Follow-up Inspection and Testing (Surveillance)

The goal of the NIJ Compliance Testing Program (CTP) is to provide criminal justice practitioners with confidence that the fielded products in their hands meet requirements and perform as expected. However, the NIJ CTP’s initial evaluation is limited to a specific set of samples that are often unusable (even destroyed) by the end of the evaluation process. The destructive nature of this process makes it impossible to test every product before its use by a practitioner. (In addition, this would be prohibitively expensive.)

In order to give practitioners additional confidence in the actual products they use, the NIJ CTP has implemented surveillance of manufacturers through the Follow-up Inspection and Testing (FIT) program. The FIT program operated by the NIJ CTP relies on the idea that fielded products constructed the same as those products inspected and tested by the NIJ CTP should perform similarly.

Implementation of this method requires a thorough record of the design and construction of the product samples inspected and tested by the NIJ CTP. Subsequent periodic inspections of products 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 from product category to product category, but may include one or more 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.
  • Management system audits.

For example, for ballistic-resistant body armor, the FIT program sends independent third-party inspectors to all manufacturing locations of models currently participating in the NIJ CTP. Those inspectors verify the manufacturer’s material traceability records, then select armor samples for testing and inspection by the NIJ CTP. After an abbreviated series of tests based on those used during the initial evaluation, the samples are inspected by the NIJ CTP to verify the construction matches the records.

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 testing and inspection of additional samples, 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.

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