“ to each there stands his own day;
to all the time of life is short and irretrievable;
but to extend one’s fame with deeds,
that is the task of valor”.
(Virgil, The Aeneid X. 467-9)
In an absolute atmosphere of insanity and pandemonium, emergence of a Police Officer is a symbol of ingenuity, valor, and self-sacrifice. It promises each unnerved and astonished person that calm will triumph and valid reasoning will guide everyone to safety and security.
When the Police Officer gets dressed for his duty. He takes a long hard look at his bullet-proof-vest. He is bound to see the vest at the spots where a bullet can hit and cause utmost harm. He knows that his bullet-proof-vest is not a 100% shield. At the back of his mind there is also this thought that the offender may not aim at the vest. With so many mixed feelings of luck and apprehension he puts on the bullet-proof-vest, always hopeful of the poor marksmanship on part of the offender and the use of light ammunition by him. The reverse of this fact frightens him as it will frighten any sane human being. He sets out in the line of duty, not for the remuneration that he is handed but to uphold his promise to serve and protect, and his integrity. Nobody can put a price on that.
“All men are not created equal. The finest become the Policemen.” (Author unknown)
The statistics confirm just how perilous a Police Officer’s occupation can be. On average one U.S. law enforcement officer pays the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty every 53 hours, states the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). This detail becomes even more astounding when one considers that the number of line-of-duty deaths has been on an uphill ascent. That’s the sobering reality law enforcement officers’ face every time they don a uniform, holster their guns, and go out on the street. Some deaths can be prevented if officers wear bullet-resistant vests. According to the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), law enforcement officers who do not routinely wear body armor, risk deadly injury at a rate 14 times higher than officers who do. And as wear rates rise so does officer security. A protected officer is one who goes home at night, not one who pays the ultimate sacrifice as he/she serves and protects us.
A bullet proof vest, ballistic vest or bullet-resistant vest is an article of personal armor
that aids to endure the impact from firearm-fired projectiles and shrapnel from explosions, and is worn on the chest. Soft vests are made from numerous layers of woven or plastic-coated strands and can be capable of protecting the wearer from small-caliber handgun and shotgun projectiles, and small fragments from explosives such as hand grenades. Metal and ceramic plates can be used with a soft vest, providing additional protection from rifle rounds, and metallic components or tightly woven fiber layers can give soft armor resistance to stab and slash attacks from knives and similar close-quarter weapons. Soft vests are commonly worn by Police Officers, whereas hard plate reinforced vests are worn by Police Tactical Units, and Hostage Rescue Teams. Modern body armor may combine a ballistic vest with other items of protective clothing, such as a combat helmet. Vests intended for Police may also include ballistic shoulder and side protection armor components, and bomb disposal officers wear heavy armor and helmets with face visors and spine protection.
The science behind the bullet-proof-vest is pretty simple. When a bullet hits the vest, it encounters multiple layers of very strong, crisscrossed fibers. These fibers slow the progress of the bullet and distribute its force, causing the bullet to flatten out and stop in the layers of the vest before it can reach the body of the wearer. Typically, the wearer experiences some blunt force trauma caused by the impact, but this is better than a bullet wound.
The Body armor can be classified into five distinct categories based on the degree of ballistic protection provided. The first three classifications represent flexible body armor designed to give protection against handgun threats, whereas the last two represent armor designed to protect officers in tactical operations against rifle threats. The five classifications and the associated threat round calibers are as follows:
- Type 11A: 9mm Luger and .40 S&W
- Type 11: 9mm Luger and .357 Magnum
- Type 111A: .357 SIG and .44 Magnum
- Type 111: 7.62 mm NATO (rifle)
- Type 1V: 30.06 M2 AP (armor-piercing rifle)
Although often called “bullet-proof vests”, in reality the vests do not stop all rounds fired. Officers can be slain by a non-penetrating blunt force trauma to the chest. Even when the round is stopped, an officer can suffer an injury under the vest. A back-face deformity injury to the abdomen also known as behind-armor blunt trauma, were reported on the chest as early as 1978. Law enforcement officers and their departments are aware of the fact that both vest failures and back-face injuries do occur even when officers are wearing the bullet-proof vests.
After the gunfire the Officers’ physical responses to being shot can vary widely as the research suggests. Irrespective of their signs and symptoms at the scene, the officers who are shot in the vest area, need a medical evaluation owing to the possibility for inexplicable or delayed wounds.
Occasionally, officers fall into a state of ease when working. It is often exhibited in options they take on personal safety. It is easy to become complacent and adopt a won’t-happen-to-me approach, but the truth is that it could happen to anyone. Since 1987, over 3,000 individuals working in the law enforcement profession have survived both ballistic and non-ballistic incidents because they were wearing body armor.
We, as a society have to give the Police Officer strength of our support and whatever he/she needs in doing his/her job safely and promptly. Society must give highest preference to the Police Officer’s safety. We cannot afford to lose our defenders. They are standing guard for us all, at all times. We have to stand guard for them and honor them for their valor, since without them and their valor, there is no freedom for us.
© Samina Iqbal. 2013