Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department
Purpose styled body armor is the result of continuous advancement of science and technology making your bullet proof vest better than before. I was still a young officer when police officers were first offered access to bullet proof vest protection. By today’s standards, the first vests were rudimentary, and they offered minimal protection. But, they saved lives!
This article by Joshua Nash details the reasons and advantages for purpose styled body armor. He discusses bullet proof vests in relation to the various assignments performed by police officers.
What Purpose Styled Body Armor should each Branch of Law Enforcement be wearing?
Most officers will understand the importance of a bullet proof vest. In any altercation a vest can mean the difference between life and death, because it absorbs the impact of attacks. Even without a weapon, an attacker can be fended off by an officer wearing a vest. Similarly, many law enforcement officers (LEOs) find themselves surviving otherwise fatal traffic accidents thanks to a bullet proof vest.
However, not many realize that there are a number of different purpose styled body armor options available. Every branch or department of law enforcement can benefit from each. Understanding the specifics of the vests you should be wearing allows you to go into any situation fully confident in your own protection.
Uniformed officers will benefit from a wide range of purpose styled body armor as they are required to deal with a wide range of threats. However, there will be different situations for uniformed officers that will require specific protection. For example, most uniformed LEOs will want to wear an overt vest. In particular, one that is equipped with pouches and clips to hold their equipment. Similarly, by wearing a vest that has their logos and insignia, they can display their authority to the public.
Another important feature for this overt purpose styled body armor is a front zip or quick release system. This allows the officer to quickly equip a vest and react to specific situations. Ballistic protection is a necessity for all LEOs, and uniformed police should also have stab and spike protection. This is achieved using additional materials like chain mail or plastic laminate. These materials are needed to help deal with the threat of weapons like knives and needles.
Those working in traffic, or simply those working around vehicles, may require an overt vest made of different materials. The need to stay protected will necessitate a bullet proof vest, which as mentioned above, can protect against traffic collisions. It will also need to be overt to display the officer’s authority.
However, in a traffic environment, this has to be displayed as clearly as possible and high-visibility purpose styled body armor will be required. These vests are made from durable, weatherproof, and high-visibility materials which allow an officer to be seen clearly and to deal with the elements. These vests can be augmented with logos and insignia making the officer’s authority clear to all.
Just like uniformed officers, LEOs working undercover will require purpose styled body armor against ballistics, stab, and spiked weapons in order to perform in the face of likely threats. However, this protection cannot be worn in the same overt style, and these Officers will require covert armor. Covert purpose styled body armor is available in the same levels of protection as overt armor, and the materials required are lightweight, thin and flexible.
Covert vests often have the added benefit of sitting closer to the body, and they allow a greater freedom of movement without sacrificing protection. Of course, the main advantage is the discretion that these thin vests provide, and to undercover officers, or perhaps LEOs working in sensitive environments, this is invaluable. Moreover, some covert vests are designed using breathable materials that actually improve the temperature-regulation of the wearer.
SWAT Teams - Purpose Styled Body Armor
Covert vests are available with all the levels of protection offered in overt armor, including NIJ Level III and IV armor. These are the highest levels of protection available and are not available in soft armor which only uses Kevlar or similar materials. These high levels can only be achieved by using rigid plates of ceramics and/or polyethylene, which are usually worn in conjunction with soft armor. For SWAT teams, these are essential.
Tactical purpose styled body armor with rigid plates is vital equipment for SWAT teams, because they are required to work in the most extreme situations. The rigid plates provide protection against the strongest calibers of firearm including armor piercing ammunition, and they can even protect against explosives and fragmentation. However, tactical purpose styled body armor has the added benefit of protection for the throat, neck, groin, and upper arm. Any officer wearing this vest will be fully protected.
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