The goal of the NIJ CTP is to provide criminal justice practitioners with confidence that the products they use or the protective equipment they wear daily meet minimum performance requirements and perform as expected. However, the NIJ CTP’s initial evaluation (“initial type testing”) is limited to a specific set of samples that is destroyed by the end of the evaluation process. The destructive nature of this process makes it impossible to test every product before a practitioner uses it. In addition to this impracticality, testing large numbers of a given product would be prohibitively expensive and increase the cost of product development, which ultimately would be passed on to the purchaser.
To give practitioners additional confidence in the actual products they use, the NIJ CTP has implemented surveillance of manufacturers through the FIT program. The NIJ CTP operates this program, which relies on the concept that fielded products constructed the same as those products inspected and tested by the NIJ CTP should perform similarly.
Implementing this method requires a thorough record of the design and construction of the product samples that the NIJ CTP has inspected and tested. Subsequent periodic product inspections are then able to verify if the manufacturer continues to construct the product in the same way.
The NIJ CTP’s FIT surveillance program varies among product categories but may include at least one of the following:
- Inspection/testing of samples from the open market
- Inspection/testing of samples from a manufacturing location
- Assessment of the production process at a manufacturing location
- Manufacturer self-declaration of conformity
- Management system audits
For ballistic-resistant body armor, the FIT program sends independent third-party inspectors to all manufacturing locations (as identified by the applicant) of models currently listed on the NIJ Consumer Product List (CPL). As part of these random, unannounced inspections, inspectors verify the manufacturer’s material traceability records and then select armor samples for testing and inspection by the NIJ CTP. After an abbreviated series of tests conducted at an NIJ-approved test laboratory, the NIJ CTP inspects the samples that were used during the initial evaluation to verify that the construction matches the records provided at the assembly location, as well as those records on file with the NIJ CTP from the initial type test.
For autoloading pistols, applicants submit documentation annually to the NIJ CTP to verify that all models currently listed on the CPL continue to be manufactured using the same design and materials as originally submitted to the NIJ CTP for certification. For further details about the ongoing surveillance requirements for autoloading pistols, please refer to Section 10 of the NIJ CTP Autoloading Pistol Inspection Scheme.
If test or inspection results suggest variations from the original construction, the NIJ CTP investigates to determine if additional actions are needed. This may include issuing an NIJ Advisory or Safety Notice, testing and inspecting additional samples, and making production stops and/or possible recalls.
The ballistic-resistant body armor FIT program also uses management system audits to BA 9000 (ISO 9001 dependent) to provide additional confidence that armor is produced consistently. Learn more about BA 9000 here.
For more information, contact:
NIJ Compliance Testing Program (NIJ CTP)
P.O. Box 12194
3040 E. Cornwallis Road
Hermann Building, Room 216
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2194