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Emerging trends in protective vest designs for law enforcement

Multi-purpose outer-shell carriers give officers the performance and professional benefits they need

By Mark Smith
Point Blank Body Armor

Today’s body armor manufacturers and uniform makers such as Blauer and Elbeco are combining their innovative capabilities to equip officers with the latest concealable body armor and uniform outer carrier systems that meet the highest-level of protection, comfort and professional requirements. But why the increasing demand for these outer-shell solutions?

I believe there are really three key drivers.

1.) The current NIJ Standard-0101.06, along with the U.S. Department of Justice’s “mandatory wear” policy which are helping to foster a new generation of excellence with the highest-performing, most comfortable body armor solutions that encourage more officers to use their vests in the line of duty, thus saving more lives.

After two years of officer deaths declining, there was a dramatic 37 percent increase in deaths in 2010. As a result of this increase and its renewed efforts to improve officer safety, the DOJ ruled that beginning in 2011 all law enforcement agencies receiving funds from the Bullet Proof Vest Partnership (BVP) Program have a written "mandatory wear" policy in effect.

This mandate, combined with rigorous testing requirements by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), are cultivating the use of technologically-advanced ballistic armor that enable officers to wear their protective vests externally without the risk of altering design and functionality.

2.) The latest uniform outer carriers take officers’ comfort needs to the next level, while preserving performance capabilities.

Designed to be worn over the dress shirt, today''s innovative carriers feature multi-functional pockets, a convenient side opening and a contoured shape for total comfort. The officer can instantly convert the carrier into a ballistic protective vest by inserting concealable body armor. Within seconds, the carrier is ready to wear with up to NIJ Level IIIA protection.

In addition to having a more streamlined design, outer-shell solutions include state-of-the-art abrasion-resistant outer fabric (durable for the most extreme conditions); some offer load-bearing benefits; and can be worn over the uniform in any climate.

In jurisdictions such as Florida, where officers must deal with the hot and humid temperature, a number of agencies are turning to outer carriers as a means to keeping their personnel both protected and comfortable.

3.) Growing pressure from law enforcement departments and associations highlights the industry’s desire to bring back the traditional uniform appearance synonymous with the profession.

The Florida Sheriffs Association, for example, continues to advocate for the traditional patrol uniform and strongly believes that an officer’s appearance has a critical impact on the community he or she serves. 

Mark Smith currently serves as Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Point Blank Solutions where he is responsible for the company''s strategic sales planning and execution. Mr. Smith has worked in a number of senior sales management roles for more than twenty years - most recently as Director of Sales at Galls, Vice President of Dealer Sales at SCHULTE Corporation and Director of Sales at Aramark. Mark earned his MBA from Bellarmine University and his Bachelor of Arts degree from Midway College. He studied Sales Management and Marketing in the Executive Scholars Program at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

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