An FBI report of police officer deaths shows what USA Today calls “a troubling and persistent pattern in which substantial numbers of officers were not wearing body armor or seat belts when they were fatally shot or involved in deadly vehicle accidents.” Of the 46 officers killed by firearms last year, 11 were not wearing bullet resistant vests. During the same period, 10 of 28 officers killed in vehicle accidents were not wearing seat belts. Six of the 10 auto accident victims, were ejected from their vehicles during the crashes.
Officials said the gaps underscore a long-standing frustration across law enforcement. Last year, a coalition of police chiefs and union leaders, citing alarming non-compliance rates involving body armor and seat belts , called for mandatory policies for vests and seat restraints. At that time, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who co-chaired a White House advisory panel on policing, said it was law enforcement’s “responsibility to do everything we can to reduce officer fatalities and improve safety.” Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum said, “We will never know if body armor or seat belts might have saved any of the officers who died last year, but we must work to ensure that officers are provided with the best protective equipment, and that they use it always as a matter of routine.”