The National Institute of Justice's (NIJ) Research, Evaluation, and Development Projects Grants program released a new grant solicitation this week for Sensor, Surveillance, and Biometric Technologies for Criminal Justice Applications. As part of this grant, which I find particularly interesting, the "NIJ seeks proposals to develop a sensor system capable of detecting a handgun concealed under clothing on an individual at least 15 meters away from the sensor. NIJ also seeks proposals for research to better characterize the degree to which current solutions address this need."
Some quick background information on the grant: the NIJ is authorized to make grants to states, units of local government, nonprofit and for-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, and certain qualified individuals. For-profit organizations must agree to forgo any profit or management fee. All applicants are required to register with Grants.gov before submitting an application, and all applications are due February 14, 2011.
As a senior analyst at GovWin, my primary responsibility is to follow government purchasing activities in the state and local justice and public safety marketplace. Thus far, I have not seen any public safety organizations release a solicitation for handgun detection technology, yet I think many would quickly embrace it should the research and development activities produce successful results.
Handgun detection technology, if perfected and reasonably priced, could quickly move from a want, to a need, to a must-have item for police departments. The sales pitch is about as simple as it gets. "Would you like to know if someone approaching you is armed." Most likely, the answer from any law enforcement officer would be, "Of course I would." However, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself with projecting the spread of this technology. In the near future, we are likely to see it show up on an episode of "CSI" than at the local police department. A quick look at the headlines shows the recent uproar over the TSA's use of body-scanning technology, so it is likely that any implementation of handgun detection technology would garner some privacy concerns.
I plan on following this grant very closely. A successful, NIJ-funded research and development strategy could really help legitimize the need for this project and accelerate its spread in the marketplace.