As leaders of law enforcement agencies have learned over the years since the use of soft body armor became common practice, managing the procurement of this equipment is never easy and in some instances can be very challenging. An article published in the December 2007 Police Chief magazine provides a thorough overview of the basics of body armor procurement that every police executive needs to know. Additional information from actual procurement "lessons learned" is provided below.
Dear Law Enforcement Leaders,
As you prepare to purchase body armor for members of your department, I would encourage you to take some extra precaution to avoid receiving body armors that have been sitting on shelves for months, are not on the current NIJ compliance list or that the vendor claims are "custom-fit" to officers but may not be. This happened to our agency, and I hope it never happens to anyone else.
In February and March 2010, my agency purchased 13 "First Choice" ballistic vests from an Internet-based supply store in the state of Washington. The vests were purchased to replace vests that were already expired or getting ready to expire that year. All 13 officers were measured for custom-fit vests. Our agency’s impression was that the vests would be manufactured to the measurements of each individual officer. It took between four and six months to receive the vests, which were issued to the officers as soon as they arrived at our department. Read More of this Cautionary Story.
The words "Buyer Beware!" took on an entirely new level of meaning on Oct. 21, 2013, when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Orlando Regional Operations Center announced that three men have been arrested and charged with one count each of organized scheme to defraud and one count of counterfeiting body armor.
To address the dramatic increase in law enforcement officer deaths and injuries during violent encounters in 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice required that beginning in 2011, jurisdictions receiving Bulletproof Vest Partnership Act funds to support the purchase of body armor for their law enforcement officers must have a written "mandatory wear" policy in effect. In a Justice Department study released in November 2012, the number of law enforcement agencies with mandatory wear policies had increased to 92 percent, up from only 59 percent in 2009, as reported by officers who were surveyed.
Official actions to maximize the safety of those serving to protect our communities can be made in various formats ranging from agency policies to elected board resolutions. In ensuring the protection of law enforcement officers, it is critical that agency leaders and elected officials work closely together to make it mandatory that officers are required to wear body armor.
At a meeting convened by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the COPS Office on Nov. 20, 2014, in Philadelphia, the nation's largest police unions and a national coalition of police chiefs agreed to the mandatory use of body armor and seat belts for all law enforcement agencies. The meeting was the culmination of three years of discussions by leaders of national labor groups and leading police chiefs on how to reduce the needless deaths of officers. Body armor and seatbelts have been proven to save lives and help reduce injuries to officers. In an article published in USA TODAY, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey was quoted as saying, "It is our responsibility to do everything we can to reduce officer fatalities and improve safety.'' Read More about this topic in the Police Forum's document In Support of Mandatory Body Armor and Seatbelt Wear Policies (PDF).
On April 8, 2011, the Executive Committee of the IACP adopted a resolution endorsing mandatory body armor wear policies and encouraging law enforcement executives to adopt such policies to ensure the safety of their officers.
Salina (Utah) City Council Resolution for Mandatory Wear
Individual agency policies about wearing armor when on water duty vary. Some agencies say "no armor on water duty;" others require vests to be worn at all times; while still others have officers carry vests in waterproof lockers to be donned in specific situations. It comes down to weighing the risks, and keeping in mind that once armor becomes wet, it should be replaced.
It is possible to buy armor designed specifically for U.S. Navy/Coast Guard wear that includes flotation, or to buy life preservers designed for officers wearing body armors. Product examples can be found online at —-
These links are provided for informational purposes only and do not imply that these products are endorsed by the U.S. Government.
There may be other examples. These examples are provided as a service to law enforcement, corrections and forensic science practitioners. Reference herein to any specific commercial products, processes or services by trade name, trademark, manufacturer or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation or favoring by the U.S. Government.
Ballistic Body Armor: A Chief's Refresher Course
Yousry A. Zakhary, General Chair, and Peter Carnes, North Atlantic Regional Chair, Division of State Associations of Chiefs of Police. Alexandria, VA: International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Alex Sundstrom, Testing Coordinator