Scanning the news, I saw that it was an issue close to my heart. Literally.
Privately held Second Chance Body Armor, which is going through bankruptcy reorganization, announced the recall of nearly 100,000 bullet-resistant vests --sold to law enforcement officers around the country --because the material used to make them degrades too quickly.
To the public, the soft body armor that police wear is considered to be "bullet proof," but cops understand that nothing is guaranteed, so we, more properly, say that our vests are "bullet resistant."
In the course of normal wear and tear, heat, perspiration, and humidity can break down the fibers that form the layer of protection. As a result, it is recommended that vests be replaced about every five years. But Second Chance uses a fiber that has been found to degrade even faster under such conditions. The fiber, called Zylon, comes from Japanese manufacturer Toyobo.
Several years ago, Second Chance recalled 130,000 body armor vests -- constructed entirely of Zylon -- because of degradation problems. Now it is recalling vests that are made of a combination of Zylon and other materials. Toyobo insists its fiber is not the problem, citing the fact that Zylon is used by a number of manufacturers.
Kevlar, another popular fiber used in soft body armor, is manufactured by DuPont
Many companies offer armor containing a mix of Kevlar, Zylon, and other fibers, such as Honeywell's
Vest failures are not uncommon. DHB
Second Chance isn't able to offer such discounts, because it's in bankruptcy. Some seven states have filed lawsuits against the company, and there are at least 10 class-action lawsuits pending, as well. The company hasn't received any reports of the vests failing in the field; instead, it discovered the problem itself. But since Second Chance can't afford to buy back the vests, it is hoping funds will be available through the federal Bulletproof Vest Partnership Act.
If nothing else, these situations should serve to remind law enforcement officers that their vests are not suits of armor, regardless of the company name they bear -- and that more lives will be saved by smart tactics than by body armor.
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