A surprising number of police officers killed and injured each year were wearing “bulletproof” vests that gave them comfort and mobility but left key body parts uncovered and vulnerable, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The bullet that tore through Clairton, Pa., police officer James Kuzak’s body Monday struck him in the left shoulder, just beyond the coverage of his protective vest, a virtually unavoidable danger officers face as they try to strike a balance between maneuverability and safety.
Kuzak, 39, was in critical condition yesterday. Others shot in the line of duty have not been so lucky. Thirty-three officers who were fatally shot in 2009 were wearing body armor, say FBI data. Most were shot in the head, but others were hit in the neck, throat and upper torso. “There’s just those areas of the body that can’t be protected without hindering mobility,” said Ed Hinchey, a former Forest Hills police sergeant who in 2004 was shot in the groin just under his bulletproof vest. Hinchey is an armor technical specialist for Safariland, a major manufacturer of body armor worldwide. From 2000 to 2009, 36 of the 97 slain officers who suffered torso wounds despite wearing vests took a bullet through an armhole or shoulder area of the vest.