Vests Save Lives

Since 1987, the IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors’ Club has verified over 3,100 lives of law enforcement officers saved because they were wearing body armor at the time of the incident. According to the IACP’s Reducing Officer Injuries Report, a summary of findings from a study of 18 law enforcement agencies who tracked all officer injuries over the course of one year, those individuals who reported wearing body armor missed fewer work days after an injury and endured fewer rehabilitation days compared to those who were not wearing armor during their injury. This data covers felonious assaults, motor vehicle accidents, and other incidents. Even though body armor wear is significant to officer safety, its usage is often determined by individual agency policies and is not mandatory at every jurisdiction.

The IACP encourages the use of body armor protection for all officers in order to mitigate serious injuries and reduce fatalities. In 2011, the IACP adopted a Mandatory Vest Use by Police Officers Resolution, which serves to increase the number of mandatory vest wear policies adopted by law enforcement agencies. According to data collected for the Reducing Officer Injuries Report, only 60% of agencies had mandatory wear policies for body armor in 2011, and 37% of officers that were feloniously killed from 2000 to 2009 were not wearing body armor at the time of the fatal incident. These percentages indicate an essential need for strict body armor policies, as many more lives could be saved as a result of wearing body armor.

In addition to the vest use resolution, the IACP recognizes the importance of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) program, established by the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act of 1998, a unique U.S. Department of Justice initiative designed to provide a critical resource to state and local law enforcement. Since its inception, the BVP program has reimbursed more than 13,000 agencies a total of $288 million for the purchase of over one million vests in order to promote officer safety. Applications for this year’s BVP funds are now being accepted until May 13, 2014. In order to receive funding from the BVP, an agency must have an implemented vest wear policy in place. BJA recommends that agencies seeking a vest wear policy refer to the IACP’s Model Policy on Body Armor which is available through the BVP Program. This is an essential resource for agencies across the country to endorse officer safety and potentially reduce the number of officer fatalities within their agency.

It is the IACP’s position that no injury to or death of a law enforcement professional is acceptable, and the IACP Center for Officer Safety and Wellness strives to improve awareness on all aspects of officer safety. To learn more and to share best practices pertaining to officer safety and wellness please visit http://www.iacp.org/CenterforOfficerSafetyandWellness or contact the Center staff at officersafety@theiacp.org.

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