Dilemma of Body Armor and Staying Alive
I saw the video tape of the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery wherein the two suspects were heavily dressed in body armor and armed with assault weapon long guns. They looked like Pillsbury Dough Boys lumbering along while LAPD’s puny 9mm. handgun rounds bounced off of them. These two bank robbers did a good job of insulating themselves from the impotent handguns carried by the LAPD patrol and detectives. The officers did not have long guns and the suspects apparently understood a common sense principle that was lost to LAPD administrators and LA City officials: you don’t take a handgun to a gunfight. Secondly, if you are adequately armored you can last for quite awhile until you are faced with a shot to an unprotected area of the body or a weapon is deployed that can defeat the armor. The crooks died so we don’t know whether or not their tactics were predicated upon an understanding that LAPD was not likely to initially engage them with long guns.
The Hollywood bank robbers screwed up because their overly heavy armoring reduced their maneuverability and speed. As a consequence, they were contained and overwhelmed by the number of responding officers. Someone got a shot to the head of one suspect and SWAT arrived with assault weapons and succeeded in stopping the remaining suspect.
I entered police work in the early 1970’s when body armor for police officers was first introduced. I got one of the early model vests called “Second Chance.” It was a heavy, bulky item that was so hot that it was quite uncomfortable in moderate to warm weather. When I took off the vest, my T-shirt was soaked with sweat. In those early days, the old timers often looked down on you as some sort of sissy for wearing a protective vest. That did not make sense to me; I thought of it as insurance that was in effect when you wore it. One officer that I knew, who died from gunshots, would likely have lived if he had been wearing his vest that hot day. Today the vests are more comfortable, but the lighter and more comfortable they are the less protection you have. My entry vest, used in search warrants, is heavy, bulky and not suitable for wear in cars. So you pick a vest or decide not to wear a vest depending upon factors of convenience and probability of need. It is no different for the military.
Recently some people have complained that the military is not supplying the troops with adequate body armor. That contention is not the whole picture. Military.com published an article, Many Troops Don’t Want Extra Body Armor, which was originally run in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Russ Vaughn wrote an interesting piece on the armor issue from the perspective of the Vietnam War. That piece is entitled Weighing the Options, which is posted at the American Thinker.
It is dangerous in military combat theaters, and it is dangerous on American streets. You play the odds and either wear or don’t wear a protective vest. And, if you do wear one, you choose the one that you hope best meets all of your needs. Sometimes you make the wrong choice.