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Police Bullet
Proof Vests
Type IIA (9 mm; .40 S&W)
Type II (9 mm; .357 Magnum)
Type IIIA (.357 SIG; .44 Magnum)
Type III (Rifles)
Type IV (Armor Piercing Rifle)
Special Type
"Personal body armor covered by this
standard is classified into five types (IIA,
II, IIIA, III, IV) by level of ballistic
performance. In addition, a special test
class is defined to allow armor to be
validated against threats that may not be
covered by the five standard classes."
Concealable Body Armor
"...your access to state of the art soft
body armor far exceeds the
protection afforded to police officers
in the past." ~ Barry M. Baker
Bullet proof is a generic term applied to a
wide range of soft or hard armor
developed to prevent penetration by
bullets.  You’ll hear some people say that
there is no such thing as a bullet proof
vest.  Whether or not a vest is bullet
proof depends upon a number of factors
including the level of protection the vest
provides, the type of bullet fired into the
vest and the number of times the vest is
hit.  So, don’t get hung up on
terminology.  Just remember that you’ll
want a vest rated to protect you as much
as possible against the threats you’re
likely to encounter.
Baltimore was one of the first major
police departments to issue soft body
armor to its police officers in the 1980s.  
The vest consisted of a single Kevlar
panel for the front only.  The vest was
rated as a level I or type I to prevent
penetration by .22 caliber; .25 caliber;
.32 caliber, and .380 caliber bullets.  The
single panel was comfortable, and it
served its purpose in a number of
lifesaving instances.  Then, a Baltimore
officer was shot by a suspect using a
.357 magnum revolver.  The bullet easily
penetrated the single front panel.  The
impact spun the officer around, and he
was shot a second time in the back which
had no protection.
The officer’s death was followed by the
issuance of three additional panels to
provide two panels for both front and
back doubling the ballistic protection.  Of
course, the vest was no longer
comfortable.  You’ll notice that the chart
provided below doesn’t even include type
I body armor.  Years ago, the smaller
caliber, low velocity bullets were those
predominantly used by criminals.  Today,
9mm and 40mm high capacity semi-
automatic handguns are the most used
by both police and criminals.  Again, refer
to the chart from the National Institutes
of Justice and you can see that your
minimum level of protection would be
Type IIA.
There’s a lot of science involved in the
continuing evolution of soft body armor.  
Even when your vest protects you from
penetrating rounds, there’s the problem
of blunt impact trauma, and the research
goes on to disperse the trauma from the
impact. If more than one round hits, the
blunt trauma only increases.  So, nothing
is ever perfect, but your access to state
of the art soft body armor far exceeds
the protection afforded to police officers
in the past.
Concealable or covert armor is designed
to be worn beneath your uniform shirt.  
The primary purpose for concealment is
to maintain the integrity of your uniform.  
If you’re working in a plainclothes
assignment, the reason for concealment
should be obvious.  When you encounter
a police officer, just look closely and you’ll
quickly determine whether or not the
officer is wearing a concealable bullet
proof vest.  The purpose for concealment
is not to fool anyone.  Criminals already
know that most police officers wear body
armor.
Tactical Body Armor
Just about anything that’s not
concealable comes under the tactical
label.  When body armor is worn overtly,
the style of the armor can be simple to
elaborate.  The fabric carrier might have
utility pockets and pouches for ammo
and other items.  All kinds of additions
and extensions can be added to tactical
vests to protect additional parts of the
body.
Militarization
of Police Departments
For the simple minded among us, the
mere sight of police officers wearing any
ballistic armor protection beyond
concealable armor is an unacceptable
assault on their utopian views of the
world.  Police departments share some
similarities with the military such as rank
structures, but there is one thing where
the police and military part company.  
When the military enters into a hostile
operation, the primary goal is to limit
casualties to as few as possible. When
police officers confront armed
adversaries, zero is the only acceptable
casualty count.
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On This Site...
Comfort in Relation to
Protection
Police officers should and must have the
best body armor available for personal
protection.  While sophisticated tactical
armor will be appropriate in particular
situations, the armor you wear on a daily
basis needs to meet a minimum level of
comfort.  Today’s concealable bullet proof
vests far exceed the comfort level of the
armor I wore for years.  Never the less,
you’ll see more and more use of overt
bullet proof vests being worn by
uniformed police officers during their
regular tour of duty.

Because of the continual advancement in
the science of body armor, the armor can
be styled and fitted to conform to the
police officer’s uniform.  There’s no
question that armor worn over the shirt
is far more comfortable than armor worn
beneath the shirt.  There is one distinct
disadvantage to overt body armor; the
armor can be easily removed.  However,
this disadvantage can be overcome by
the individual police officer if the officer
understands that the armor only
protects when it’s being worn.  Just like a
car seat belt – if you need it when you’re
not wearing it, you won’t have time to
put it on.
Copyright © 2017  Barry M. Baker  
CareerPoliceOfficer.com
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