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NIJ statement regarding Second Chance, Inc. body armor "upgrade" offer

September 30, 2003

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and its National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) administer a voluntary compliance testing program to assess whether models of ballistic-resistant body armor comply with NIJ Standard–0101.04. The NIJ standard identifies minimum performance criteria critical to protecting officers from ballistic threats. Models of armor tested through NIJ’s voluntary compliance testing program and determined to comply with NIJ standards are listed in NIJ’s Personal Body Armor Database, which can be found on NLECTC’s website, JUSTNET, at www.justnet.org.

NIJ recently became aware of an announcement by Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., of Central Lake, Michigan, that indicates the company is offering free “upgrades” to the ballisticresistant panels of Second Chance’s Ultima and Ultimax product lines. A number of these models were previously tested by NIJ when newly manufactured and determined to be in compliance with NIJ standards.

Public safety agencies are asking whether the Second Chance “upgrade pack,” when used in combination with their existing Second Chance ballistic-resistant panels, complies with the NIJ standard. A model of armor complies with the NIJ standard only as long as it is constructed identically to the version originally tested and approved through NIJ’s voluntary compliance testing program. In general, testing of used armor or modified used body armor is outside the scope and intent of NIJ’s voluntary compliance testing program. If the construction of an NIJcompliant armor model is modified, that model no longer complies with the NIJ standard. In addition, NIJ cannot validate the ongoing performance capabilities of armor models being used by law enforcement agencies (or the performance of these models when used in conjunction with an “upgrade pack”), because factors exist that may affect the ballistic-resistant properties of body armor models over time. These factors include wear, care, and storage, none of which can be conclusively measured. Agencies are encouraged to exercise caution with respect to any armor modifications or add-on accessories because it is not known how these changes may affect the ballistic-resistant capabilities of the armor.

For some time, NIJ has been actively supporting and monitoring several ongoing research initiatives focused on understanding the root causes of ballistic performance degradation in protective armor and the factors that influence the rate of this degradation. These efforts should lead to:

  • a better scientific understanding of these phenomena,
  • the development of test methods to effectively determine the service life cycle of specific units of armor, and
  • the development of better care and maintenance guidelines.

NIJ encourages public safety agencies to ensure establishment of reasonable replacement guidelines consistent with an agency’s operational requirements. Proper care, storage, and cleaning of the armor are critical to maximizing its useful life. Storage of the armor in extreme environmental conditions or non-temperature-controlled environments (e.g., automobile trunks, non-climate-controlled storage rooms or areas) is not recommended under any circumstances. For more information on the selection, procurement, and care of personal body armor, please refer to NIJ Guide 100-01, Selection and Application Guide to Personal Body Armor (available at www.justnet.org or 800/248–2742).

NIJ is committed to ensuring the safety of the Nation''s public safety personnel through its research efforts and voluntary compliance testing program. Personal body armor has been responsible for saving more than 2,700 lives since its introduction more than 30 years ago. NIJ encourages all public safety personnel to wear their ballistic-resistant armor at all times while on duty. Officers who do not wear body armor increases their relative risk of fatality in a firearmsrelated assault by 14 times when compared to officers who wear body armor.

Agencies that have additional questions or concerns regarding personal body armor may direct their inquiries to the Compliance Testing Office by calling NLECTC toll-free at 800/248-2742 (callers outside the continental United States please call 301–519–5060) or by email at asknlectc@nlectc.org.

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