Got Your Back?
Experts are urging police officers to continue wearing bullet-resistant armor despite the recent failure of one officer’s 100 percent Zylon vest during a shooting in Pennsylvania. That incident has caused some to question the effectiveness of Zylon as a bullet-resistant material and has prompted the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to conduct an inquiry into the vest’s failure.
The company that made the vest, Second Chance Body Armor, says that its own tests have shown that Zylon’s ballistic properties may degrade when exposed to certain environmental conditions over time. Ballistics expert Al Price says that the weaving process may also put a strain on Zylon fibers as they are developed into fabric.
Manufacturers can offset the risk of degradation by using a hybrid construction rather than pure Zylon and by over-engineering vests for an extra margin of safety. Officers are also responsible for caring for their vests to reduce routine wear-and-tear.
Even with these precautions, the NIJ suggests that police departments conduct regular inspections of officers’ armor and verify vest quality with manufacturers.
In a statement last December, the NIJ recommended that officers continue to wear bullet resistant vests in the field to reduce the risk of fatality, which is 14 times greater for officers who do not wear body armor.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Law Enforcement Technology (02/04) Vol. 31, No. 2, P. 30; Garrett, Ronnie .