After spending nearly a decade in Law Enforcement, I can tell you one thing with certainty. I hated my ballistic vest, AKA "The Bullet Proof Vest". They're heavy, they're bulky and almost impossible to wear comfortably. They are also one of the most misunderstood pieces of equipment that law enforcement officers wear.
- They Don't Always Look Perfect: Your vest will look perfect right after you put it on. You have it positioned perfectly and the straps adjusted just right. Then you have to go and ruin it by doing something like moving or breathing. Vests are put on when you're standing and your torso is in a straight line. When you sit, you are no longer in a straight line and neither is your vest. Time to adjust it. You stand, your vest stays in the "seated" position. Time to adjust it. You dropped something and your vest is tightened like a vice around your torso to keep it from moving? Time to adjust. Now imagine doing that 15-20 times a shift.
- They are Bullet Resistant, Not Bullet Deflective: How many times have you seen a movie and the cops are shooting at the bad guy and it doesn't even slow them down because, "He's wearing a vest!". Bullet proof vests do not have some magic property that can take a metal projectile flying at 1,000 feet per second and stop it cold with no energy transferred to the person wearing the vest. In truth, there is no mushrooming of the bullet on top of a still perfectly intact vest. The vest stops the round from doing something bad, like entering your body, but it still gets punched in a few inches. More than enough to knock the wind out of the person wearing it, maybe even break their ribs.
- Vests are Not Super Armor That Can Stop Anything: Standard ballistic vests are meant to stop bullets. That's it. They offer no protection from knives. A vest is a weave of ballistic fibers that work in conjunction to stop the round. The tip of a knife is smaller than the weave in the ballistic fiber. This means it will punch right through the fiber and right into the person wearing it.
- We Know What to Do if Someone is Wearing a Vest: We've all seen it. The suspect is wearing a vest and not going down. At some point a frantic cop will yell, "He's wearing a vest! What do we do?". The answer is simple, we train for it every time we go to the range. I think Harry and Lloyd said it best in Dumb and Dumber.*
*Dumb and Dumber: Written and directed by the Farrelly brothers and produced by New Line Cinema.