Detective Sgt. David Winchester of the Bucksport Police Department was talking about his experience with his ballistic resistant vest and said within 5 minutes of starting his shift, he was soaked. The vest makes him sweat unbelievably, referring to his Type IIIA U.S. Armor Ballistic Vest. He also stressed that if anyone thinks this is bad, try working in 90-degree weather, dressed in black and walking around with this vest on.
Even though bullet proof vests prevent bullets from entering, they also prevent sweat from escaping. During the course of their day, the sweat and hard work take its toll on the panels of the Kevlar mesh inside the vests. Over time, the mesh starts pulling away, making these vest unsafe and cannot be trusted.
The Bucksport Police Department has been replacing their ballistic vests every five years. What the department has in stock is already passing four years and will have to be replaced soon. Not only are they uncomfortable, but they are also very expensive.
Many police departments across the country are in similar situations and in many cases, their towns have to help with the funds to replace these vests. Detective Winchester pointed out that their vests are costing around $850 each and with 8 police officers, this can become really expensive really quickly. They have just completed an application for a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice in hopes of covering the costs for replacements.
He does believe that if a police department puts in for a grant, chances are they will get it. If his department is successful they will have a year to choose from a huge range of Department of Justice approved vest manufacturers. They are opting for lighter vests like the IIA but they need to research the companies and see what they are offering and if they have any deals in place.
If a vest is too tight, it is very difficult to breathe while a vest that is too long makes it almost impossible to sit down because they are so uncomfortable. Once the department decides on a particular brand, the officers will be measured for their customer-fitted vest.
Detective Winchester said in the by and by, the old vests are being used by volunteer “bad guys” during the department’s paintball training.
What other jobs anywhere requires their people to wear ballistic resistant vests? That said, police across the country would never think of going to work without their vests, that’s pure suicide! Manufacturers need to address the design of their bullet proof vests and possibly come up with something that allows police officers to perform their jobs but also have some level of comfort while being assured they are properly protected.