Developing Technology Standards

NIJ follows a research, development, testing and evaluation process that aligns NIJ's portfolios with the technology needs of the criminal justice community. When that process determines that a standard is needed, NIJ has implemented a process to develop new and update existing standards by:

  • Convening Special Technical Committees to define the equipment requirements and ensure that practitioner needs are addressed. Learn more.
  • Publishing three documents for each standard that separately address the needs of practitioners, manufacturers and testing laboratories. Learn more.
  • Disseminating information to stakeholders and receiving their input. Learn more.
  • Establishing a process for regular and necessary revisions to existing standards. Learn more.

Special Technical Committee

NIJ establishes Special Technical Committees that collaborate to define the equipment requirements and ensure that practitioner needs are addressed. Special Technical Committees are similar to NIJ's Technology Working Groups.

Membership. The Special Technical Committees are practitioner-based committees of 20 to 25 experienced practitioners including scientists, subject matter experts, test laboratory personnel and conformity assessment experts associated with a particular NIJ standard development effort.

Practitioners on the committees include law enforcement, corrections and public safety officers with relevant experience and who represent stakeholder organizations, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Tactical Officers Association, the American Correctional Association, the National Sheriffs' Association and the National Bomb Squad Commanders Advisory Board.

Duration. Special Technical Committees are established on an ad hoc basis for approximately 14 to 24 months as needed to draft the standard. Frequently, relevant Technology Working Group members also serve on a Special Technical Committee.

Standards developed through this process represent consensus among the Special Technical Committee members and are submitted to NIJ for final approval.

Composition of Standard Package

The Special Technical Committee develops three interrelated documents that together form the complete standard package:

  1. Standard. The standard defines the minimum design and performance requirements that equipment must meet and the test methods used to assess performance. Although the purpose of an NIJ standard is to enhance the safety of officers, this document will typically be used by manufacturers and testing laboratories. Manufacturers are motivated to design products to meet NIJ standards because grant funds to buy equipment usually are granted with the stipulation that products meet standards.
  2. Conformity assessment requirements. Another step is to define requirements to ensure the equipment is tested and meets the standard, and this is accomplished through the conformity assessment requirements document. This document is written for certification bodies, testing laboratories and inspection bodies.
  3. Selection and application guide. The third leg of the Special Technical Committee process is providing information to law enforcement, corrections and public safety agency decision-makers, procurement officials and end users. The selection and application guide describes the standard and conformity assessment requirements in nontechnical terms and provides guidance on procurement, selection, use, maintenance, care and disposal of equipment. The topics covered in this document are identified by the practitioners on the committee and directly relate to the activities performed and encountered by law enforcement and corrections officers.

Disseminating and Listening to Stakeholders

During the development of a standard, NIJ conducts workshops with relevant vendors and manufacturers to give insight into the standard's evolving design and performance requirements. These workshops also inform the Special Technical Committee regarding to the vendors' views of those requirements. 

Prior to publication, the draft standard is provided for public comment.

Revising Existing Standards

Standards should be updated at least every five years but may be updated sooner if circumstances dictate. Updating standards at least every five years is not always possible. Of the 50 NIJ performance standards published over the past 30 years, more than half are inactive. Of the 16 active standards, one is nearly 30 years old and another 10 are more than a decade old.

Depending on their complexity, standards may be revised, through either a full Special Technical Committee process or through a "mini" Special Technical Committee process, which takes only 6-12 months.

Date Modified: December 11, 2009