Tuesday, February 10, 2015

SafeGuard Armor Information on Body Armor for Law Enforcement Officers

ODMP partner SafeGuard Armor recently released the following guide regarding one of the most important items of safety equipment for a law enforcement officer -- body armor.

The information below, provided by SafeGuard,  is important to share widely within the law enforcement community--please pass this guide along to increase awareness and understanding of the safety options available today.  

ODMP strongly believes that there is no better way to honor fallen law enforcement officers than by working to reduce further fatalities.  See our vest partnership information here.

A Guide to LEO Ballistic & Stab Body Armor Protection for 2015

Today's law enforcement officers face more dangers on the streets than any previous generation. With criminals now carrying more advanced weaponry and ammunition, officers need to be prepared for these threats, to ensure that they – and their communities – remain as safe as possible. Body armor is a staple part of LEO uniforms, with manufacturers like SafeGuard now offering vests which provide a more lightweight, comfortable fit than ever.  If officers are expected to wear armor each day, they must want to wear it, without feeling restricted or encumbered.

However, protective clothing will continue to evolve, maximizing safety and mobility in innovative ways. Join us as we take a look at the range of armors officers and agents can benefit from in 2015.

A Brief Exploration of Kevlar

The majority of protective vests are made with Kevlar, which was first created in the 1960s by Stephanie Kwolek at DuPont; this was introduced to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in the 70s, and has gone on to evolve ever since.

Kevlar stops bullets due to its molecular composition: its molecules are arranged like bars of long chains, which form a rigid structure that is difficult to stretch – this high-tensile strength creates vests' ballistic protection. When a bullet strikes Kevlar, the top layer reduces the round's velocity, and the more layers it passes through, the slower it becomes until it comes to a complete halt.

To get the most out of their armor, officers and agents should take proper care when cleaning, drying, and storing it. To keep vests looking their best, a damp, soapy sponge should be used to gently clean the surface; if immersed in water, the vests' protective capabilities will be damaged for good. Once cleaned, vests should be lain flat in a dark, dry space – if left in direct sunlight for long periods, UV rays can damage the protective fibers in a similar way that moisture can.  

The NIJ Levels of Ballistic Protection

Bulletproof vests are tested and rated by the NIJ, with each type assigned a specific level based on the amount of protection it provides against specific ammunition.

Level II-A stops 9mm full metal-jacketed round nose bullets, as well as .40 caliber Smith and Wesson rounds. Due to its lightweight build, this vest can be concealed underneath clothing, whether plain-clothes for undercover operations or standard uniform. Government agencies no longer use Level I vests, as it is designed to stop low-velocity 22 caliber rounds only.

Level II vests stop up to .357 Magnum jacketed soft-point bullets; this can also be worn in a covert way, beneath other layers, and provides the best everyday protection for officers.

Level III-A vests will defend an officer from high-velocity 9mm and .44 Magnum jacketed hollow-point rounds. Until recently, this was the highest level of concealable armor available, and is generally considered modern law enforcement personnel's most versatile vest.

Level III vests are designed to protect wearers against rifle-fire, certified to stop 7.62mm full metal jacketed rounds; with their SAPI pockets, ballistic plates can be added to upgrade its defense capabilities.

Level IV is typically used when high-velocity firepower is expected: this can stop .30 caliber armor-piercing rounds, with plates made of ceramics or other composite materials – these will shatter at the point of impact when struck by high-velocity rounds.

Ballistic and Stab Vests for Law Enforcement Agencies

Counter Terrorism:

For officers operating in counter-terrorism, the level of potential danger is likely to be higher than that faced by officers on standard patrol. Ballistic vests at levels III and IV are recommended, particularly those with SAPI plates: new models feature composite materials (like Polyethylene) as well as clay, to resist such rounds as .30 and M80 caliber.


Given the high-risk operations SWAT teams perform, ballistic vests are essential: overt vests at level III are the most recommended type – these protect against a wide variety of rounds without hindering movement in any way. Many level III carriers can be upgraded to level IV, by adding SAPI plates into available pockets.

Narcotics Teams:

From arresting suspected dealers on the street to raiding dens, narcotics teams require armor able to stop the most high-velocity ammunition. Narcotics officers may work undercover from time to time, and so need discreet armor able to withstand the most lethal firepower; fortunately, covert vests at levels III and IV are now available, carrying concealable plates for the highest level of protection.

FBI Agents

With new breakthroughs in temperature-regulating fabrics and contour-fit for covert vests, FBI agents can now wear armor under their everyday clothes for prolonged periods; whichever level of protection agents need, they can wear up to levels III and IV with more lightweight SAPI plates. With these new developments, agents can rest assured they are prepared for any situation.

Corrections Officers

Officers based in correctional facilities are unlikely to face gunfire from inmates (unless their handguns fall into the wrong hands). Blades and spikes (fashioned from such domestic items as toothbrushes and chair legs) are the biggest threats, making stab and spike protection essential to stay as safe as possible. The NIJ has three levels, based on the amount of energy an attacker uses in an assault. Kevlar in these latter protection types is woven more tightly than in ballistic vests, to trap pointed tips and create friction against blades; corrections officers are advised to wear vests of at least level II protection.