It has been just over 30 years since the first police officer was saved by body armor developed by the Justice Department and the Army. The 3,000th officer “save” occurred last fall. Yesterday, the Justice Department celebrated the success of the federal body armor program. On the last day of the department’s annual research conference, Justice honored the first and 3,000th officer saved–Raymond Johnson of Seattle and Corey Grogan of Atlanta, respectively–as well as the developers of so-called bulletproof vests, retired Justice Department manager Lester Shubin and retired U.S. Army manager Nicholas Montanarelli. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and International Association of Chiefs of Police president Mary Ann Viverette of Gaithersburg, Md., were on hand for the program.
Despite the success of body armor, problems remain. Viverette said 40 percent of officers do not wear it routinely. Of 50 officers shot to death in the U.S. last year, 34 were wearing body armor at the time, says the FBI. The wounding of a Pennsylvania officer in 2003 was blamed on the fact that the Zylon fabric in body armor had degraded faster than had been anticipated McNulty noted that a Body Armor Safety Initiative of former Attorney General John Ashcroft resulted last year in tougher standards for body armor.