New vests give Scott County deputies better protection

Friday, December 21, 2001

Andrea L. Buchanan

Southeast Missourian

The Scott County Sheriff's Department joined many other regional law enforcement agencies in updating the deputies' body armor.

Private donations helped the department purchase nine new vests at about $450 each, enough to outfit every road deputy and two investigators.

Cape Girardeau, Sikeston, Mo., and other law enforcement agencies have also recently updated their bulletproof vests.

Scott County deputy Gregg Ourth said the new vests are lighter and more comfortable than the old models.

Designed to go under the uniform, the 3.5-pound body armor is made for daily wear and protects officers against gunshots, knives and other body blows.

It also remains comfortable during long stints behind the wheel of a patrol car, Ourth said.

Lt. Jim Chambers said the old body armor had long since outdated its manufacturer's recommended five-year guarantee.

Inside the vests, fibers are twisted similar to springs. Like a spring, the fibers have an amount of "give," absorbing the impact of a bullet or another projectile.

Body armor protects the wearer in two ways: stopping bullet penetration and minimizing injury from blunt trauma to the body. Blunt trauma -- the bullet's whack against the body, even when it doesn't penetrate -- can cause serious damage to internal organs.

The blow can also reduce an officer's tactical advantage, limiting him to defensive responses after a serious hit.

Reducing blunt trauma not only prevents internal injury but temporary incapacitation during the initial hit. This allows the wearer to respond immediately during a high-threat situation.

Chambers said modern technology has increased body armor endurance.

Before receiving the new vests, deputies either wore outdated versions or bought their own.

Some carried their own tactical vests, heavy armor designed for SWAT-team-style maneuvers.

"That stuff just isn't practical in day-to-day situations," Ourth said. "You can't even bend over in that vest."

abuchanan@semissourian.com

335-6611 extension 160

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