How to buy correctional armor
By Mark S. Bajko
According to the 2008 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of correctional officers in the United States will grow from its current level of 518,200 to 566,500 in 2018. PrisonOfficer.org states, “approximately 33,000 correctional officers are assaulted each year, with an expectation that a correctional officer will be seriously assaulted twice within a 20-year career.” The main conclusion is that there is a growing need within the correctional community for body armor that can provide protection against a full array of threats from both firearms and stab instruments.
What do you need to consider when purchasing correctional body armor?
1. Relevant threats
2. Protection tested against a standard
Consider the Threats You Face
Different types of body armor are designed to protect against different types of threats. At a very basic level, body armor is broken into threat categories:
• Ballistic Threats
• Rifle Threats
• Strike/Stab Threats
• Multiple Threats
Correctional Officers inside a facility typically need protection from improvised weapons that cause injuries through a stabbing or slashing action. Correctional Transport Officers are likely to have a need for a combination of spike/stab and ballistic (Multi-threat) armor, while Correctional Emergency Response Teams (CERT) would probably find that an outer Tactical vest with spike protection and significant impact protection, such as heavy foam padding or solid plastic pieces, would be of more value than ballistic, as these units typically operate only inside the facility and are heavily used for cell extraction missions.
National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) recognized the need for body armor that protected law enforcement and correctional officers against knifes and ice picks (spikes) by releasing NIJ Standard 0115.00 Stab Resistance of Personal Body Armor in September 2000. This standard serves to protect correctional officers against threats within correctional institutions and law enforcement officers from typical household and military style single and double-edged blades.
The NIJ standards ensure that all body armor manufacturers meet minimum standards of performance. In order to be compliant, manufacturers must submit body armor for testing by NIJ-approved laboratories in accordance with the applicable standards. When a body armor model is approved to be compliant with the standard, it is posted on the NIJ Compliance Product List for NIJ Standard 0115.00 Stab Resistance of Personal Body Armor: www.justnet.org/pages/StabCPL.aspx. (Note: The NIJ introduced the Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor NIJ Standard-0101.06 to establish minimum performance requirements and test methods for the ballistic resistance of personal body armor.)
This is a great place to see what products and what manufacturers are considered compliant.
Putting it all together
Armed with an understanding of your needs and knowledge of which manufacturers offer products to meet those needs, you’re ready to meet with a body armor dealer or manufacturer.
Mark Bajko is Director of Armor Training and Technical Support for Safariland. Safariland is a premier provider of law enforcement and security products and services. Offering many of the world’s most recognizable branded products in the public safety market, Safariland is committed to saving lives. For more information about Safariland, please visit www.safariland.com.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/oco/ocos156.htm.