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KNOXVILLE — Grants totaling $4 million have been approved to enhance law enforcement research and studies at the University of Tennessee, U.S. Senators Bill Frist and Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) have announced.

A joint House and Senate committee agreed on $1 million to establish the UT National Forensic Science Institute and $3 million for UT’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center.

Final approval for the funding, which is part of the “Commerce, State and Justice Appropriations Bill,” is expected soon in the full House and Senate.

“The University of Tennessee has been an integral partner with the law enforcement community, already contributing significantly to research and training,” Frist said. “Funding these two centers will continue that success and greatly improve law enforcement capabilities statewide.

Thompson said the funding would ensure that Tennessee continues to be a leader in both the science and practice of law enforcement.

“The advances made at the NFSI and the LEIC will be of tremendous benefit to law enforcement agencies throughout the state,” Thompson said.

Mary Taylor, executive director of UT’s Institute for Public Service, said the forensic science institute would expand forensics research already ongoing at UT.

The center would foster research, provide training and enhance the development of technology to improve investigators’ ability to determine guilt or innocence, Taylor said.

“We already have a forensics academy funded by the state that trains local law enforcement officials on how to collect, identify and preserve evidence at a crime scene in ways that help lab officials work with evidence and solve the crime.

“This grant would allow us to expand that program and offer training throughout the nation.

“UT is uniquely qualified to support such a program with the expertise of the Forensic Anthropology Center and Research Facility and its existing collaboration with the Oak Ridge National Labs.”

The Law Enforcement Innovation Center funding increase would allow the center to purchase additional equipment and technology, which will position the center to become a national leader in law enforcement training and technology, Taylor said.

The center-s curriculum includes training programs in youth violence, drugs, police command and leadership.