By Brad Eaton, Club Administrator, Survivors’ Club, Richmond, Virginia
he IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors’ Club is a noncommercial partnership between the IACP and the DuPont Company whose goal is to reduce needless deaths and disabilities of police officers worldwide by encouraging the use of personal body armor. Over the last 22 years, the Survivors’ Club has recognized over 3,000 individuals who have survived a potentially life-threatening or life-disabling event as a direct result of wearing personal body armor. The program has collected data on these incidents and disseminated this potentially life-saving information to the law enforcement community, all with the objective of protecting lives.
In 2008, the Survivors’ Club added 33 members to its rolls, bringing the official survivor count to 3,065. Individuals in the 2008 class survived shootings, car crashes, and even a brick that accidentally fell 10 stories at a construction site. These 33 brave men and women escaped potentially serious injury or even death because they wore their body armor. It should be noted, however, that joining the club is voluntary; for this reason, it is likely that the true number of survivors in 2008 far exceeds the 33 honored here.
Police Constable (PC) Andy Meikle of the London (United Kingdom) Metropolitan Police Service was recently inducted into the club. On December 22, 2007, PC Meikle was in a two-officer unmarked patrol car following a suspicious vehicle. The passenger of the vehicle exited and fired five shots at the patrol vehicle from a 9mm self-loading semiautomatic handgun. One of these bullets tore through PC Meikle’s passenger door on a direct line to his midsection. It hit him with ferocious force, but his body armor caused the bullet to ricochet away from him. PC Meikle suffered a minor bruise to his index finger when it was grazed by a bullet after hitting the body armor—a far better result than the alternative.
“If I hadn’t been wearing my body armor, I would have been seriously injured or worse,” Meikle said. “This is actually the second time that body armor saved my life, so I can say with absolute confidence that wearing protective body armor is critical to the safety and well-being of police officers.”
Inside the Numbers
The Survivors’ Club has a wealth of data that have been analyzed by the IACP and DuPont as well as other research institutions and police agencies. As the graph on this page suggests, most club survivors have survived criminal assaults, including shootings and stabbings. What may be surprising is that more than one-third of these individuals have survived automobile and motorcycle crashes. The rest were involved in falls, fires, explosions, and other incidents; one officer was even gored by a bull.
"Saves" of Survivors' Club members, by threat type
This breakdown underscores an important point about the value of body armor: although it is certified based on a ballistic standard outlined by the National Institute of Justice, its protective nature gives individuals varying degrees of protection against a wide variety of threats.
Another insight gained from the Survivors’ Club data is that, although body armor protected officers from serious injury or death, 89 percent of the officers did indeed sustain some kind of injury from the incident. Although the Survivors’ Club advocates that all officers wear their vests at all times during on- and off-duty police work, personal body armor is only one piece of a diverse range of safety practices that creates a safety-oriented culture.
The extensive data the Survivors’ Club has collected over the years constitute a valuable resource in advancing officer safety. With this in mind, the club is taking several steps that will enable it to communicate this information more effectively to the law enforcement community. First, the application form that serves as the club’s primary data source is under reevaluation. Second, the club is looking to develop a new database management system that will enable a more effective use and dissemination of collected data.
In the past, the Survivors’ Club has given research institutions access to data to help them learn more about officer injuries and gain insight that could formulate recommendations to enhance body armor design. The IACP and DuPont have also distributed information to the law enforcement community through literature, events, and publications such as the Police Chief.
In the future, the club will use the Internet to provide real-time updates on Survivors’ Club saves and to distribute information more quickly. In addition, a toolkit will be published that can be used to encourage the wearing of personal body armor. As PC Meikle stated, “Wearing protective body armor is critical to the safety and well-being of police officers.” The Survivors’ Club could not agree more. ■
|Tell Us What You Think|
The Survivors’ Club wants your ideas.
- How can we improve the Survivors’ Club application form?
- To learn more about the “save,” what question would you ask on the application form, and why?
- How would you like us to communicate the data we collect? For example, would you like to be able to pull data into graphs on our Web site, or would you prefer printed literature that could be distributed?
- In what other ways can the Survivors’ Club help protect the law enforcement community?
Readers should contact Brad Eaton at Brad.Eaton@USA.DuPont.com or Beth Currier at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions.