Understanding the new NIJ body armor standard
In July 2008, the National Institute of Justice released NIJ Standard-0101.06, Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor, the latest evolution in standards by which law enforcement protective vests are measured. The “.06” standard “establishes minimum performance requirements and test methods for the ballistic resistance of personal body armor designed to protect the torso against gunfire.” It supersedes NIJ 2005 Interim Requirements, Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor (August 2005) and also supersedes NIJ Standard-0101.04 Rev. A, Ballistic Resistance of Personal Body Armor (June 2001).
In mid-December, the NIJ granted authorization to the Compliance Testing Program (CTP) to begin accepting applications for participation. Most recently, the CTP announced that the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has approved five independent ballistic test laboratories to conduct compliance testing.
What does all this mean?
Any officer who today has a vest that meets the existing standard should continue to wear it. But the NIJ in particular wants agencies and individuals who are planning to purchase a new ballistic vest to seriously consider getting one that complies with the new .06 standard.
This begs the question, “What vests will meet that standard, and when will they be on the market?” The race is now on for manufacturers to submit for testing new models they hope will meet the new standard. PoliceOne could not get any more specifics from the NIJ, but we were able to speak with several industry sources.
“We’re telling departments that the new .06 standard does not negate the .04 standard,” says Georg L. Olsen, General Manager for U.S. Armor. “It’s important to note that with the record number of thousands of saves under the .04 standards, there is a very compelling argument that the standard is still viable. The only time an agency would be required to buy vests under the .06 standard is if they want matching BVP funds. As a company, however, we are certifying product to the .06 standards and approaching the process cautiously as it evolves.”
Ed Hinchey, Armor Technical Specialist and Law Enforcement Liaison for Safariland, says that his company expects to be shipping product to the testing facilities in the next couple of weeks.
“I can’t speak for any of the other companies, but our initial batch will be about eight different architectures for submission,” Hinchey says. “The key thing for us, and we’re excited about it, is that this going to force increased performance against the threats that we have in law enforcement today, better reliability, and improved durability. The huge jump in the number of samples we have to submit—and they’ve also standardized the size of the test samples, which we’re really happy about—takes any kind of fluctuation out of the game and makes it a really exact science. We’re real happy about it.”
The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act (BVPGA), which is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), provides assistance funds—as much as half of the purchase price—for body armor that complies with NIJ Standards.
Hinchey points out that the existing BVP funding is still being shared between the .04 and the .06 standard. “We just don’t know how much longer they’re going to attach that (standard)...at some point in time we fully anticipate the NIJ and the folks that handle the BVP funding attaching it to the .06 to kind of spur departments to take a hard look at the .06 specs versus the previous specs.”
For more information on grant funding, take a look at the resources on PoliceGrantsHelp.com, which include tips on how to write grant proposals, such as Michael Paddock’s 15 FAQs for Law Enforcement and the Police Grants Research.
Hinchey says that the new standard should increase officers’ belief in the performance of their armor. “There are so many more data points for the officer to rely on, it should allow them a much more informed choice. They’ll be able to look at a much wider range of protocols and data.”
Consequences—both intended and unintended—of this new standard will begin to emerge in coming months, and PoliceOne will continue to update this story as additional information becomes available. If you have thoughts you’d like to share, you can do so by sending us an email.
The five NIJ-approved laboratories eligible to begin compliance testing are:
H.P. White Laboratory
ICS Laboratories, Inc.
Oregon Ballistic Laboratories, LLC
United States Test Laboratory
Information on all NIJ-approved laboratories is posted on the JUSTNET Web site, located at www.justnet.org.
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