However, there are competing perspectives that provide contradictory expectations about the effects of SROs—some indicate that SROs should improve school climate and decrease rates of student discipline whereas others indicate the opposite. Additionally, the few extant quantitative studies that have examined these relations are largely lacking in methodological rigor and are therefore unable to permit causal inferences. In light of these limitations to what is currently known, this study will use 16 waves of school-level data to estimate the impact of SRO implementation on school climate and student discipline in all the schools across a single public school district (N = 155). Moreover, it will examine expected heterogeneity across different races, school contexts, and SROs’ roles and responsibilities. To address these goals, this study will assemble a school-level data set from multiple data sources published annually from the 2000-01 to 2015-16 school years that provide information about student, parent, and school personnel perspectives on school climate, student discipline, and characteristics of school context. Additionally, this study will include the collection of primary data about the implementation of SROs district-wide as well as the roles and responsibilities of SROs within the school settings. Using a multiple group piecewise latent growth curve modeling approach, this study will exploit the longitudinal data to estimate trends in school climate and student discipline both before and after the implementation of SROs in schools as well as in a matched comparison group, allowing for stronger estimates of the causal effects of SRO implementation than are currently permitted in the extant literature. The qualitative interviews with SROs will be analyzed using a grounded theory approach to better understand how school context shapes the roles and responsibilities of SROs. When complete, this study has the potential to inform research on the effects of SROs, policies around the implementation and use of SROs, and practices within schools pertaining to how SROs interact with students and other relevant stakeholders.

Funding : Funded by the National Institute of Justice (total award amount: $370,307)

Project Staff:

Ben Fisher, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville (Principal Investigator)

Cherie Dawson-Edwards, Associate Professor, University of Louisville (Investigator)

Kristin Swartz, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville (Investigator)

Ethan Higgins, Doctoral Research Assistant, University of Louisville (Graduate Research Assistant)

Project Status - Ongoing (January 1, 2017 – Present)

Project Reports and Publications:


 Understanding the Adoption, Function, and Consequences of SRO Use in Understudied Settings

Project Description - The involvement of law enforcement in schools has never been higher than it is today, with law enforcement now present in a majority of public schools nationwide. However, to date there has been very little systematic empirical research that has documented the reasons why law enforcement personnel become involved with schools, what they do in schools, and the impacts they may have on schools and their constituent stakeholders. Moreover, a large portion of extant research in this field has focused on high-crime urban areas, and in secondary schools where the presence of law enforcement has traditionally been more prevalent.  Comparatively, there has been relatively little focus on schools in suburban environments and almost no focus on elementary schools.  This study seeks to investigate a common but understudied approach to school safety—the use of school resource officers (SROs)—within a setting that has received almost no attention in the empirical literature: elementary schools in a largely affluent, safe, high-performing school district.  We examine the use of SROs in a medium-sized suburban school district in the South that has considerable variability among schools along dimensions of student demographics, income, and rurality.  The district recently expanded the use of SROs to all elementary schools in the district.  Our work explores this expansion by addressing the following three questions: 1) Why and through what process were SROs implemented in WCS? 2) What roles and activities do SROs engage in within schools? 3) What impacts do SROs have on schools and students? 4) How do the roles and impacts of SROs differ across school contexts?  We will draw data from numerous sources.  We will interview all of the districts’ SROs, a sample of teachers and school leaders, and a sample of students and parents.  In addition, we will conduct full day observations of each of the SROs as well as have SROs complete time logs in which they document their activities over a two week period.  The interview and observation data will be supplemented with surveys of SROs and other stakeholders as well as analysis of official policy documents such as the memorandum of understanding between the law enforcement agency and the school district.  Qualitative analysis of each of these data sources will allow for a rich picture of the day to day activities of SROs and the implications of their use in the previously understudied domains of suburban schools and elementary grade levels.  Findings have the potential to inform policy and practice with regard to SRO use in settings that are increasingly experiencing the presence of SROs.

Funding: Funded by the National Institute of Justice (total award amount: $620,620)

Project Staff :

Ben Fisher, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville (co-Principal Investigator)

Chris Curran, Assistant Professor, UMBC (Principal Investigator)

Aaron Kupchik, Professor, University of Delaware (Senior Researcher)

Samantha Viano, Doctoral Research Assistant, Vanderbilt University (Project Coordinator)

Emily Hayden, Doctoral Research Assistant, University of Louisville (Graduate Research Assistant)

Project Status : Ongoing (January 1, 2017 – Present)

Project Reports and Publications:


Nashville Longitudinal Study of Youth Safety and Wellbeing

Project Description - Studies of youth violence and school safety have implicated a complex array of ecological and developmental factors that increase risk or protect children and adolescents from poor outcomes. Knowledge related to the interactions among these factors is limited due to the lack of multi-level, multi-sector, longitudinal data.   To address this limitation, Vanderbilt University and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) will develop a 4 cohort, multi-level study longitudinal study of youth safety and wellbeing.  The resulting dataset will include longitudinal survey and administrative data on achievement, disciplinary referrals and sanctions, social emotional competencies, school climate, community violence exposure, attitudes toward violence, and exposure to the juvenile justice system for more than 15,000 students from grades 1 – 12 in 144 schools.   In addition, this dataset will include measures of several ecological influences including the school environment (teacher/school staff training, resources, tenure, climate, and parent engagement), and neighborhood context (e.g., neighborhood economic structure, assets and resources, crime, housing and mobility).  An interdisciplinary team involving researchers, educators, city government, police, juvenile courts, and youth development workers will use this data to advance empirical research and support school and community initiatives related to understanding a) the role of neighborhood exposure to violence and disadvantage on students norms/attitudes, behaviors, and achievement, b) the role of school climate and access to resources in moderating neighborhood and student risks factors, c) the neighborhood, school, and student factors that affect racial/ethnic disparities in office disciplinary referrals and the use of exclusionary discipline, and d) the neighborhood, school and factors that influence students’ social and emotional competence.

Funding: Funded by the National Institute of Justice (total award amount: $4,916,000)

Project Staff:

Maury Nation, Associate Professor, Vanderbilt University (Principal Investigator)

Paul Speer, Professor, Vanderbilt University (co-Principal Investigator)

David Diehl, Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University (co-Principal Investigator)

Emily Tanner-Smith, Associate Professor, University of Oregon (co-Principal Investigator)

Ben Fisher, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville (Investigator)

Adam Voight, Assistant Professor, Cleveland State University (Investigator)

Judy Freudenthal, VP of Youth Engagement, Action and Program Evaluation, Oasis Center (Investigator)

Christina Stenson, Director of Research, Assessment & Evaluation, Metro Nashville Public Schools (Investigator)

Project Status : Ongoing (January 1, 2017 – Present)

Project Reports and Publications


Louisville Metro Police Department Citizens' Attitude Survey

Project Description: The purpose of the surveys conducted by the Louisville Metro Police Department is to measure citizens’ perceptions of neighborhood disorder/ order, fear of crime, and the services provided by the Louisville Metro Police Department.  The survey additionally addresses specific concerns about crime and public order problems within neighborhoods and variations in these perceptions across various demographic categories.  Since 2012, the Louisville Metro Police Department has contracted with the University of Louisville’s Department of Criminal Justice annually to develop and administer the survey as well as to analyze the survey results.  Further Description (pdf)

Project Staffing:  Deborah G. Keeling, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Criminal Justice; Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

Project Status: Ongoing since 2012

Project Reports and Publications:  The 2013 through 2016 versions of the annual Citizen’s Attitude Survey Report are posted on the LMPD Web Page - https://louisvilleky.gov/government/police/lmpd-transparency


LMPD Vehicle Stops Report

Project Description:  The Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) initiated the practice of collecting and analyzing vehicle stops information in 2004.  Data from vehicles stops were analyzed in 2004, 2005 and 2006.  The department re-initiated the analysis of vehicle stops information in January 2013 and reports from 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 have been completed.  These analyses assess patterns in vehicle stops made by police officers as a means of addressing biased-policing. The findings from this analysis are not  meant to be information from which a conclusion can be drawn concerning the presence or absence of biased-policing and/or racial profiling within an agency or unit within an agency.  The methodological issues related to determinations of the presence or absence of biased-policing are significant and no set of data or research design can conclusively determine the presence or absence of inappropriately based policing decisions and actions.  The information contained in these reports is to be used as a management tool for review by agency leadership and policy-makers.  The purpose is to provide law enforcement leadership with information that will stimulate further analysis, thought and queries that will prompt more effective policing within Metro Louisville.  It is part of a multi-faceted approach to addressing biased policing as suggested by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and developed through the Police Executive Research Forum.  The components include:

  • Accountability and supervision
  • Policies prohibiting biased policing
  • Recruitment and hiring
  • Education and training
  • Minority community outreach, and
  • Data collection and analysis.

Further desciption of project (pdf)

Project Staffing:

Deborah G. Keeling, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Criminal Justice; Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences University of Louisville

Angela Schwendau, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice Lindsey Wilson College

Project Status: Ongoing since 2013

Project Reports and Publications: 
The 2013 and 2014 Vehicle Stops Reports can be found on the LMPD Web Page at https://louisvilleky.gov/government/police/lmpd-transparency