The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) is an independent organization dedicated to the research and solutions of critical issues in policing (E.G. Covid, Ballistic Protection, Use of Force, Violent Crime, etc…).
PERF uses statistics on crime and issues that affect policing to identify problems and offer solutions to those problems. PERF often works with the NIJ, BJA, and many other Department of Justice (DOJ) agencies to come up with solutions to the many problems LEO's face.
Based on the results of the survey conducted by the BJA and PERF, we’d like to focus on the most impactful findings for us as a Manufacturer.
The BJA/PERF Body Armor National Survey: Protecting the Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers
The Bureau of Justice Assistance and PERF conducted a survey of the top 10 largest police organizations in the country, as well over 100 other organizations across the country. Each question listed below was asked for officers in the national survey.
What Levels of Body Armor Do Police Typically Use?
Body Armor is regulated by the NIJ and is classified as either Level IIA, Level II, Level IIIA, Level III, and Level IV. If you're interested in learning more about each classification, read our blog, NIJ Guide to Body Armor.
According to the PERF survey, LEOs wear Level II body armor (41%) more than any other body armor level. Level II body armor is only designed to stop handgun bullets from a 9mm to a .357 Magnum.
Level IIIA body armor will protect against any handgun caliber – it comes in 2nd with 35% of all body armor levels. The problem with this revelation is that it means at least 76% of LEOs are wearing body armor that won’t protect against rifle caliber bullets, such as the 5.56x45mm, 7.62x51mm, or 7.62x39mm.
Of The Officers Who Were Shot in the Line of Duty, How Many Were Shot in an Area Covered by Body Armor?
According to the F.B.I., there have been 503 LEOs killed in the line of duty from 2011-2020. Of those officers 95 have been killed by rifle-caliber bullets that are not protected by the most common armor worn by police.
Approximately 25% of officers shot in the line of duty were hit in their body armor. I know 25% doesn’t sound like a lot, but this means more than 22,000 officers have been shot and wounded since 2010. At least 4,000-5,000 officers have been saved by body armor. With a record year in 2021 of police killed in the line of duty, this number will only get larger.
Of the officers who died as a result of a line of duty shooting, how many were shot in an area covered by body armor?
One of the hardest topics to research for us is officers killed while wearing body armor that fails them. Around 8% of officers killed by gunfire penetrating their body armor, which is too high of a number. Our body armor doesn’t fail because of the amount of time and effort we put into our manufacturing process.
8% may not seem like a big number, but even 1 police officer killed in the line of duty is too much due to equipment failure.
As a society, we owe our officers access to dependable, quality gear that will undoubtedly save their lives. This number doesn’t even include the number of officers killed from bullets outside the NIJ threat protection.
How do law enforcement agencies choose and purchase their armor?
Every organization has a team member in charge of purchasing the tools needed for everyone to do their jobs. This question was asked to get an idea of what each officer knew about how body armor was purchased and who is responsible for the procurement.
The survey indicates that 87% of organizations buy body armor for their officers. Many officers indicate they want more influence in what kind of armor their organizations buy for them. We believe those risking their lives for the greater good should have a say in what kind of gear they wear.
Rate the importance of the following factors related to the purchasing of body armor. 1=very important to 4=not important.
What are the most important factors for each LEO when purchasing body armor?
Surprisingly, one of the lowest factors across the country was the cost of the body armor. This is due to the fact that LEOs know the importance of ballistic protection. Officers seem to care less about the money and more about the threat level of the armor.
What are the 7 Most Important Factors For LEOs When Wearing Body Armor?
1. Does the armor defeat the caliber of the officer's own weapon?
The most important factor for police officers according to the survey is whether the armor will stop the caliber of their own duty weapon. As a former police officer, I can tell you this is incredibly important because of the exposure to the public.
LEOs are often targeted by assailants and the first thing people try to reach for is the gun of the officer. This is a natural feeling that every officer must have for self-preservation.
According to the F.B.I., there have only been 35 officers killed with their own weapon from 2011-2020. Having ballistic protection that will stop the sidearm of the officer is a great starting point, but not the solution for optimal protection.
2. Safety/Threat Level
Officers want to know exactly what their armor will stop because the more knowledge they have about their gear, the better they can do their job. For example, knowing that your armor will stop any handgun and rifle-caliber bullet will give an LEO confidence to stand firm in the face of danger.
I’ve never met an LEO that didn’t care about how body armor affects their mobility. Officers need to be able to move freely, without interference from their body armor. The biggest issue is how the armor impacts their ability to move their arms.
For example, many officers don’t wear hard plate armor because many brands prevent proper cross-arm movement. It’s vital for the safety and security of every officer to be able to draw either their pistol or AR without armor restricting movement.
4. NIJ Compliance
Officers are concerned about whether their armor is NIJ-Listed, but it’s not as high as I personally thought it would be. However, as a young patrolman, I didn’t even know who the NIJ was and wore what I was told to wear.
Not knowing if my armor would stop different caliber bullets was a constant thought in my mind and something many of the young officers discussed in private. Whether a ballistic plate is legitimate or not should be clearly stated by a manufacturer.
Fortunately, you will never have to guess with ShotStop®. All Level III plates are NIJ-Listed and our Level IV plates are in the process of gettingNIJ listed. However, we provide multiple independent laboratory test results that show the plates exceed Level IV requirements.
I think with anything you wear in your daily life, it needs to be comfortable for you or you’re not likely to continue to wear it. Nobody wants to wear a shirt that rubs your skin raw and the same principle applies with body armor.
Most officers spend the majority of their time inside their vehicles and can’t have their armor plates riding up into their neck, pinching their stomach, or smashing into their thighs for 12 hours a day.
I have quite a few family members that are LEOs and over the Christmas break, I was able to try on some of the body armor they wore. One thing I didn’t know is that my brother-in-law and my uncle have 2 sets of body armor; one for patrol and one for emergency responses to violent crimes.
Two of the biggest reasons that officers don’t wear armor is due to the weight and comfort of the plates. Nobody is going to wear a higher level threat protection plate if it’s too heavy.
Almost 80% of police organizations interviewed didn’t have a replacement database to ensure body armor is always within warranty and effective. This is important because the majority of body armor manufacturers have a 5-year warranty or less on their body armor.
Our warranty is one of the many features that separate ShotStop® from our competitors. We offer a 15-year warranty on all Level 3 body armor plates and a 10-year warranty on our Level 4 body armor plates. Our Level 3 Duritium® plates are at least 2-3x longer because we have utmost confidence in our products.
Why Should Police Officers Wear Diritium® Level 3 or 4 Body Armor?
According to the LEOKA (Table 31) 2020 report, 53% (51/95) of officers killed with rifle-caliber bullets were shot with a .223 or 7.62x39mm caliber. We have to be conscientious about stating our Level III+ plates will stop all AR-15 and AK-47 style rifles.
There are bullets that are very uncommon, but that can increase the lethality of any gun, especially rifles with so many variants available. However, the most common AR and AK-47 weapon platforms fire the .223 and the 7.62x39mm, respectively.
Our Duritium® Level III+PA plate will stop both the .223 and the 7.62x39mm with at least 6 hits. We understand that most officers are concerned about the overall weight and mobility of their plates.
Many of our customers need to be able to bend, squat, run, and move their arms freely to protect themselves. All of our Level 3 and 4 plates are the lightest, thinnest, most durable, and comfortable in their respective classes.
Duritium® Level III+PA Plate
The PA plate is only 2.7 lbs per plate with a 15-year warranty and a NIJ Letter of Compliance. The Duritium® Level III+PA plate is a multi-curve, 0.7” thick plate that was created to provide better comfort and mobility to the plate wearer.
The Duritium® Level III+PA plate will stop any handgun caliber bullet you want to throw at it and the 5.56x45mm 55 grain ball (M193), 7.62x39mm PS ball (MSC), 7.62x51mm 149 grain M80 FMJ.
How Can ShotStop® Help First Responders?
It’s clear that the vast majority of first responders (specifically LEOs) want a bigger say in what they wear on duty. We prefer to speak with organizational reps to help us provide the best customer service.
The reason we prefer to speak with procurement representatives is we can offer larger discounts to an organization that orders for their entire department. If each officer ordered separately, the organization as a whole would lose out on significant discounts.
We suggest speaking with your leadership through your chain of command and have them call contact us at email@example.com.
Why Choose ShotStop®?
For those who haven’t seen our big announcement, we are certified through Smithers to the ISO standard 9001. This means we’ve proven to the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) that we operate an efficient company that meets international safety standards in our waste reduction process.
ShotStop® cares deeply about the impact we make in our communities and the lives we leave our children. We believe in environmental safety and always improving our business and impacting the world.
All of our Duritium® plates exceed NIJ standards in the durability, longevity, weight, stopping power, and multi-hit capability.
We want to make sure every officer is as comfortable and confident as possible. We understand that there is a chance you can be shot from doing your job and are proud everytime a police officer chooses us over the many competitors we have.
As you read through the top 7 concerns for police when choosing body armor, we hope you’ll find that our Duritium® Level III & IV body armor answer each concern. We have the longest warranty, the lightest plates, all Level III+ Duritium® plates are NIJ-Listed, and our plates are multi-curve to conform to your torso.
We also offer extensive discounts to law enforcement organizations and our business is now certified to international standards in manufacturing for safety, quality, and efficiency. We look forward to serving all the men and women who serve our communities and would love to do business together.