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'They count on us': How ballistic vests save law enforcement officers' lives

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Posted at 7:26 PM, Feb 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-09 19:26:39-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A Kentucky State Police trooper and a Lexington Police Department officer were both shot within an eight-day period earlier this year. In both cases, officials report at least one bullet hit the ballistic vests they were wearing at the time.

Considering their vests likely played a significant role in saving their lives, LEX18 sought to learn how they work.

Point Blank Enterprises, which manufactures ballistic vests for law enforcement across the country, including here in Kentucky, said the body armor has two main purposes.

Point Blank research and development ballistic engineer, Zachary Cronin, said the first purpose is, of course, to stop bullets.

To do that, he said they use two primary families of materials.

The first family consists of aramids and para-aramids, which are yellow in color. Kevlar and Twaron are examples.

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

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Both have a tensile strength that's several times stronger than steel.

They can turn a .44 Magnum bullet into this:

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Cronin said beyond making sure ballistic vests stop 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 round, it stops, but there's so much force still that they're incapacitated," he said. "We need those people to be able to stay in the fight or be able to handle anything that's currently happening."

To ensure that, he said the materials in the vests are woven in a particular way.

"We can take those woven materials and weave them as tight as possible, or we can layer a lot of material together to really prevent energy from going directly back and dispersing across the vest."

After Point Blank manufactures the vests, they're distributed to law enforcement through companies like Galls, which is based in Lexington.

"It's very important that we provide up-to-date, the most technologically advanced, life-saving equipment for our customers to wear," Galls VP of business development, Patrick Sutton, said. "They count on us, and we want to make sure that 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.