Law enforcement across the country have different armor policies. Some police officers are provided body armor when they get their badge. Others are required to buy their own armor, and still others are under strict regulations regarding the armor they are allowed – and sometimes required – to wear on duty.
Vel Tye specializes in high-quality tactical vests and plate carriers for law enforcement and we’ve seen dozens of different armor polices over the years. Here is what you need to know about your department’s armor policy.
Police Officers and Body Armor
As of 2013, the most recent year comprehensive data was compiled, about 71% of local police departments required their officers to wear body armor at all time. That number was up substantially from 2003 in which only 59% of departments did so. An adjacent study found that 88% of police officers say they comply with their armor policy all the time. Official data holds that over 3,000 police officers’ lives have been saved by body armor since data collection began in the 1970s.
Why Officers Don’t Wear Body Armor
There are several reasons a police officer might forego body armor. The first is that their department doesn’t require it to be worn. The second reason most commonly-cited by officers for not wearing armor pertains to fit – poor sizing, reduced mobility, increased weight, heat build-up, etc. If a vest is uncomfortable, an officer is less likely to wear it. Lastly, some officers say they don’t wear vests on duty because they are cost prohibitive, either for the department or for the officer personally.
Your Department’s Requirements
There are a few things to keep in mind when understanding your own department’s guidelines and requirements for body armor. Your commanding officer is always the best source of information regarding specifics. Here are a few body armor-related questions to be sure you know the answer to in order to stay compliant.
- Will I be issued body armor by my agency?
- If not, is agency-approved body armor required? What are the specifications? (i.e. soft plates vs. hard plates, etc.)
- When am I required to wear body armor? Only when in uniform? During “high-risk” tactical situations? What about road jobs or detective duty?
- Who is responsible for caring for, storing, cleaning, and replacing my body armor? Can I take it home with me or should it be stored at the precinct?
- Are there guidelines regarding how body armor should be worn (i.e. under clothes vs. over clothes)?
It is imperative you know your department’s armor policy. Body armor policies are put in place to protect law enforcement officers, but it’s your responsibility to have a full understanding of your department’s specific regulations.