With violent crime on the rise, criminals have been steadily arming themselves with better and better ammunition and weaponry. It is the job of Law Enforcers to stay ahead of this trend and therefore be better enabled to protect civilians. One of the most important pieces of equipment that can be issued to an officer is his personal body armor. During the past decades, officers have complained that bulletproof vests are uncomfortable, top heavy and hot. Some of the larger global bullet proof vest companies such as safeguardclothing.com have actually corrected these shortcomings through research and development, ensuring officers feel more comfortable and therefore more willing to use the body armor every day. The trend has inspired manufacturers to produce better products for 2015, and here is a list of what we can expect and what has already been developed.
Law Enforcement Agencies and Ballistic and Stab Body Armor
Counter terrorism: Law enforcement officers that are assigned to counter terrorism have special body armor needs. It is recommended for, this type of task, an overt vest level III or IV with special emphasis on a carrier that includes tactical SAPI plates. The new models are not only made of clay, but also of composite materials such as Polyethylene. These plates will stop a high velocity M80 and 30 caliber bullets with a minimum velocity of 2850 feet per second.
SWAT: In order to deal with the special tactical operations carried out by SWAT teams, such as rescue operations, high risk arrests or fortified structure penetration, it is recommended that they wear overt vests of at least Level III, which still protects against a large array of weaponry but it doesn't hinder movement. These vests have to be silent and manageable so the officer can move quickly and quietly to ensure hostage safety. There are various Level III carriers that can be upgraded to level IV by adding SAPI hard protection plates.
Narcotics Team: This is another branch of law enforcement with very specific needs to be addressed by body armor. For undercover work there are new models of body armor that are Level III and IV that can be used covertly. These new vests use plates that are concealable while still providing the highest protection possible. Level IV bulletproof vests will stop high velocity armor piercing rounds.
FBI officers: New developments in temperature regulating fabrics and contour fit for covert vests mean that FBI agents can wear body armor protection every day. These new vests that can be levels II, III-A, III and even IV (with addition of SAPI plates), can be worn by the officer under their clothes so they'll never run the risk of facing a situation they are not prepared for.
Correction Officers: Officers that work at correctional facilities are not likely to face armed resistance. What they are most likely to encounter are attacks with edge weapons or spikes that are improvised by inmates. The new Stab and Spike protections are necessary to prevent injury. The NIJ has approved 3 levels of protection against edge weapons and penetration weapons. Body armor is available with this specific threat in mind. It is recommended that correctional officers use at least level II stab proof vests and level II spike proof vests.
Kevlar Soft Body Armor
Since most soft body armor is made of layers of this material, it is necessary to talk a little about it. Kevlar was invented in the 1960s by Stephanie Kwolek at DuPont and was introduced to the National Institute of Justice as a lightweight bullet resistant material in the 1970's. The NIJ designed various tests to define the strength and viability of the material to stop bullets. The NIJ came up with 6 different levels in which the materials could be used for ballistics purposes.
Kevlar stops bullets because of its molecular composition. In Kevlar the molecules are arranged like bars of long chains. These long chains form an extremely rigid structure that is very hard to stretch. This high tensile strength is what gives the material its ballistic capabilities. When a bullet hits Kevlar, the first layer decreases the velocity of the projectile. The more layers the bullet passes through, the slower it becomes until it is stopped completely.
Kevlar is still the best material to be used by law enforcement to protect officers from gun related injuries. It is important however, to mention that no vest is totally impregnable to bullets. The right level of protection has to be worn to deal with the right threat. As it’s been said before, the National Institute of Justice has designed a list of levels that allows us to choose the correct level of protection.
The NIJ Levels of Protection
Level II-A will provide protection from a 9 mm full metal-jacketed round nose bullet all the way up to a .40S&W caliber. It is possible for this vest to be hidden under the uniform; some bulletproof vests are specifically designed to be worn against the skin. Level I has fallen out of favor with all government agencies because it's only certified to stop low velocity 22-caliber ammunition.
Level II will provide protection from all level II-A threats and a also go up to a .357 magnum jacketed soft point bullet. It can still be worn covertly, but it is more bulky than level II-A. It provides the best every day protection for police officers.
Level III-A will protect an officer from the impact of a high velocity 9 mm round all the way up to a 44 magnum jacketed hallow point. This, up until recently, was the highest level of protection available for concealed use. It is still considered the most versatile vest for law enforcement personnel today.
Level III will protect an officer from a rifle attack. The vest is certified to stop a 7.62mm full metal-jacketed bullet. It can come equipped with special SAPI pockets that will upgrade its defense capabilities.
Level IV is usually used in tactical application for better protection where high velocity armor piercing ammunition is expected. It can protect an officer from a .30-caliber armor-piercing bullet. It is equipped with ceramic or other composite material plates that will shatter at the impact of the high velocity projectiles, preventing them from reaching the body.
It is important to take care of Kevlar since this material can degrade. The most important enemy for Kevlar is UV light. Ultraviolet degradation can make this material decompose, so storage away from direct sun light is very important. It is also sensitive to excess moisture, so in order to clean the vest it is necessary to remove the Kevlar soft material from the carrier and clean it separately with a sponge and warm soppy water. Never fully submerge a Kevlar vest in water.
Treated Kevlar for Stab and Spike Protection
A bulletproof vest is not meant to stop threats that come from an edged weapon. So, specially designed vests had to be developed in order to address this problem. The result of the research done by many agencies was a special vest with its own rating. The NIJ developed another set of levels for edge weapon resistance and puncture resistance. Stab proof vest protects the officer from a knife thrust or a slashed across the vest. Spike proof protects personnel from puncture wounds made by pointed weapons. These are different and separate with their own levels.
Stab proof level I vests will stop 24 joules of energy; level II will stop 33 joules and level III will stop 43 joules of force. The highest level of protection will stop, almost completely, an attack from a large adult.
Stab and spike protection can be combined with bulletproof vest to provide the most comprehensive protection possible for law enforcement personnel.