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Doj Testing Confirms Deficiencies In Zylon Vests

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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

"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:
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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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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