We Cannot Leave Police Safety to Chance

Written by Scott Sulzbach, Director of Global Sales and Marketing at Buffalo Armory

All across the United States, police forces and first responders are ill equipped in the face of new challenges.

Threats to police and the communities they serve are rapidly evolving.

Every day, police officers say goodbye to their families not knowing whether it will be their last.

While the “militarization” of police has been a hotly debated – and deeply politicized – issue, few disagree that police and first responders should be outfitted with protective gear that gives them the best odds of surviving should they end up on the wrong side of a gun.

(Deranged Gunman who Shot Cop Kills Himself. The officer was shot multiple times, but protected by her bulletproof vest. Courtesy of CBS News and YouTube. Posted on Aug. 10, 2017)

There are two rounds of high-powered ammunition most frequently confiscated by New York State Police:

  • The (7.62 X 51) ballistic fired most commonly from the AK-47, and
  • The (5.56 X 45) 62 gr. Green tip M855 or (5.56 X 45) 55gr. M193 fired from AR-15.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) at the United States Department of Justice is in charge of testing commercially available armor for compliance with their standards of performance.

In addition to being tested for NIJ compliance, body armor models must meet workmanship and labeling requirements and successfully pass follow-up inspections and testing to ensure that the body armor worn by officers remains safe and reliable.

Ammunition recovered at scene of 8/10/17 incident. (Image Credit: NYPD)
Ammunition recovered at scene of 8/10/17 incident. (Image Credit: NYPD)

Stringent testing and compliance standards make sense for equipment that can quite literally mean the difference between life and death for an officer.

Think about it: would you ever purchase a car that wasn’t first crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration?

Like the NHTSA, the NIJ does a commendable job assessing the efficacy of armor in tightly controlled conditions, but there’s one glaring problem: compliance testing is voluntary.

When given the option to take a test or skip it entirely, most people choose the latter; unfortunately, armor manufacturers do also.

Over 50% of armor manufacturers in the United States do not voluntarily subject their armor to independent testing by the NIJ. It’s not just the small companies, either.

Some of the biggest names in the business circumvent NIJ certification because they can.

NIJ certification is even more imperative given there is no standard procurement process for purchasing body armor.

Oftentimes, officers without any experience in the purchasing process are given the responsibility of outfitting the entire force.

It’s not surprising that these officers often stick with their current armor manufacturers, or with a manufacturer where there’s an existing relationship on the force.

But not all armor is equal.

There are several different armor materials – from steel to composite with varying pros and cons.

These pros and cons should be weighed, with the full array of options available, to ensure police forces get the equipment they need.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

The New York State Police – the second largest force in the state – outfitted their entire force with body armor that doesn’t protect against one of the most commonly confiscated rounds in the state: (5.56 X 45) 62 gr.

Green tip M855 or (5.56 X 45) 55gr. M193 often fired from AR-15, of which there are over 30 million registered in the U.S. alone.

The round is so common you can buy it in your local hunting supply store.

(For comparison, see Buffalo Armory’s Star 555 Hard Armor is NIJ III Certified & Able to Stop Multi Hits From M80, M855 Green Tips. Courtesy of Buffalo Armor and YouTube)

Requiring NIJ certified products should be requisite when spending taxpayer money on necessary protections for police and first responders.

Similarly, standardizing a procurement process will further ensure proper stewardship over taxpayer money and first responders lives.

It’s the right thing to do.

Scott Sulzbach is the Director of Global Sales and Marketing at Buffalo Armory, an innovative armor manufacturer based in Buffalo NY.

A U.S. Marine veteran, Sulzbach has spent over 20 years working in senior-level sales and marketing positions for global and national companies, including PepsiCo and Corsair.

BOLO for Upcoming Full Feature Article in American Security Today’s August Digital Magazine titled: Despite Massive Investment in New Body Armor, New York State Police Remain Vulnerable to their Biggest Threat