Bullet Proof Vests - Evolution of Body Armour used by officers from the Sudbury Region
In 1965, Stephanie Kwolek conducted several experiments to create more durable tires for vehicles. Kwolek discovered a liquid polymer that could be spun into an aramid fibre (Kevlar) and woven into cloth. The aramid fibres are woven in successive cross-lay layers in order to strengthen the fibres in various directions. This method enables the vest to absorb the energy of the bullet and disperse the energy across the vest so the bullet does not penetrate the wearer.
The design of ballistic-resistant armour requires identifying the threat, selecting a material or combination of materials that will resist the threat, and determining the number of layers of material necessary to prevent penetration and blunt trauma injury. In designing armour, the final weight is an important factor in the selection of the ballistic-resistant material or materials to be used. The goal is to design the lightest possible unit that achieves the desired protection while still providing comfort and movement.
The current generation of body armour was developed specifically to protect against injury from assault with handguns. A review of the statistics concerning weapons confiscated nationwide during the period from 1964 to 1974 identified the .38 calibre handgun, firing bullets at a velocity of 800 ft/s, as the most common weapon threat to officers.
Body armour has proven useful in more ways than one. The same properties that provide ballistic protection, combined with abrasion resistance, have saved many officers from serious physical injury in vehicular accidents. In one Sudbury incident, during the course of a routine patrol in Chelmsford on Friday, August 19, 1988, Constable Ronald Albert and his partner where hit by an oncoming van who had crossed over the center line. The police cruiser was completely destroyed as the van had hit them head on. Both Constable Albert and his partner were injured and rushed to hospital where they were hospitalized for a few weeks and released. Cst. Albert survived because of his Kevlar vest. Having been saved by his vest he was inducted into the Kevlar Survivors Club and is a life-time member. The Kevlar Survivors Club was formed in 1987 and they have documented 3 000 instances of law enforcement officers who survived potentially fatal or disabling injuries because they were protected by their body armour. Although wearing a vest was not mandatory until recently, Cst. Albert has always worn his protective vest since the accident and encourages other officers to do the same.