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Gary LaFree selected as new Chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice


Gary LaFree selected as new Chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice

December 5, 2017Staff Reports

Dr. Gary LaFree will serve as the new Chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJS) at the University of Maryland (UMD), beginning July 1, 2018. Dr. LaFree has been a faculty member at the university since 2000 and is the founding director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) housed at UMD.

“While we conducted a rigorous international search for a new CCJS chair, it has long been apparent that there are no better qualified experts on criminology and criminal justice than those among our own, top-ranked faculty,” said Gregory F. Ball, Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. “Gary has long been a respected leader on teaching, research and scholarship—on our campus, across the nation and around the world. His work in both CCJS and START has transformed global understanding of terrorism, criminology and policy. We are proud to have him leading CCJS into a new era of excellence."

LaFree served as President of the American Society of Criminology (ASC) in 2005 and is a Fellow of the ASC. LaFree’s research focuses on the causes and consequences of violent crime and terrorism. He received his Ph.D. from Indiana University and has authored several books, the most recent of which include “Putting Terrorism in Context” (with Laura Dugan and Erin Miller) and “Countering Terrorism” (with Marsha Crenshaw).

“I am honored to step into this role and eager to get to work to maintain the department’s strong standing within the discipline and to position our department as a worldwide leader in the scientific study of crime and the criminal justice system,” LaFree said.

LaFree succeeds Dr. James Lynch who served as chair of CCJS for five years. Dr. Sally Simpson is serving as interim chair for the 2017/2018 academic year. William Braniff will replace LaFree as the director of START in July of 2018.

LaFree has served as the director of start for 12 years, beginning at the same time START was created in 2005. He has participated as a lead investigator on almost two dozen START projects including the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). He has received numerous awards for his scholarship, teaching and leadership, including the University’s Dean’s Medal and Distinguished Scholar Teacher Award from the University of Maryland, and a Distinguished Service Award and Certificate of Recognition from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.

“Gary has built a unique and invaluable consortium that empowers START researchers and the greater research community by privileging data sharing and interdisciplinary collaboration over competition, that demands academic rigor, and that doesn’t shy away from informing the contentious arena of counterterrorism policy and practice with empirical research,” Braniff said. “Under his leadership, START has played a central role in galvanizing the scientific study of terrorism internationally, an incredible accomplishment, and a mission that we are all very proud to continue to champion in partnership with Gary and CCJS into the future.”

Braniff has been the Executive Director of START since 2012 and is a Professor of the Practice at the University of Maryland. He previously served as the Director of Practitioner Education and an Instructor at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC). There he led the practitioner education program, the nation’s largest provider of counterterrorism education to federal, state and local governmental audiences. Braniff lectures frequently for counterterrorism audiences in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joint Special Operations University, National Defense University, the United States Attorneys’ Office, the Foreign Service Institute, the Diplomatic Security Service, Defense Intelligence Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Braniff’s goals for START include preserving START’s foundational terrorism datasets and the scientific study of terrorist behavior, and complementing that research agenda with a greater focus on the scientific study of counterterrorism in the years to come.

“I am confident that Bill will take the research, education and outreach programs of START to new heights in the years ahead,” LaFree said. “I can think of no better successor and I look forward to continuing to work with START.”