Department of Justice issues revised standard for body armor
The revised standard, which is part of the Justice Department’s Body Armor Safety Initiative, now requires rigorous testing that takes into account high heat, humidity and mechanical wear before ballistic testing. The standard ensures that the vests police officers wear will continue to protect them as the material ages, according to the Justice Department.
“This important advancement in body armor standards is in direct response to changes in threats faced by law enforcement, advances in ballistic materials and technology, and the need to ensure that body armor performs well when subjected to environmental factors,” said Associate Attorney General Kevin O’Connor. “Body armor standards are needed to ensure that law enforcement and corrections officers’ equipment provides a high level of safety and protection.”
The Justice Department points out that bullet- and stab-resistant personal body armor has saved the lives of more than 3,000 law enforcement officers since the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) began certifying such products in 1975. The only case ever reported to the agency in which NIJ-compliant body armor failed – the June 2003 shooting of Forest Hills police officer Edward Limbacher – prompted the launch of the Body Armor Safety Initiative in November 2003. As part of the initiative, NIJ developed the enhanced compliance testing program with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Office of Law Enforcement Standards.
The new body armor standard – Resistance of Body Armor NIJ Standard-0101.06 – establishes minimum performance requirements and test methods for the ballistic resistance of personal body armor designed to protect the torso against gunfire. The standard does not address resistance from knives or other sharply pointed objects, according to the Justice Department.
The new standard: reviews NIJ body armor classifications; details requirements such as acceptance criteria, workmanship and armor backing material; and discusses test methods such as velocity measurement equipment, wet conditioning and test preparation. The standard supersedes NIJ 2005 Interim Requirements, Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor (August 2005) and supersedes NIJ Standard-0101.04 Rev. A, Ballistic Resistance of Personal Body Armor (June 2001).
No need to immediately replace body armor
The Justice Department noted that law enforcement officers do not need to immediately replace the body armor that they currently own. Instead, NIJ encouraged officers to continue to wear body armor listed on the agency’s comprehensive list of models that are compliant with the NIJ standard. The listing is located on NIJ’s Justice Technology Center Network Web site.
NIJ said that it reccomends that law enforcement agencies replace body armor when its useful service life has expired with armor that meets the requirements of the new standard.