Protecting Officers with Vests

All 6,500 Philadelphia police officers are equipped with bullet proof vests which are certified by the Department of Justice. Regrettably, the Department has usually purchased vests not with funds allocated by the City, but with funds derived from the sale of items confiscated from criminals. This is an unreliable, constantly fluctuating, and therefore, risky basis on which to rely for providing one of the most important pieces of a police officer’s equipment.

Because their protective elements deteriorate from constant wear and tear, vests have a reliable – and company guaranteed – “shelf life” of only five years. With a complement of 6,500 officers, this means that the Department should replace about 1,300 vests a year at a price of approximately $1,000 each – $1,300,000 annually.

However, according to the head of the Department’s firearms unit, on an annual basis the command staff has been able to purchase an average of only 1,200 vests a year. There is a shortfall every year of $100,000 in providing body armor to street officers.