Just this week, we learned of an officer involved shooting in Atlanta in which a man stabbed a plain clothes officer before being shot by another. There would be no need to recount all of the other shootings, except to say that several officers’ lives have been saved from countless firearm and edged weapon assaults just this year by wearing a vest. Covered Law Enforcement has supported and promoted the Below 100 initiative since it’s inception, which is to reduce line of duty deaths to below 100 each year by focusing on 5 major tenets. One of those tenets is the reminder, “wear your vest.”
We were contacted recently by a representative from SafeGuard Armor who expressed the desire to submit educational resources for officers about the types, fit, and benefits of body armor. Take a moment to read this information, and visit their website for more resources. And remember, you may go home hot or a little uncomfortable, but you’ll be alive…Wear Your Vest!
Every day, the men and women of our police forces put their safety on the line to ensure the security of others. Tragically, 105 officers died in 2013 in the US alone. While absolute safety can never be guaranteed in the line of duty, body armor can help save lives, and reduce the severity of injury. The wide variety of products on the market ensures officers can be protected in every situation they face – from stab vests for patrolling volatile neighborhoods, to ballistic armors for armed encounters.
Let’s take a look at the various types available, and the benefits they offer.
Patrol Protection: Knife and Needle Armors
For officers on patrol, the next call could lead to a risky scenario. In domestic disturbances or low-level crimes, sharp and blunt weapons may be a threat.
Edged blade protection is designed to help prevent injury from sharp items, including knives or broken glass. Depending on the situation an officer is in, a suspect may pull a knife with every intention of attacking, or even break a bottle as an improvised weapon. Various edged blade vests are available to suit numerous threat levels: category level II or III. The latter category applies to attacks performed with a higher number of joules, and so should be worn by officers entering potentially dangerous situations.
Officers may also face attacks involving sharp objects in the line of duty, typically known as spike threats. An attacker may use needles, ice picks, lengthy nails or other projected items to inflict damage if they feel under threat. As spiked weapons will penetrate most fabrics by passing through the minute spaces between threads, body armors specific to this threat are designed to stop the object completely before it can reach the flesh underneath. Kevlar is the most common material used in spiked weapon armors, and has high success rates.
Firearms Protection: Ballistic Armors
Unfortunately, guns continue to be a threat to patrol officers and SWAT teams. All manner of rounds and weapons can fall into the hands of criminals, with high- and low-velocities. However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for ballistic protection, and so you should always ensure you choose the right armor. As with edged blade weapon vests, ballistic armor is categorized by protection level: II, IIIa or IV. Levels II and IIIa are manufactured to provide protection against the most common firearms, such as the 9mm .44 Magnum. These are typically worn for situations in which a lower level of firearms resistance is expected.
However, for protection against high-velocity bullets from weapons with a larger caliber, level IV ballistic armor is essential. These are most commonly used by SWAT teams and military forces, as they can protect against submachine guns and rifles. Level IV armor vests incorporate plates into their design, created using such robust materials as Dyneema polyethylene or even ceramics for optimum reinforcement. Being prepared for an expected threat before entering a situation is essential, and when you choose your armor, you must feel reassured if you are to perform your duties to the best of your ability.
Hidden Protection Versus Vests on Display
When choosing body armor, you must choose between covert, overt, or covert / overt. These are designed to suit various situations, and selecting the right one for the right task is vital.
Discrete Protection: Covert
As the name suggests, covert armors provide a high level of discrete protection, and are worn beneath clothing. These are typically donned by officers performing close protection or undercover operations, and are manufactured to be as thin as possible without compromising on quality. These are generally fitted with moisture wicking fabrics for cooling comfort over long periods. For low-key protection, these are unmatched.
Displayed Protection: Overt
These are the vests most civilians would recognize on police officers. Overt armor is worn above clothing, and is most commonly black, though other colors are produced for various applications. Patrol officers and SWAT teams will often be seen wearing black vests over their uniforms – there is often no need to disguise protection. Unlike covert vests, overt vests are not required to be specifically thin or implement cooling fabrics.
Multiple Applications: Covert / Overt
For officers operating in areas posing various risks (exposure to sharp & blunt weapons, firearms etc.), some armors combine covert and overt features for versatile protection. Covert / overt vests can be worn comfortably beneath or on top of clothing, for discrete or clear protection. These are designed to provide more protection than standard covert vests, but will be thinner than normal overt-specific vests.
Maximum Coverage: Choosing the Right Size
Size is a key factor when choosing armor, whatever the situation you face. This is more important than basic comfort – the wrong fit can leave you exposed.
A protective vest is designed to protect vital organs from an attack, as opposed to the full torso – to ensure maximum protection, the vest should reach no lower than the navel. If a vest hangs around the groin, it’s too big. By stopping at the navel area, a protective vest still protects the vital organs without being cumbersome – if a vest restricts movement, it may place the wearer in danger, defeating its own purpose. An officer needs a full range of motion: sitting, bending, crouching, running – your protective vest should never interfere with your mobility or flexibility. Size guides are available to ensure you match your build to the perfect vest.
Safety First and Foremost
Before you wear a protective vest – whether it’s a spiked weapon vest or a ballistics vest – you should always check its condition. If there are any signs of extensive wear or damage, then you should NOT use it. If there are any flaws with the armor, this could negate its protective value, and leave you exposed to danger. Raise any concerns with a superior, and be sure you have adequate protection before you enter any dangerous situation.
The nature of a police officer’s work means each situation must be approached with caution, and, with so many dangerous weapons in the wrong hands, protection can never be taken for granted. For police in all departments – from patrol officers to SWAT teams – armor can mean the difference between life and death. Take the time to ensure you have the best vests for the situations you face, and stay safe.
For more educational resources about body armor, visit SafeGuard Armor’s website.