Nancy Rodriguez, director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), addressed the Board of Directors of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) on June 2, 2016. NIJ is the research, development, and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Dr. Rodriguez was sworn in in February 2015, and comes to the role with extensive research and academic experience in criminal justice issues. From 1998 to 2012, she was a professor at Arizona State University's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and moved on to become their Associate Dean for Student Engagement in 2012.
In her remarks, Dr. Rodriguez shared some of NIJ's strategic priorities, and explored some ways that standards and conformance are already helping to support those initiatives.
NIJ has a strong research mission, and encourages multidisciplinary solutions to solving criminal justice challenges. In areas as diverse as body cameras, unmanned aircraft, closed-circuit television, license plate recognition technology, and body armor, the NIJ's Office of Science and Technology has created technical standards and conformity assessment programs, often working in close partnership with the private sector. Dr. Rodriguez cited NIJ's compliance with the guidance in the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (NTTAA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119, which advise agencies to work directly with private-sector standards developers in lieu of developing government-unique standards.
"It is in the public interest for NIJ scientists and engineers to participate in voluntary consensus standards development. It saves the government money, and improves the overall speed of standards development," she said.
She cited several specific projects of note, including collaboration with ASTM International on testing standards for ballistic resistant body armor, with the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI) on conformance measures for bomb suits, with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on respiratory protection equipment, and with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) on tactical cameras for surveillance and situational understanding.
Dr. Rodriguez also described the importance of an open standards development process, and in particular, one that engages the end user. Direct input from criminal justice practitioners is key to the development of a successful standard, and "the people who will use the equipment are best suited to understand what the equipment should be able to do."
Finally, she described how NIJ collaborates and coordinates with other government agencies that are working in this space, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
"Standards and conformance are critical to advancing the total criminal justice system," said Dr. Rodriguez. "Collaboration is fundamental to achieve our mission, and we welcome ANSI as a collaborator."
"I speak for everyone at ANSI in saying that we've truly enjoyed hosting Dr. Rodriguez and furthering the dialogue between the U.S. standardization community and the U.S. government on critical and innovative technology areas," concluded S. Joe Bhatia, ANSI president and CEO. "Our discussions were highly productive and informative, and we look forward to future opportunities to work closely with Dr. Rodriguez, with NIJ, and of course with the Department of Justice."