NIJ Sets Standards with Office of Law Enforcement Standards

By Russell, Thomas J.; Rice, Kirk D. | Corrections Today, August 2000 | Go to article overview

NIJ Sets Standards with Office of Law Enforcement Standards


Russell, Thomas J., Rice, Kirk D., Corrections Today


The standards program of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) was established to provide the criminal justice community, purchasers and manufacturers with information useful for the selection, procurement and evaluation of law enforcement, crime prevention and correctional equipment. The standards are prepared by the Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES) as part of NIJ's overall Law Enforcement and Corrections Standards and Testing Program, which includes developing standards and test protocols, equipment testing and teat result publication. OLES is part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is part of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration.

OLES: 29 Years of Standard Bearing

OLES, formerly the Law Enforcement Standards Laboratory, was established as a matrix management organization in 1971 through an understanding between the departments of Justice and Commerce and was based on a 1967 recommendation from the President's Commission on Crime. NIJ is the primary sponsor of OLES projects, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the FBI, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the Office of Management and Budget also occasionally support projects.

NIST's mission is to promote U.S. economic growth by working with industry, universities and other government agencies to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards. Similarly, the mission of OLES is to apply science and technology to help its customers acquire high-quality resources. OLES focuses on the development of minimum performance standards, which are promulgated by NIJ as voluntary national standards. In addition, OLES:

* Develops methods for examining evidentiary materials;

* Develops standards for equipment and operating procedures;

* Develops standard reference materials; and

* Performs other scientific and engineering research, as required by NIJ.

OLES has published, mostly through NIJ, more than 200 standards, guides and technical reports during its 29 years. Studies and standards have focused on emergency vehicle warning systems, police clothing, components of intrusion alarm systems, physical security of door and window assemblies, metal detection systems, metal and explosive vapor detectors, arson accelerant detectors and narcotic test kits. OLES also developed standard reference materials for glass comparisons, reference collections of automobile paints, synthetic fibers, gunpowder additives, and DNA identification and detection for forensic laboratories.

Development and Usage of Standards

Working with NIJ, OLES identifies needed performance standards and develops a rank order for addressing solutions. In preparing the NIJ standards, OLES obtains input from many different sources. Standards from groups such as the American National Standards Institute, the American Society for Testing and Materials and numerous international standards organizations are examined for test procedures that may be appropriate. Federal specifications, military specifications, and standards developed by state and local governments also are evaluated. NIJ and OLES identify collaborators with the technical expertise to develop a new procedure only when it has been determined that existing test methods are inadequate or that no appropriate methods are available.

Before a standard is published, it is reviewed and evaluated by potential users, manufacturers, and government and private experts. This is to establish performance limits high enough to screen out inferior products, but not so high that no product will pass its tests, and to encourage manufacturers to market products that exceed the minimum requirements.

Two significant features are implicit in NIJ standards. …

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NIJ Sets Standards with Office of Law Enforcement Standards
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