Body Bunker Basics

Handheld portable bullet-resistant shield designed to augment an officer's vest.


Using a body bunker, the cover officer can be in the doorway of his idling vehicle or move up to the primary officer's passenger door. If the situation deteriorates, there is an officer inches away from an idling car to get in pursuit.

Flexible body bunkers are quiet and often half the weight of rigid ones. A flexible shield moving down a hallway or alongside of a building will yield less of the telltale scraping sound. Additionally, one could not take a rigid shield into the crawl space or attic area where the tactical blanket is perfect.

Techniques

Within reason, the closer an officer can hold a ballistic shield to the body, the smaller the target he presents. Most officers will find that propping the non-firing elbow against the body with a hand holding the shield, fist up, will maintain the proper distance of shield-to-body. The firing hand goes around the front, exposing as little of the arm as possible. A body bunker's viewing port, if available, should be used to aim the weapon. If it does not have a port, it is important to practice exposing as little as possible while sighting a weapon. Using a light and laser will not only increase the accuracy of a one-handed, bunkered officer, it will also give the officer ability to switch hands. Users may have to employ strategies to prevent fatigue after a few minutes of searching and moving.

Officers must override their tendency to exposing too much when looking around or over the shield. This may afford a better field of vision during training but what is done in training is what is instinctively done in an emergency situation.

The person carrying the body bunker should have a hydration pack with hands-free drinking capability. If the incident allows for preplanning on the fly, officers using ballistic shields should deploy with neck straps so they occasionally can rest their arms.

Work perimeter

Officers maintaining a perimeter in an active incident can carry their ballistic shield and stand behind something of known ballistic resistance. This is a much better alternative than standing behind a man-made structure that looks sturdy but might only be sheetrock and studs.

If the incident deteriorates, the perimeter officer can maintain the position longer and share intelligence longer.

Evacuate an area

Imagine a barricaded suspect in an apartment complex. Patrol officers and support staff are directed to immediately evacuate residents in nearby apartments. Knocking on the front door of an apartment near a barricaded suspect many draw the suspect's attention. Officers armed with a portable barrier can efficiently usher citizens to safety.

Active shooter incident

An active shooter incident is defined as an incident where an armed suspect is currently and actively causing great bodily injury and death and any portion of the incident is not contained. In an active shooter incident, if somebody doesn't do something quickly, things will go from bad to worse.

The "contain and wait" philosophy may not be appropriate for an active shooter incident. In fact, officers will rarely have the luxury to "wait." In order to prevent further harm, officers at the scene of an active shooter must quickly assess what they have at hand, form an ad hoc team and put their training to test. That is, police officers head toward danger. This goes against the grain of human instinct and usually against the flow of traffic trying to escape the danger.

The response to an active shooter incident is different in many ways. Officers have training on how to respond to an emergency call where a victim has a traumatic injury. They know how to stabilize the situation enough to get the victim out of danger and get them the medical attention they need. In an active shooter incident, they may have to communicate the location of injured people and move on.

The "ad hoc team" consists of whatever backup arrives — patrol officers, detectives, deputies, SRO's, fish and game officers or other law enforcement in the response area. This "team" must quickly form, communicate and maneuver. Some of them may not use or carry a protective vest in the course of their duties.

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