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National Institute of Justice Event Highlights Law Enforcement’s Growing Reliance on Voluntary Consensus Standards


06/30/2017

The recent National Institute of Justice (NIJ) seminar, “Using Voluntary Standards and Conformity Assessment to Achieve NIJ’s Mission,” provided perspectives on the importance of standards from a full range of stakeholders—representing law enforcement, non-regulatory agency, and non-profit organization insights.

Mark Greene, division director, policy and standards, office of science and technology, NIJ, opened the June 27 session with an overview of the NIJ standards program and its components, and introduced speakers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), coordinator of federal agency reliance on private-sector voluntary consensus standards; the Fairfax County Police Department, offering the law enforcement community’s perspective; and the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI), which certifies products and equipment used in law enforcement activities.

Melissa Taylor, NIST, emphasized the critical role of data in the forensic space – at the research, development, testing and evaluation and implementation stages. She noted that NIST and NIJ are collaborating to address law enforcement data needs, citing the Biometric and Forensic Research Dataset Catalog and the Ballistic Toolmark Research Database.

Jeff Horlick, NIST, spoke about the value of conformity assessment to build user confidence, assure competently conducted testing and certification, and mitigate the inherent risk associated law enforcement activities. He explained that NIST is working with both NIJ and the U.S. Department of the Army to harmonize law enforcement and defense requirements for similar products, equipment, and scenarios—encouraging greater reliance on voluntary consensus standards.

Reflecting on real-world risks faced by police departments, Lt. Alan L. Hanson of the Fairfax County Police Department cited upticks in violent civil disturbances. As a member of the Metropolitan District of Washington’s Council of Governments, Lt. Hanson has worked to identify and support the adoption of BS (British Standard) 7871 as an interim regional standard for civil disturbance unit personal protective equipment (CDU PPE).

Lt. Hanson also highlighted the importance of partnerships, including those with NIJ, NLETC (National Law Enforcement Training Center), Intertek Testing Services, and SEI as examples. He commended NIJ for convening, on May 16-17, 2017, a national meeting on CDU PPE, involving 25 law enforcement agencies and 16 agencies from the national capital region, to discuss an interim CDU PPE standards strategy.

Bill Fitihian of SEI spoke about the organization’s certification programs in the law enforcement space. Now a subsidiary of ASTM International, SEI’s product certification program is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). He spoke to the value of SEI certification in risk mitigation, since SEI checks manufacturing processes annually for products that they have certified and also when updates to either the product or the related standard occur. SEI maintains a searchable database of certified products for users.

“NIJ has also been engaging in recent years with private-sector standards developing organizations and conformity assessment bodies to leverage their interest in standardizing, testing, and certifying products used by public safety end users,” said Greene in a recent ANSI interview.

For related coverage on NIJ’s presentation at the ANSI Board of Directors in 2016, see the ANSI article.

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