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Body Armor: Protecting Our Nation's Officers from Ballistic Threats

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2018
5 pages
After citing data that show the importance of police wearing protective body armor, this article discusses the role of the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in ensuring that law enforcement officers are equipped with body armor of the highest quality and proper fit.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2007, U.S. police officers and sheriffs' patrol officers experienced a job-related fatality rate of approximately 20 in 100,000 officers, which is five times higher than the overall job-related fatality rate of 4 in 100,000 workers across all U.S. industries in that year. Firearms continue to be one of the most dangerous threats faced by U.S. law enforcement officers. This threat to officer safety makes body armor critical safety equipment. Although "bulletproof" armor does not exist, ballistic-resistant body armor can protect against many types of handgun and rifle ammunition. Relevant statistics show that many officers have been saved from death or serious injury by wearing body armor. NIJ has been pivotal in the development of modern police body armor. It establishes and updates voluntary minimum performance standards for body armor and operates a body armor certification program based on testing by accredited third-party ballistics laboratories. NIJ also sponsors research to better understand the impact of body armor and related agency officer-safety policies. This research has found that body armor is an effective means for reducing officer harm and fatalities from ballistic threats. This article advises that law enforcement agencies should continue to require that all purchased body armor be in compliance with NIJ body-armor standards, which are currently being updated, and should continue to develop written policies that make the wearing of body armor mandatory for officers. 16 notes

Date Published: November 1, 2018