Officers in the line of duty should be mandated to wear bulletproof vests at all times – a rule that could save lives.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there’s been a 37 percent increase in police officer deaths this year over last, a trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Since the beginning of 2011 – a mere three months – 24 police officers have been killed by gunfire in the U.S. If the killings continue at this rate they will surpass the 61 gunfire-related police deaths that occurred in 2010, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP), a non-profit organization that tracks and honors fallen law enforcement personnel.
Officer David Crawford of the St. Petersburg Police Department was one of three police officers shot recently in Hillsborough County. He was killed Feb. 21. He wasn’t wearing a bullet-proof vest.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, Crawford liked his midnight shift, patrolled the same route for years and apparently didn’t see the need to wear his vest in an area where he worked nightly. The night of the shooting Crawford must have thought he was having another routine night, which led him to opt out of wearing a vest which could of saved his life.
Police officers in the St. Petersburg and Tampa areas are not required to wear the vests but are encouraged to place themselves in high-risk situations, such as pursuing search warrants and staging suicide interventions and drug busts.
St. Petersburg Chief of Police Chuck Harmon said to the Tampa Tribune that the option is available because “the heat and humidity of Florida makes vests something hard to mandate.”
Yet, the vests can protect officers not only from bullet wounds, but also from attempted stabbings and even car crashes in which the vest protects vital organs. Nationally, 14 officers have already died this year from either car accidents or assaults, according to the ODMP.
With the risk, it should be worth sacrificing personal comfort.
Since the 1980’s, bulletproof vests have saved more than 3,000 lives, according to the Times.
Bulletproof vests help absorb the impact from firearms. Soft vests (which law enforcement agencies utilize) are made from many layers of woven fibers and are capable of protecting the wearer from small caliber handguns or shotgun projectiles.
Technology is moving at an alarming rate and weapons are becoming more powerful than ever, so law enforcers should increase their protection against them.
According to Forbes, the law enforcement field is ranked as the fifth deadliest in America. In light of recent attacks and escalating statistics, mandating bulletproof vests should not even be questioned.
Wearing bulletproof vest in the summer heat can certainly be uncomfortable, or even unbearable, but it’s far more comfortable for the officers, their families and their communities than the alternative.
Marina Golden is a sophomore majoring in history.