Officers Need Thicker Bulletproof Vests or Fewer Guns to Keep Them Safe
Police officers and other law enforcement officers might seem indestructible, but that’s far from the truth. Their body armor is supposed to help protect them, but it turns out that it might not be enough anymore. While it’s true that some 3,000 officers have been spared because of their tactical gear, and not wearing it puts you 3.5 times more at risk for dying from a gunshot wound, it’s misleading to call it “bulletproof”. Officers are still dying from gunshot wounds while wearing those vests, so something has to be fixed. To ensure police safety in the future, we have to make a change for thicker protection, or make it harder to get strong firearms.
Gunshots are the second leading cause of death amongst police officers, with death by motor collision taking first place. But it might not be for long. The FBI reported that 66 officers died in the line of duty in 2016, and of those officers, 62 of them were killed by assault with a firearm. And reports estimate that over one-third of officer deaths within the last decade were caused by gunshots. This means that body armor is optimistically named, as it isn’t exactly doing its job right now. And part of that is the vest, but the main problem is the strength of opposing firearms.
The vests are designed to be capable to stop a bullet of a certain strength. That means if the ammunition hitting it has a larger impact than it is designed to cushion, then it can’t stop it. In other words, a bullet shot from a higher-powered firearm than the average gun can pierce through the armor straight to the heart. It won’t do any good. Almost 20% of officers who have died from a gunshot wound to the torso have died for this reason alone. The armor is not designed to stop every bullet, only those in the most common firearms. And while officers are not always pursuing shooting targets, it changes the game considerably when guns are involved. And for particularly dangerous situations such as going after terrorist groups and similar criminals, this makes it all the more important to know they’re safe to go in.
We can’t continue to send our officers into dangerous situations with so-called bulletproof body armor like this knowing that they could still be shot and killed. We need to strengthen our gear or make it harder to get those stronger firearms. These will make it easier to ensure their safety even in the most dangerous situations.