“Bulletproof vests similar to those still worn by thousands of police officers failed to stop at least one of six bullets fired at them 58% of the time, according to a new analysis by the Justice Department.
The findings from the department’s review of 103 vests containing the fabric Zylon comes two months after the nation’s largest vest maker, Second Chance Armor, urged police agencies to replace nearly 100,000 vests containing the fabric. The company – which two years earlier recalled 130,000 vests partly because of problems with Zylon – said the fabric could break down, weakening the vests and potentially resulting in deaths.
Of the vests that were not penetrated in Justice’s tests, 91% showed “excessive deformation,” indicating that an officer with one of the vests would have been at risk of an injury, the analysis said.
The report led the Justice Department to issue an alert Wednesday to law enforcement agencies that warned officers of the potential risk posed by the vests. The department also said it would add $10 million to its $23.6 million vest replacement fund to help agencies buy new vests.
Chuck Canterbury, national president of the 300,000-member Fraternal Order of Police, said thousands of officers are still wearing the defective vests. He urged them to keep wearing the vests until they are replaced because any protection is “better than nothing.” But he warned cities and states that they could be held liable for some officers’ injuries if they do not quickly replace the Zylon vests, which have cost up to $700 each.”