It’s no secret that law enforcement is a dangerous line of work. As it stands right now, there is a lot of speculation on police officers using brutality against citizens. But what about the other way around? Police officers are often a victim of assaults and brutality themselves, and they need better protection.
Over one-third of officer deaths in the last decade were caused by gunshots. Aside from car crashes, this makes them the second leading cause of death among law enforcement officers. But how is that possible? The bulletproof body armor that police officers currently wear is supposed to protect them from dying in the line of duty. And it’s true that the armor vests in particular are able to save lives most of the time. Over the past 30 years, it is estimated to have saved the lives of more than 3,000 officers. In addition, the risk of death by gunshot is almost 3.5 times higher when an officer is not wearing the vest. However, these vests don’t stop the impact and it is still entirely possible to die by gunshot.
One way that the vests are not prepared to stop a gunshot is when the ammunition has a larger impact than expected. If a bullet is shot with a higher-powered firearm than the average gun, then this makes it much more likely to pierce through the armor and hit the heart. Almost 20% of the officers who have died from a gunshot wound to the torso died this way. The armor is not designed to stop every bullet, only those in the most common firearms. And while officers are not always pursuing shooting targets, that difference in firepower can decide the playing field. This makes it incredibly dangerous to go after terrorist groups and similar criminals, as they are those most likely to have higher-powered weapons.
Police safety should not be overlooked. They are the first line of defense on a local level and they have an important impact on their surrounding community. Even riot gear can’t guarantee their safety when they know the opposing forces will probably resort to violence. So armor vests and their other tactical gear needs to be stepped up to further increase their chances of staying safe.