"There are several variables that we put together," Butler says, "but it's basically built on comfort and whether or not it will offer the protection level that we expect, because [officers] have to be in that vest minimally eight to 12 hours — if not longer."
Some companies will provide agencies with models for testing and evaluation before they make a buying decision. Alex Cejas, director of corporate research and development with Protective Products International, says they like to "promote shoots in the field so officers can feel comfortable with the performance of the vest." Cejas adds that they plan to make their new NIJ 06 line available for testing as well.Vest must be worn … to protect
Olsen urges all law enforcement officials to visit the NIJ Web site (www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/223054.htm) and learn as much as they can about the new ballistics standard, as "there's an amount of curiosity [among end-users] about what the new NIJ standard is, what it will mean, what the final form will be and what it will do."
Not everyone is ready and willing to run out and replace their old armor. Some worry that cost and comfort issues might spell trouble for departments who are already trying to stretch their last dollar.
Cejas says he "knows there are a lot of detractors who feel that wear rates are going to decline and vests are going to be heavier and more expensive. He adds that some manufacturers may be dreading the release as well. Regardless, he welcomes the change.
"It's up to us as manufacturers to become educators, and convey the correct message to the end-user. The purpose of this standard is to actually save lives by making armor more reliable and higher performing."
For anyone who's ever survived a near-fatal shooting, the choice is obvious: wear it or lose. As Hopper puts it; "I have two kids who need me and a wife who needs me. [They] could care less about how much [the vest] costs. Life is priceless."Companies that offer "Makes and Models in Approved NIJ Standard 0101.06 Applications," as listed by the U.S. Department of Justice:
American Body Armor and Equipment Inc.
Armor Express Inc.
Atlantic Body Armor
Bianchi Body Armor LLC
Custom Armor Technologies
First Choice Armor and Equipment
Gator Hawk Armor Inc.
Hawk Protection Inc.
HighCom Security Inc.
Mine Safety Appliances Company
PACA (Protective Apparel Corp. of America)
PT Armor Inc.
Pacific Safety Products
Paraclete Armor & Equipment Inc.
Point Blank Body Armor Inc.
ProTech Armored Products
Protective Products International
RBR Armor Inc.
SMITH & WESSON BODY GUARD
Safariland Ltd. Inc.
Second Chance Armor Inc.
Survival Armor Inc.