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A Practitioner's Guide to the 2011 National Body Armor Survey of Law Enforcement Officers

NCJ Number
Bruce Taylor Ph.D.; Heath Grant Ph.D.; Bruce Kubu; Jack Roberts Ph.D.; Megan Collins; Daniel J. Woods Ph.D.
Date Published
November 2012
13 pages
This practitioner summary describes research conducted regarding law enforcement officers' use of body armor, and State and local law enforcement agencies' policies on the use of body armor.
This study demonstrates that much progress has been made in the last decade in terms of law enforcement agencies providing body armor to officers, developing policies to require its use, and educating officers about why they need it and how to care for/maintain it. The study identified that understanding the importance of, and adherence to, proper care and maintenance procedures is vital and needs improvement. Building on previous work conducted in 2005 and 2009, this current study was conducted from the officer's perspective, producing findings about the actual use of and attitudes towards body armor in addition to agency policies. The survey, conducted from October 2010 to May 2011, consisted of a national, representative sample of sworn officers from randomly selected agencies. Major findings, implications, and recommendations include: 1) An increasing number of agencies are adopting policies requiring officers to wear armor, and many officers report wearing armor in compliance with these requirements. 2) Agencies should maintain educational and training programs on the importance of wearing body armor, and should maintain or adopt policies requiring officers to wear body armor. 3) Agencies should conduct inspections to ensure that officers are wearing, and maintaining, body armor. 4) Agencies should make body armor comfort a consideration in future acquisition decisions, to the extent that equal levels of protection are provided by different brands or models of armor, and should involve officers in the process of evaluating body armor. 5) Agencies should adopt policies, training, and education to ensure that officers do not engage in practices that could be counter to manufacturers' recommendations concerning body armor storage. Instead, policies, training, and education should be based upon the recommendations of the agencies' particular body armor manufacturer(s). And, 6) many agencies need stronger body armor replacement strategies to ensure quick replacement when necessary; training officers in the use of body armor, beyond required reading of manufacturer literature is strongly advised.