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Defective Body Armor Sold To N.Y. Cops

November 18, 2004
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Defective Body Armor Sold To N.Y. Cops

Company May Have Known Vests Had Problems Before Selling Them

By Dan Bazile, WNYT-TV News (Albany, N.Y.)

TROY, N.Y. -- Some defective body armor is putting many local police officers at risk.

NBC News has learned the company that makes the vest may have tried to cover it up.

New information suggests Second Chance Body Armor Inc., a company that makes bulletproof vests, knew its product was defective even before an officer was killed while wearing one.

The Troy Police Department requires its officers to wear body armor. They bought brand new Second Chance vests between 2000 and 2003. Now they're going through the process of replacing them.

William Wade is one of 116 Troy police officers who thought the Second Chance vests were a great idea.

"The original vest was lighter, easier to maneuver," he explained.

However, the vests got heavier soon after a police officer in California was shot and killed while wearing one last year. Second Chance quickly provided an extra panel to bring the vests back up to grade.

"If it wasn't mandatory, I wouldn't even wear the second panel. That's how much I dislike it," Wade said.

The vest is defective without the second panel.

NBC News has learned Second Chance may have known its bulletproof vest were putting officers like Wade at risk, but covered it up.

Second Chance President Richard Davis has always stood by his product and even shot himself to prove the vests' effectiveness.

However, Aaron Westrick, a company researcher, accuses Second Chance of putting profit ahead of safety. He says the maker of Zylon -- the key fabric that stops the bullets -- told Second Chance the fabric could fail two years before the fatal shooting in California.

"The information that was presented to me was conducive that the armor would fail," Westrick said in a videotaped deposition.

"We were notified last fall about the vibrancy of the Zylon," Troy Police Sgt. John Riegert said.

Riegert says the vests work well with the extra panels, but he says he's obviously concerned about the quality of the armor his officers are using.

"We're concerned about what happened. We're aware of the actions being taken. We're examining all of our options," Riegert said.

Second Chance is fighting a number of lawsuits. It's also filed for bankruptcy.

Troy police are trying to figure out whether to take action. State police and the Saratoga Springs Police Department also use Second Chance body armor.

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