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DOJ TESTING CONFIRMS DEFICIENCIES IN ZYLON VESTS

BVP program drops Zylon vests, announces new $10 million grant to help with replacements
Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, reacted positively to the latest announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice's Body Armor Safety Initiative (BASI), which provided strong evidence that the effectiveness of Zylon®--a material used in the manufacture of soft body armor--degrades quickly and severely compromises the ability of the vest to prevent penetration of the ammunition it is designed to stop.

"Today's announcement is not a surprise," Canterbury said. "The BASI status report released today by the Department and the National Institute of Justice confirmed through ballistic testing what the F.O.P. suspected in the fall of 2003--that soft body armor made with Zylon may not be able to protect the officer from rounds which the vest is supposed to stop."

Canterbury noted that it was the F.O.P. that first raised the concerns of the law enforcement community about Zylon® with then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft following a 2003 incident in which a police officer in Forest Hills, Pennsylvania was seriously wounded because his body armor failed to protect him from a bullet that the vest was rated to stop. The vest, which was only six (6) months old, was an Ultima® vest made by Second Chance Body Armor, Inc. and contained multiple bullet-resistant fabrics, including Zylon®. It was the first verifiable incident in which soft body armor failed to prevent penetration from a bullet it was designed to defeat.

"I am very glad that the information from the NIJ tests have led the Department to change the parameters of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) grant program to prohibit the use of Federal funds to purchase soft body armor containing Zylon," Canterbury said. "What's more, the Department has provided an additional $10 million to the $23.6 million already available to law enforcement through the program to help agencies replace Zylon®-based vests."

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) tested more than one hundred used vests made with Zylon®--including the back panel from the vest worn by the officer in Forest Hills. Their testing showed that fifty-eight percent (58%) of the vests were penetrated by at least one round during a six-shot test series. Of the vests that passed penetration testing, ninety-one (91%) showed excessive "backface deformation," meaning that there was an increased chance of the officer wearing such a vest suffering blunt trauma from the shot. Only four (4) vests met all the performance criteria under NIJ's standard for new body armor. According to the NIJ, the degradation of Zylon® is linked to the vest's exposure to light and moisture. The degradation cannot be detected by visual inspection and is not necessarily linked to the age of the vest.

"The failure of the vest in Forest Hills was very unsettling to law enforcement officers," Canterbury said. "The integrity of your body armor is a life-and-death issue, and to suspect that vests made of Zylon would not protect you from ballistic threats after only six months was downright terrifying."

The Justice Department will issue a Body Armor Standard Advisory Notice to alert law enforcement to the potential risks associated with the use of Zylon® in body armor and adopt new interim requirements for its body armor compliance testing program. Body armor that does not meet this standard will be ineligible for purchase through the BVP program. The Department recommends that law enforcement agencies and officers purchase only bullet-resistant body armor models that comply with its new interim requirements, especially if their existing armor contains Zylon®. A list of body armor models that comply with the new requirements will be made available at http://www.justnet.org.

"Remember, these Zylon vests met NIJ performance standards when they were new, but neither the NIJ nor anyone else has any standards or testing protocols for vests in use," Canterbury explained. "And we still don't. This was something that the F.O.P. specifically asked the Justice Department to develop back in November 2003--a standard that could apply to soft body armor in use, so that officers in the field could have some confidence that their vest would protect them for the duration of the product's warranty period. The interim standard that the NIJ is putting into place is the first step in improving the current situation, and will certainly help to better protect officers in the future as new bullet-resistant technologies are developed."

National President Canterbury and the Department of Justice reiterated, however, that officers in the field should continue to wear their soft body armor, even if the vest is made with Zylon®.

"Do not stop wearing your vest," Canterbury said. "We urge any law enforcement agency that uses soft body armor with Zylon as a component to replace them as soon as possible, but every officer must remember that any soft body armor, even if made with Zylon®, is better than none at all."

F.O.P. members and other officers are encouraged to visit the website of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program and Body Armor Safety Initiative: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bvpbasi
The site provides a great deal of valuable information, including the full text of the Third Status Report to the Attorney General on Body Armor Safety Initiative Testing and Activities (as well as an Executive Summary and Fact Sheet), the NIJ Body Armor Standard Advisory Notice #012005, and the NIJ 2005 Interim Requirements for BulletResistant Body Armor.
 

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08/24/2005

Zylon vests fail to stop bullets 58 percent of time in government tests

By MARK SHERMAN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON- Bullets fired in government tests penetrated more than half the police body armor vests containing the synthetic fiber Zylon, already the subject of lawsuits over reliability.

As a result, the government announced that it would no longer help local police forces pay for bullet-resistant vests that contain any Zylon but would add $10 million to the $23 million already available for police vests.

The Justice Department tests showed that vests made with Zylon lose strength over time, well before their standard five-year warranty expires and even when the armor appears to be in good condition, according to the study released Wednesday by the department's National Institute of Justice.

"Visual inspection is not enough to tell you if there is a problem with the armor," said NIJ's director, Sarah V. Hart.

New standards for vests that are under development will measure how they perform over time, not just when they are new, Hart said.

The prime factor leading to Zylon's degradation appears to be moisture, the study said, adding that more research is needed. Keeping protective material dry is an especially tricky problem _ officers often perspire and sometimes work in rainy or snowy conditions.

The tests were the most extensive, independent examination of Zylon ever, and they included vests made by nine companies. Until now, complaints about Zylon vests have focused on Second Chance Body Armor Inc., the top U.S. supplier of bullet-resistant police vests. Toyobo Co. Ltd., Zylon's Japanese maker, has acknowledged Zylon may lose up to 20 percent of its strength within just two years.

An estimated 200,000 of the nation's 700,000 police officers wore Zylon vests last year, according to the Fraternal Order of Police.

Many police departments have sought to replace their Zylon vests, which can cost $500 to $700 each, as questions about them have arisen in recent years, said Joseph Estey, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

"The study seems to verify what was suspected," said Estey, the police chief in Hartford, Vt. "The idea of testing longevity is something that needs to be looked at."

Hart and Estey stressed that officers with Zylon vests should continue wearing them. "A Zylon vest is better than no vest at all," Estey said.

Police departments around the United States provided 103 used vests as part of a 21-month Justice review that was begun in response to complaints that Zylon vests were putting officers' lives in danger. In June 2003, an Oceanside, Calif., police officer was killed and a Forest Hills, Pa., officer was seriously wounded while wearing Second Chance vests made of Zylon.

The vests were subjected to six shots from 9-millimeter pistols and other weapons. Sixty vests, 58 percent of the total, were penetrated by at least one round.

Even among the armor that stopped all six shots, all but four vests failed another test that measures the impact, or blunt force trauma, an officer could expect to absorb.

The government is suing both Second Chance and Toyobo, contending they conspired to hide evidence that the body armor could be defective. Toyobo Co. is paying $29 million to settle class-action litigation, but faces still other suits against it and Second Chance.

Second Chance has acknowledged that the vests may not be safe and urged its customers to replace them. Toyobo says Zylon works well in body armor that is properly constructed.
 
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So, if I just sit in my cruiser w/ the AC cranked (to prevent sweating) and avoid all contact, then the vest should protect me, until I am issued a new one.
 

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I said this before in another thread;

It is irresponsible for any agency not to replace these vests. I have one and the only thing good about it is the Titanium chest plate.

I was provided the performance packs to "upgrade " and make the armor safe, but now they are identified as 'defective too! YIKES
 
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