Body Armor for Women in Law Enforcement

insight that would be difficult to gain elsewhere,” said NUSTL Program Manager Gladys Klemic, who led the focus group.

New Standards for Ballistic Resistance of Female Body Armor are Forthcoming

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the main authority for establishing and updating performance standards for body armor, and work is currently underway to revise the Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor Standard 0101.06 (PDF, 1.56 MB, 89 pgs.)to update ballistic threat categories and to ensure female-designated body armor provides adequate protection. The standard was originally approved in 2008, and the NIJ National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center’s Body Armor Compliance Testing Program (CTP) released an Administration Clarification document in 2015 focusing on flexible ballistic-resistant body armor containing two panel designs typically used in body armor optimized for women. The updated standard is expected to be released later this year.

CTP Criminal Justice Testing and Evaluation Consortium Operations Manager Alex Sundstrom attended the September focus group to discuss the revised standard, which will ultimately inform NUSTL’s selection of body armor products for the SAVER operational assessment—only products certified NIJ-compliant will be included in the assessment. He discussed NIJ’s laboratory performance testing processes and highlighted new test specifications that address body armor specifically designed for women. For instance, the revised standard will include additional specifications to account for potential weak points at armor seams and will increase the number of armor panel samples tested to provide adequate statistics for curved front panels. 

“One of the most important things an agency can do is make sure the armor they purchase is listed on the NIJ Compliant Product List. All armor models on the list have demonstrated ballistic performance in accordance with the requirements in the NIJ standard and the requirements of the NIJ CTP,” said Sundstrom. 

“Additionally, participating in this focus group to plan the assessment helped reinforce the need for agencies to take steps to make sure armor fits each individual end user to ensure the proper coverage,” Sundstrom continued. “Not only should this make the armor more comfortable to wear, but it will help armor perform the way it was intended.”

Assessment will Focus on Input of End-users who Wear Armor Every Day

NUSTL’s Body Armor for Women assessment will complement the certification program by addressing the practical aspects and experiences of women wearing armor.  It will take place after the release of the new NIJ standard and associated product certification and will include female law enforcement officers of all shapes, sizes, ages, and levels of professional experience. Related information will be posted to the SAVER publication library on the S&T website. 

“We get to know law enforcement officers on a human level—they give us great perspective into their lives beyond their uniforms. All of these are elements that make us strive to do our jobs to the best of our ability to help responders make the most informed decisions possible when acquiring new protective equipment,” said Dooley.