Only 59% of Police Agencies Require Officers to Wear Body Armor: PERF Study

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) is out with a new study on police use of body armor, and its findings are important reading for law enforcement officers, trainers and executives.

PERF, a Washington, D.C.-based police research and consulting organization, reports that nearly all law enforcement agencies say they provide body armor to their officers, but only 59 percent of the agencies actually require their officers to wear body armor at least some of the time.

The report details the findings of a survey that PERF conducted in partnership with the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). The survey was sent to a large nationally representative sample of law enforcement agencies. Of all those who received the survey, 80 percent responded, for a total of 782 participating agencies.

Perhaps the research team’s most encouraging finding is that almost all agencies responding to the survey—99 percent—ensure that body armor is made available to their officers. Previous research indicated that in 1987, only 28 percent of police agencies surveyed provided body armor or a cash allowance to purchase armor for all of their uniformed patrol officers. By 1993, that figure had climbed to about 82 percent, and it rose to more than 90 percent in 2000.

While the new survey indicates that body armor is now available to almost all officers, the PERF report suggests that police agencies can make further improvements in their policies and practices to help ensure that officers actually use body armor as much as possible, and to provide more thorough controls on fitting of armor to individual officers, maintenance of the armor, and periodic inspections to ensure that officers’ armor is in good condition.

For the full report visit http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/pdf/PERF_BodyArmor.pdf.

PERF is a membership organization of police executives from the largest city, county and state law enforcement agencies, and is one of 16 organizations represented on the Board of Directors of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. NLEOMF data on officers killed in the line of duty were used in the PERF study.