Focusing on four different areas of technology, the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs (OJP) began four technology-based centers of excellence (COE). Working within the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) system, each center provides expertise in either: communications; forensics; sensors, surveillance and biometrics; or weapons and protective systems.
"The centers serve as the authoritative resource within the NLECTC system for both practitioners and developers in their technology areas," explains Dr. John Morgan, deputy director for Science and Technology at the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). "The centers better align the NLECTC system with NIJ's activities, enhance cost-effectiveness and better serve the needs of state and local criminal justice practitioners."Research
The Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) at the Pennsylvania State University, received $3.2 million for the Weapons and Protective Systems COE. This center supports the OJP's efforts to enhance the safety of law enforcement and corrections officers and put into use safer, more effective less-lethal devices in support of officers. The center provides technical and administrative support to the National Bomb Squad Commander's Advisory Board. It is also establishing a bomb technology test and evaluation program, and a community corrections technology demonstration and evaluation program.
Agencies may recall the Attribute-Based Evaluation done by the ARL several years ago, using internal funds, on commercially available less-lethal munitions. Retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Andy Mazzara says the evaluation was well-received by law enforcement.
"Much of our work with the military on less-lethal technologies has a 'dual-use' aspect that often benefits law enforcement," says Mazzara, who is the director for both the Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies and for the Weapons and Protective Systems COE.
Having been chosen to operate a COE means the ARL will further build its reputation domestically and internationally. Mazzara points out the ARL's Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies is unique within academic and research communities worldwide for its depth and breadth of knowledge and experience in working with less-lethal munitions, devices and technologies.
The Weapons and Protective Systems center supplies law enforcement and corrections a "reachback" capability through the NIJ, which allows them to get issues investigated and resolved, questions answered and independent assessments completed. The center looks specifically at new and emerging technologies in the areas of school safety, pursuit management, less-lethal technologies, corrections, personal protective equipment and bomb remediation.Forensics
The National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC) in Largo, Florida, received $6 million for the Forensic COE that will support numerous OJP research and development initiatives relating to forensic science and technology. The center will host and continue to populate the National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology, and the Law online resource, and host and manage the National Y-STR Database. This center is also hosting and supporting the general forensics and DNA forensics technology working groups, executing the grant progress assessments and DNA quality assurance audit programs.
Prior to establishing the centers of excellence, there was only ad hoc forensic support within the NLECTC system, says NFSTC Executive Director Kevin Lothridge. Since its establishment in 1995, it has been a service organization dedicated to the support of operational forensic services providers as well as the law enforcement community. Specifically, the center has assisted law enforcement with missing persons, cold cases, latent fingerprints, Field Investigation Drug Officer programs and more.