Body armour for law enforcement Police officers has gone through multiple advancements over the decades. While these have made the latest armour significantly lighter, more reliable and stronger, it should be noted that bulletproof armour is typically rated up to certain protection levels and may not stop all types of ammunition. There are now overt and covert types of body armour and are selected according to the situations and protection levels the officers are placed in.
Metals were the most commonly used body armour material in earlier versions, but was quite heavy, although being effective. As the manoeuvrability and speed of law enforcement personnel also matter a lot in their roles, metals were slowly replaced by new-age materials such as composites. One such high-performance material is called Aramid, which when woven into a fabric form, becomes bulletproof. Another material is called Ultra High Molecular Weight Poly Ethylene, commonly abbreviated as UHMWPE.
Law enforcement officers use different types of Body armour according to their roles in the force. Patrol officers prefer bulletproof armour while those on prison duty prefer spike & stab-proof armour. Although these types of armour are built to be tough, the specific variant should be selected based on the perceived threat during its application.
According to the threat levels in different situation, the protection levels offered by body armour also varies. Protection levels vary from Level II, Level IIIa, Level III and up to Level IV. Level II and IIIa provides defense against commonly used ammunition such as 9mm upto .44 Magnum, while Level IV protects against larger rounds such as those used in Sniper rifles.
Level IIIa is the most common type of body armour for regular law enforcement officers, while Level IV is only used in Special Forces such as SWAT teams.
Generally, all body armour manufacturers specify guidelines on maintenance of their products. Some of the basic points include, but are not limited to:
- Carrier vests alone can be machine washed, once the armour plates are removed
- Keep the armour plate away from direct UV radiation
- The armour panels themselves can be wiped with a wet cloth or sponge, and should not be immersed in water