James P. Lynch, President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today that, if confirmed, he would ensure that the statistical body was independent and free from political manipulation.
The bureau, which serves as a clearinghouse for crime and criminal justice statistics, came under scrutiny in 2005, when its director, Lawrence A. Greenfeld, was allegedly demoted after he complained about a decision by the Justice Department to play down statistics on the hostile police handling of black and Hispanic drivers. Read the New York Times article on the dismissal here.
Lynch sat on a National Research Council panel that recommended last July that the BJS become independent of the Office of Justice Programs in the DOJ hierarchy to avoid political pressures. Read the National Research Council report, which was sponsored by the DOJ, here.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary panel, said he didn’t support the recommendations. He said putting the BJS directly under the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General would not help keep politics out of the bureau.
“The more you get prominent, the more you get politicized,” Sessions said at the nomination hearing.
Lynch said at the hearing that he would make certain that the bureau can be trusted. “The way you do that is the same way you always do that: You provide accurate, timely and useful data,” the nominee said.
Obama tapped Lynch for the post on Oct. 29. He is a criminal justice professor at John Jay College at the City University of New York. He also serves as the American Society of Criminology’s vice president-elect. He has published numerous articles and books on criminal justice statistics.
If confirmed, he would replace acting director Michael Sinclair. Lynch would be the first presidentially appointed bureau director since Jeffrey Sedgwick resigned in 2008 to lead the Office of Justice Programs.
Read more about Lynch here and read information the committee received about him here.