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Government Standard Takes Stab at Puncture-Resistant Vests

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 29 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2002 Pages: 108,110-111,112
Douglas Page
Date Published
July 2002
4 pages
This article discusses a new standard for protective equipment used by law enforcement and corrections personnel.
Research shows that bullet-resistant vests are incapable of providing adequate protection against knife attacks, an injury more likely to be inflicted on correctional officers. Puncture-resistant vests have to be capable of defeating the initial cutting of the material. This is something bullet-resistant vests aren’t designed to do. Safety conditions for correctional workers may change due to a new standard developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST’s Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES) conducts and monitors programs concerned with establishing performance standards for weapons and protective equipment. To develop ways to test the effectiveness of vests specifically designed to protect against stabbing attacks, NIST worked with the Police Scientific Development Branch from the United Kingdom. Stab-resistant armor technology has evolved to a greater extent in European countries due to strict gun control laws, which makes stabbing more likely. Due to overcrowded prison conditions in this country, the physical hazards of correctional work have increased. Stabbing attacks with improvised knives, picks, and shivs of all sorts are frequent. The new standard for knife-resistant vests allows prisons to shop for vests that meet the standard. Correctional officers now have access to lighter, more flexible, form-fitting body armor that is designed to protect against attack by inmate-made weapons. However, it appears that the average correctional officer does not wear these type vests regularly unless they are required. The reasons for this are that most jails are hot and so are the vests; and vests don’t offer the same level of protection as bullet-resistant vests. Officers need to be careful not to let the vest give them a false sense of protection that they relax their guard. Since the current standard was released, nearly 17,000 stab-resistant vests have gone to the Nation’s correctional facilities. All such vests must meet or exceed standards developed by NIST.