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Its most notable accomplishments were the development of soft body armor for the police and establishment and dissemination of performance standards for police equipment.
Beginning in the 1990s, however, the Administration and Congress recognized increased needs for technology and began funding NIJ to meet them.
The fragmentation of the American police market, which numbers more than 17,000 agencies, makes selling to the police a time-consuming and expensive proposition.
Liability issues are also a concern: Will the manufacturer be protected if its product is used in a way that injures officers or citizens? NIJ's Office of Science and Technology fosters technology research and development when it otherwise will not occur.
Often in cooperation with other federal agencies such as the Departments of Defense and Energy, NIJ sponsors scores of efforts to develop new technologies. However, in preparing it, observations were formed that may be useful to federal policymakers.
One set of observations suggests ways to coordinate federal technology development efforts for avoiding fragmentation and duplication of effort and ensuring certain systems are compatible.
For the first 20 years after the federal government began supporting local criminal justice agencies, NIJ's role in technology was limited.
Examples include fingerprinting databases, computerized crime mapping, and records management systems doing everything from inventorying property and cataloging evidence to calculating solvability factors.
Many police technologies are drawn and adapted from the commercial marketplace.
To do their job, police frequently have looked to technology for enhancing their effectiveness.
The advent of fingerprinting in the 1900s and of crime laboratories in the 1920s greatly augmented the police capacity to solve crimes.
But even with the start-up help of hundreds of millions of dollars in early federal assistance, computerization came slowly.