How Ballistic Vests Save Law Enforcement Lives

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) – A Kentucky State Police trooper and a Lexington Police Department officer were both fatally shot within eight days earlier this year. In both cases, officials report that at least one bullet hit the body armor they were wearing at the time.

Considering their vests likely played a significant role in saving their lives, LEX18 set out to find out how they work.

Point Blank Enterprises, which makes body armor for law enforcement across the country, including here in Kentucky, said the body armor served two main purposes.

Point Blank R&D ballistics engineer Zachary Cronin said the first goal was, of course, to stop bullets.

To do this, he said they use two main families of materials.

The first family is made up of aramids and para-aramids, which are yellow in color. Examples are Kevlar and Twaron.

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The second is an ultra high molecular weight polyethylene fiber, PE for short, in white color.

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Both have tensile strength several times greater than that of steel.

They can turn a .44 Magnum bullet into this:

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Cronin said that in addition to ensuring body armor stops bullets, it’s also important that they reduce the trauma to an officer’s body when a bullet hits them.

“You can’t have someone hit by a bullet, it stops, but there’s still so much force they’re incapacitated,” he said. “We need these people to be able to stay in the fight or be able to handle whatever is going on right now.”

To make sure, he said the materials of the vests are woven in a particular way.

“We can take these woven materials and weave them as tightly as we can, or we can layer a lot of materials to really stop the energy from coming straight back and dispersing through the vest.”

After Point Blank manufactures the vests, they are distributed to law enforcement through companies like Lexington-based Galls.

“It is very important that we provide our customers with up-to-date, most technologically advanced and life-saving equipment,” said Patrick Sutton, Vice President of Business Development at Galls. “They rely on us, and we want to make sure we always deliver for them.”

According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, more than 3,100 law enforcement officers have been saved because they were wearing body armor.

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