There are a lot of police officers who owe
their lives to the development of Kevlar.  
Born in the late sixties, Kevlar was first
marketed in 1971 -- the same year that I
became a police officer.  However, it
would be some time before Kevlar would
be fully appreciated for the life saving
material it is.  The Baltimore City Police
Department was one of the first major
American police departments to issue
Kevlar bulletproof vests to its officers as
a standard issued item.
The first vest we were issued consisted
of a single panel of Kevlar contained in a
fabric carrier.  The panel was worn in the
front providing protection for the heart
and lungs.  The single panel was light
weight, and it was not uncomfortable.

In the early 1980's, we didn't regularly
face the high powered criminal arsenal
that you'll encounter as a police officer in
the 21st Century.  It was still the era of
Saturday Night Specials which were
cheap, small caliber handguns. The single
panel of Kevlar would stop the
penetrating power of the .22, .32, and
.38 caliber handguns we most frequently

All that changed for us on the night of
November 18, 1985.  Vince Adolfo was
hit by a round from a .357 Magnum.  
While the bullet was .38 caliber, the
Magnum version is a much more powerful
bullet than the standard .38 caliber.  The
first round struck Vince in the vest.  The
impact spun him around, and his killer
fired a second time striking Vince in the
back where no Kevlar protection existed.
Police Officer Vincent J. Adolfo
Baltimore City Police Department
End of Watch: Monday, November 18, 1985

Biographical Info
Age: 24
Tour of Duty: 2 years
Badge Number: Not available

Incident Details
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: Monday, November 18,
Weapon Used: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect Info: Executed in 1997
But...it wouldn't have mattered.  The first
shot smashed through the single panel
of Kevlar and into Officer Adolfo.  Even
though Vince was only -- literally -- a few
minutes from one of the world's best
hospital emergency rooms at the Johns
Hopkins Hospital, his wounds were just
too massive, and he succumbed to those
Officer Adolfo's death literally saved the
lives of others.  Along with the tireless
efforts of Vince's young widow, the police
department quickly recognized the
ineffectiveness of the single panel.  It
wasn't long before we were issued three
(3) additional Kevlar panels doubling the
protection for both an officer's front and
back.  Following Vince's death, there
would be more Baltimore police officers
shot with high powered handguns, but,
unlike Officer Adolfo, the bullets would
not pass through their vests.

Body armor technology has come a long
way since 1985.  The comfort level has
been vastly improved, but you'll still find
some police officers who will sacrifice their
safety to comfort or the fit of their
uniforms.  As a sergeant and lieutenant, I
occasionally had to deal with
subordinates who felt they were
somehow immune to the mandatory
wearing of body armor.  While I never
had to act on my threats to formally
charge subordinates for their stupidity, I
would not have hesitated to do so if

When you become a police officer, you
could find yourself assigned to a squad
with a weak sergeant who exercises poor
or inadequate supervision.  While this
circumstance won't help you while
learning all the things you'll have to learn,
there are some things that are just
common sense -- wearing your body
armor is one of those things.  Don't ever
be influenced into doing, or not doing,
anything that places your safety in
jeopardy.  Think of wearing your body
armor like you would your car safety
belt.  If you're not wearing it, you won't
have time to put it on when you need it.
"Think of wearing your body armor
like you would your car safety belt.  
If you're not wearing it, you won't
have time to put it on when you need
it." ~ Barry M. Baker

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Body Armor
Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career
in Law Enforcement
Copyright © 2021  Barry M. Baker  
There are Five
Indispensable Truths
for a Successful Police
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The good news is...the
odds of you having to  use
deadly force is low.  The
bad news is...you will be
faced with that decision.