How PDs can implement 24/7 body armor protection to match 24/7 threats

Ballistic protection systems have evolved to address emerging threats and help agencies balance cost, comfort and safety

In the beginning, there was no SWAT. It evolved in the 1970s to confront an ever-changing dynamic where standard patrol units were occasionally out-tasked by more complex law enforcement problems. The threat has continued to evolve and so must law enforcement. By adding plate carriers to a standard patrol unit’s response kit, you can greatly increase an effective response to worst-case situations.

Responding to evolving threats

The National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) now recommends a higher level of training in standard patrol units through its Advanced Response Patrol Officer program (ARPO). This increases the net force that can be quickly deployed against a rapidly striking enemy. Peppering divisions with better trained units that can quickly react is a must. Accordingly, forward-thinking law enforcement leaders should also equip these units to meet this evolved threat.

Modern law enforcement faces threats that are often more akin to those seen in combat.
Modern law enforcement faces threats that are often more akin to those seen in combat. (Photo/Courtesy)

Standard body armor is a must-have for uniformed officers, though it rarely stands up to the task of responding to rifle fire. Another solution is required. With plate carrier systems, a standard uniformed officer can quickly transform to a quick response tactical officer.

If 5.56 ammunition represents the bottom (and perhaps most common) of the ballistic threat faced by officers then soft body armor is already inadequate. Rifle threats climb significantly from this humble caliber. Law enforcement has to be able to meet that level of force and mitigate it with a minimum amount of risk. Wearing a plate carrier over standard body armor can increase resistance to greater ballistic threats with little to no loss of mobility. In addition, officers are able to pre-stage extra equipment on a plate carrier to deal with heightened risk scenarios. That being said, there are considerations for PDs before implementing 24/7 body armor protection:

1. Loadout

Consider the equipment you might want to carry on a standoff involving a person armed with a rifle. Many moderns systems are equipped with MOLLE or something equivalent that will allow you to completely customize your plate carrier. Law enforcers can add pouches to carry magazines for pistol and long gun depending on their armament. In addition, a well-equipped first aid kit capable of dealing with gunshot trauma is important. Officers may consider extra water, communication devices and other critical equipment based upon their working environment.

2. Body armor fit

Fit is everything. Officers seeking to increase their armor rating with a plate carrier system should select one that is sized to them. Even more important, the carriers should be pre-staged with the normal mode of carry. Any officer who would generally throw on a plate carrier over their uniform and soft body armor should fit the carrier that way, reducing the possibility of a poor fit or struggle to put it on when seconds count.

3. Tactical training

The old adage of training in new equipment still applies to a plate carrier. There are at least two aspects law enforcement officers should consider in this realm.

First, plate carriers, by their nature, are heavier and a little bulkier than soft body armor. This adds to the overall strain on the officer wearing them, making physical fitness more important. Getting in and out of a car, moving around obstacles, and climbing over even short fences will be more challenging.

Second, plate carriers change other important aspects facing a tactical officer. Shouldering a rifle will be different, drawing magazines might change somewhat, and operating other equipment like handcuffs and radios can be at least a little different. These minor differences can make for big delays in high-stress situations when officers revert to their training. By training with the plate carrier, police can avoid potentially critical mishaps and perform without an element of surprise.

Leveling the battlefield

Modern law enforcement faces threats that are often more akin to those seen in combat. These threats span urban streets, school campuses and work places. Agencies of all sizes and in all geographic locations need to be prepared to counter the threats offered by critical events. By providing officers with advanced tactical training and equipping them with deployable plate carriers, the battlefield can be leveled and even tipped in their favor.

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