More than one-third of police officers murdered last year were not wearing body armor, says USA Today. An estimated half of all officers don’t wear bullet-resistant vests regularly while on duty. Trainers, police officials, and equipment dealers worry about police confronting confront suspects armed with higher-powered weapons. The vast majority of the nation’s 700,000 officers own or have access to bullet-resistant vests, says Ed Nowicki of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. Yet many choose not to wear them all or part of the time. The risk of dying by gunfire is 14 times higher for officers not wearing armor, Congress found in 2001.
The economy is partly to blame for slightly lagging sales of vests this year, says Michael Foreman of Point Blank Body Armor, a large manufacturers. He says police agencies often don’t emphasize body armor, which costs roughly $500-$1,000, in their training. There is broad agreement over why thousands don’t use them: comfort. Miami Chief John Timoney says heat is the primary reason up to 85 percent of his officers do not regularly wear body armor. Every new cop gets a vest, but there is no policy requiring them to be worn at all times.