More than 20% of the hard armor plates used by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers nationwide are expired, leaving officers at risk during firearms calls, according to data obtained by the National Post. Approximately 4,000 out of 18,595 armor panels have surpassed their recommended 10-year lifespan, as revealed in a document presented in Parliament last month.
Conservative MP Kelly McCauley expressed concern over the alarming number of expired vests, emphasizing the potential risks officers face in live shooter situations. Criminologist and University of Ottawa associate professor Michael Kempa also underscored the crucial role of HBA in ensuring officer safety during high-risk incidents.
The RCMP previously cited supply chain challenges due to COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 for delays in replacing the outdated armor plates. A small replacement contract falling through further exacerbated the situation. While the RCMP anticipates signing a multi-year replacement deal in early 2024 and expects a shipment of 1,654 units by April, officers continue to use expired hard armor.
RCMP spokesperson Marie-Eve Breton defended the use of expired panels, stating that the force tests the armor panels as they approach the end of their 10-year life cycle, and results indicate their “protective performance” remains intact. However, Kempa emphasized that the concern lies in components like straps and textiles degrading over time, potentially compromising the overall effectiveness of the body armor.
National Police Federation (NPF) President and CEO Brian Sauvé expressed frustration with the government’s “protracted and bureaucratic federal procurement process” and looked forward to the deployment of renewed and modern ballistic plates for officers across Canada.
This is not the first time the RCMP has faced criticism for its handling of armor inventory. Reports following incidents in 2005 and 2014 highlighted the need for improved access to body armor. Despite supply chain challenges, critics argue that the RCMP has had ample time to address longstanding issues with its armor inventory.
An independent review in 2019 revealed that the RCMP lacked a national database to track HBA inventory across the country. Breton assured that a tracking system would be established after awarding a new multi-year contract for equipment in early 2024. However, Kempa criticized the delay, stating that the absence of a database is “inexplicable” for an organization of the RCMP’s size and complexity more than a quarter-century after the advent of the online revolution.