November 30, 2003
National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial Fund Urges Officers to Continue Wearing Vests
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Responding to recent charges that certain bullet-resistant vests may not be fully reliable, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) today called on all of our nation's police officers to continue wearing their body armor until all of the findings are in and corrective measures are taken.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft recently announced a Department of Justice initiative to address the reliability of body armor used by law enforcement personnel and to examine the future of bullet-resistant technology and testing. This announcement came amid concerns raised by law enforcement leaders and U.S. Senators Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that certain body armor made of Zylon fiber may be defective.
"I want to strongly encourage police officers everywhere to continue wearing their vests-even if it is a Zylon vest-until this investigation is completed within the next 90 days and corrective measures are taken," stated NLEOMF Chairman Craig W. Floyd. "The DOJ investigation will certainly help to answer important questions that have been raised about the reliability of certain types of body armor, but there is simply no disputing the fact that bullet-resistant vests continue to be the best police protection tool available."
Mr. Floyd cited an FBI report that states, "The risk of fatality for officers assaulted with a firearm while not wearing body armor is 14 times higher than for officers wearing body armor." According to records kept by the NLEOMF, 272 of the officers who were shot and killed in the line of duty during the past 10 years (1993-2002) were not wearing body armor.
The first police save recorded by concealable body armor occurred in 1972. Records kept jointly by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the DuPont Company show that a total of 2,794 police lives have been saved by body armor since that time. Mr. Floyd noted that while bullet-resistant vests effectively stop most conventional handgun ammunition, they also protect officers from life-threatening puncture wounds caused by knives, ice picks, and other sharp weapons. Vests have also proven to save officers in automobile accidents, falls, fires, explosions and even a lightning strike. In fact, more than half of all documented vest saves have not involved firearms.
According to NLEOMF records, an average of 224 law enforcement officers were killed annually in the 1970s, the deadliest decade in the history of policing. Over the past 10 years (1993-2002) that figure has dropped to 166 police fatalities each year. Mr. Floyd said that the increased use of bullet-resistant vests by police officers had more to do with this 26% decrease in law enforcement fatalities than any other reason.
Established in 1984, the NLEOMF is a nonprofit organization comprised of 15 national law enforcement groups committed to increasing public support for the law enforcement profession and promoting law enforcement safety. The NLEOMF also maintains the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., on which the names of more than 16,000 fallen officers are inscribed. The NLEOMF is currently working to build a National Law Enforcement Museum in our Nation's Capital.
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