WASHINGTON, DC ( release) Friday, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that Buffalo native Denise E. O’Donnell has been confirmed as the next director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) within the Department of Justice. Schumer recommended O’Donnell for the top post, and President Obama nominated her to fill this key position that is responsible for funneling federal resources and assistance to state and local police departments. From Buffalo, Denise O’Donnell most recently worked as New York’s top criminal justice official, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, from 2009 to 2010, and oversaw a portfolio for the Governor’s Office which included 11 homeland security and criminal justice agencies.
“I am thrilled that Buffalo’s own Denise O’Donnell will take the helm at the Bureau of Justice Assistance,” said Schumer. “I know from experience that Denise O’Donnell is the perfect person to lead this key agency. She’ll do a terrific job leading the BJA as they coordinate with state and local law enforcement in the fight against drugs, gang violence, and violent crime. Police departments throughout New York and across the country will have the backing they need to get the job done thanks to Denise’s leadership.”
Most recently, As New York State Deputy Secretary for Public Safety from 2009 to 2010, Denise E. O'Donnell oversaw a portfolio for the Governor’s Office of 11 homeland security and criminal justice agencies, including the Division of Criminal Justice Services, the Office of Homeland Security, the Division of State Police and the Department of Correctional Services. In that position O’Donnell oversaw approximately 40,000 employees, about 19% of the state workforce.
Throughout her career thus far, Denise O’Donnell has also worked as a lawyer, prosecutor, executive level manager, policy maker and professional social worker. She has served in a number of high level executive positions in the criminal justice system, setting her up for Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance. O’Donnell started serving as Assistant United States Attorney to serve as presidentially appointed United States Attorney in the Western District of New York. She is a former Vice-Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Justice. O’Donnell also served as New York State Homeland Security Advisor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and coordinated the State’s efforts with the NY/NJ Joint Terrorism Task Force, NYPD, New York State Intelligence Center, and Task Force Empire Shield.
Denise O’Donnell brings a strong public policy and planning background to her work in public safety, including a Masters Degree in Social Work and experience in community mental health, substance abuse and recovery, child welfare and community revitalization. O’Donnell recently chaired the Commission on Sentencing Reform, in which she expanded intelligence driven policing, established high tech crime analysis centers across New York, rejuvenated New York’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, and developed a statewide re-entry plan for criminal justice agencies. O’Donnell received the prestigious 2009 Award for Excellence in Public Service from the New York State Bar Association. She currently serves as a member of the Chief Judge’s Justice Task Force to prevent wrongful convictions, the Conviction Integrity Panel of the New York County District Attorney, and the Criminal Justice Council of the New York City Bar Association.
A native of Buffalo, New York, Ms. O’Donnell was the first person in her family to graduate from college. She went on to obtain a master’s degree in social work from the State University of New York at Buffalo and spent a decade in the trenches, focusing on child abuse and neglect, substance abuse and community mental health issues. Ms. O'Donnell enrolled in law school in 1978. While studying at the University at Buffalo Law School, Ms. O'Donnell worked as a legal assistant for the Citizens Council on Human Relations on a landmark school desegregation case. She graduated summa cum laude and spent the next three years as law clerk to Appellate Division, Fourth Department, Justice M. Dolores Denman.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance supports law enforcement, courts, corrections, treatment, victim services, technology, and prevention initiatives that strengthen the nation’s criminal justice system. BJA provides leadership, services, and funding to America’s communities by serving a variety of functions. Goals of the Bureau of Justice Assistance include emphasizing local control, and providing training and technical assistance in support of efforts to prevent crime, drug abuse, and violence at the national, state, and local levels. The BJA also aims to streamline the administration of grants, create accountability of projects, and to encourage innovation in the field. Ultimately, the Bureau aims to communicate the value of justice efforts to decision makers at every level.