Patrol, Undercover and SWAT: The Wide Range of Bullet Proof Vests

Body Armor and Law Enforcement

Law Enforcement Officers are not a homogenous group and can be split along a number of lines. An Officer in the middle of large city may have a drastically different day to someone in a rural location. Even two Officers serving in the same place will find themselves in different situations to the other, particularly if they serve in different roles within the Police Service. However, the threat of violence and death remains, and this is why Officers need to be aware of the different types of body armor available to them, and which is best suited to the environments they will find themselves in.

Law Enforcement Officers don’t need to be told the importance of body armor. There were nearly 60,000 assaults a year on Officers over the last decade according to government statistics. Clearly it is vital to protect those who protect and serve. However, it is not just violence that Officers need to be protected from- just as deadly as knives and guns are transportation accidents. In 2013 49 law Enforcement Officers were killed accidentally while performing their duties, the majority of which were killed in automobile accidents. Many aren’t aware that a bullet proof vest will also provide some protection against brute force, and while body armor should not be considered an excuse for reckless driving, it can save and has saved lives.

Bullet Proof Vests

For nearly all Officers a bullet proof vest is ideal. Handguns make up the vast majority of weapons used in crime in the US, and a vest that utilises lightweight Kevlar plates is ideal to protect against these. However, just as deadly are knives and stabbing weapons like needles. Edged and spiked weapons are just as prevalent (if not more so) than guns, are much easier to conceal, but can be just as deadly. In close quarters in particular the threat of a knife may be much greater than the threat of a bullet. In these cases the option of stab/spike protection to be added to a bullet proof vest is a worthwhile investment. For Levels II-IIIa this is a very simple addition, and will provide protection against knives in addition to handguns.

These level vests are ideal for Patrol Officers for a number of reasons; not only do they protect against the most common handgun ammunition, but also against the most commonly used ammunition among Law Enforcement. It is vital that Officers choose body armor that is equipped to protect against the ammunition they use, as there is always the risk of having your weapon taken from you. In the last decade 33 Officers were murdered with their own weapon according to the FBI. Ensuring that you are protected against your own weapon is not just paranoia, and could save your life.

Covert Vests

For First Response Officers handgun protection is also ideal, though ease of movement and comfort is equally important. The difficulty for those serving in First Response is being protected against any threat but being able to respond to any situation. This is why a covert vest may be suitable as it can be worn underneath a uniform. These are often lighter and more flexible, allowing for better movement, and manufacturers often utilise technologies like CoolMax in body armor to provide temperature control for the wearer. The benefit of an overt style is that it can be designed with specific Law Enforcement Roles in mind, allowing for the logos and insignia of a department to be included on the vest. While this reaffirms in the public’s mind your role as Law Enforcement, same may feel that in a first response situation it is better to be as neutral as possible, and that wearing a visible and branded vest may be antagonising. In this case it may be better to opt for a covert vest to be worn under the existing uniform.

For Detectives or those serving undercover covert armor is particularly important. Any Law Enforcement Officer should be protected at all times, but for those who want to blend in with a crowd a covert bullet proof vest should be worn. Dangerous situations will always arise, and the ability to do the job properly should not be sacrificed for protection, nor the other way around. This is equally true for those in federal departments who are not expected to wear body armor, but may still find themselves in high risk situations. For these Officers there may also be a need for hard plate armor to be worn in the carrier (the vest itself which holds the bullet proof materials). Plates of ceramic, steel or titanium can be inserted into vests to offer protection against high caliber rifle rounds and even armor piercing rounds. These naturally add a great deal of weight and bulk to a vest however, so should only be worn when absolutely necessary.

High Risk Situations

For those who are guaranteed to find themselves in high risk situations full tactical gear is the only sensible option. This is of course designed with SWAT teams in mind. While covert styles are lighter and thinner, tactical gear eschews that for maximum protection, making it bulky and heavy and designed to be worn only for short periods of time. It will however protect against much higher caliber rounds, as well as explosions and fragmentation. Many manufacturers offer body armor designed specifically for SWAT teams, and provide additional protection for other areas of the body, including the neck and groin. These are vital areas that are not covered by other bullet proof vests. They will also come with the option of additional pouches to store equipment, better integration with standard uniform, and logos and insignia as standard. There is even increased development in creating CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) membranes for body armor, providing additional protection for high risk Law Enforcement Officers. These materials are already included in official Government Standards for body armor for first responders.

No Two Officers are the Same

There is already plenty of information available to Law Enforcement Officers on the different levels of body armor and how the materials involved work. However, Law Enforcement is often treated as one big group of identical Officers, which is not only completely wrong, but very insulting. The life of any individual Officer is completely different to another’s, as are the situations he or she will find themselves in. This is why it is important that Law Enforcement Officers are made aware of the wide range of body armor available to them so they can make an informed decision as to the correct bullet proof vest to wear depending on the role they fill.



(WASHINGTON, DC)   On Thursday, October 22, 2015, Richard Rosa, 3rd Vice President, HAPCOA National Board (Supervisory Federal Air Marshal), attended the White House event, "Arm Chair discussion with President Barack Obama."  Attending were several members of Congress, Police Chiefs, Sheriffs and prosecutors from across the country.  President Obama along with Police Chief Charlie Beck (LAPD) and U.S. Attorney of the District of Colorado, John Walsh, had a candid discussion about criminal justice reformation.  Bill Keller, Editor of the Marshall Project, moderated the event.  This event is a direct result of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing of which HAPCOA provided written commentary.  

HAPCOA Vice President Rosa reported the following report in respect to the event. 

President Obama opened with 4 key points:

1.  Fairness and Consistency - People regardless of race, or station in life people must be treated with fairness and that the law must be applied consistently.

2.  Proportionality - The punishment must fit the crime.  Non-violent crime should not fall under the same sentencing guideline as someone who has committed rape. 

3.  Recognition that incarceration is not the only solution.  Where are we spending our money?  $80 billion is spent each year in our prison system.  We need smarter sentencing and evidence-based approach to rehabilitation and reducing recidivism.  In turn, resources are saved and can be spent in the community.

4. We can't put the problem and the onus on law enforcement.   

During the discussion:

Issues of Mandatory Minimum sentencing were raised and how there has been a 25% reduction. The Smart on Crime policy put in place during former Attorney General Holder has contributed to this reduction.  Mr. Walsh commented on how prosecutors love Mandatory Minimums because they are used as leverage. 

Both John Walsh and Chief Beck agree that it is important to expand community programs.  The federal grants once received from COPS have been reduced and need to be revisited.

The President commented on how the criminal justice system is a reflection of us.  Communities, societies and the states must work with law enforcement.  Law enforcement must build trust with their communities.  

The importance of Data Collection in identifying crime trends was raised.  The President is concerned that we don't do a good job of collecting real-time data. 

The President went on to talk about the Black Lives Matter group but did state that All Lives Matter.  He recognized that police officers have a tough job. In closing the President thanked the Chiefs of Police for the good work they're doing.


HAPCOA 3rd Vice President Richard Rosa and HAPCOA member Assistant Police Chief Paul J. Figueroa from the Oakland Police Department.



HAPCOA, the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, established in 1973, is the oldest and largest association in the U.S. of Hispanic American command officers from law enforcement and criminal justice agencies at the municipal, county, state and federal levels. It members represent law enforcement agencies from across the United States, and around the world.  HAPCOA is a national organization with a local presence.

On Tuesday, November 17, 2015 at 8:30 am, at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel, HAPCOA opens its 42nd Annual National Law Enforcement Training Symposium, with San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, DPS Director Steve McCraw, US Marshal Robert Almonte and San Antonio Police Chief William McManus providing welcoming remarks.  Delivering the official opening Keynote address will be Mr. Ronald Davis, Director, Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Washington, DC.

The theme of this years HAPCOA symposium is  Hispanic Policing in the 21st Century:  Communication, Trust, and Inclusion”

The 2015 HAPCOA Aguila Awards Luncheon is scheduled for 11am to 1pm. Delivering the luncheon address at this year’s Aguila Awards Luncheon will be the Mr. Eric Velez-Villar, Executive Assistant Director (EAD), Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Washington, DC.  EAD Velez-Villar serves as the highest ranked Hispanic in the FBI today.

This year’s award categories include:


This award is the highest form of recognition provided by HAPCOA for exceptional contributions by an individual or an organization in support of HAPCOA’s mission and goals. Nominees exemplify the highest levels of concern for Public Safety and embody the principals on which HAPCOA was founded to promote.

The 2015 HAPCOA Aguila Statue Award recipient is: 

Bernardo Matias “Mat” Perez
Special Agent in Charge (retired)
Federal Bureau of Investigations


The Gold Medal of Valor Award: presented to an individual, who while on official duty, performed beyond the call, exemplifying courage and boldness.

The 2015 HAPCOA Gold Medal of Valor Award is proudly awarded to:

Cindy Hernandez & Michele Avila
Deputy Sheriffs
Bexar County Sheriffs Office, Bexar County, TX


The Silver Medal for Meritorious Service: presented to an individual, who has performed meritorious work in law enforcement.

The 2015 HAPCOA Silver Medal for Meritorious Service awardees include:

David A. Montoya - Inspector General
Office of Inspector General (OIG)
US Department of Housing and Urban Development
Washington, DC

Miguel E. Montalvo
Postal Inspector
US Postal Inspection Service
San Francisco Division 

Marisela “Mari” Nash
Special Agent
Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS)


The Bronze Medal for Community Service: presented to an individual who has contributed to the civic projects or programs, which have resulted in the betterment of the community.

These awards are presented annually to individuals, agencies, or departments nationwide in recognition for promoting a standard of excellence that exemplifies law enforcement’s contributions and dedication to the quality of life in local communities. This Awards Program helps law enforcement agencies nationwide and the communities they serve by redefining the concept of law enforcement and how it is routinely performed.

The 2015 HAPCOA Bronze Medal for Community Service selectees include:

US Embassy Panama HAPCOA Chapter
Panama City, Panama

Richard Perez
Assistant Supervisory Air Marshal in Charge
TSA/Federal Air Marshal Service
Dallas Field Office, Dallas, Texas


The HAPCOA President’s Award is presented to an individual or organization that has provided support, direction and guidance to HAPCOA’s membership.

The 2015 HAPCOA President’s Award will be presented to:

  • Eric Velez-Villar, Executive Assistant Director, Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations Washington, DC.

In addition, HAPCOA sponsors will be recognized for their support, contributions and donations.  This year’s sponsors include:

  • Harris Communications
  • American Military University
  • Verizon
  • Motorola
  • Davila Construction and DES Business Solutions of San Antonio, TX

To achieve its vision, HAPCOA follows its mission to "Empower the Future of Law Enforcement" by assisting law enforcement, criminal justice and community organizations nationwide in their efforts to recruit, train and promote qualified Hispanic American men and women.

The 2015 HAPCOA National President is Don Tijerina, Captain, Bexar County Sheriffs Office, San Antonio, TX.




CHICAGO — Leaders of the nation’s major national law enforcement leadership organizations today highlighted the dangerous rise in gun violence plaguing all corners of the U.S., and stressed the urgency of keeping guns out of the wrong hands by enhancing and expanding background checks for all gun sales. 

Members of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence (the Partnership), comprised of nine national law enforcement leadership organizations, spoke at a press conference during the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). 

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy led off the press conference, in his role as Host Chief of IACP’s 2015 conference. He spoke of the uptick in gun violence reported by major city chiefs across the country, saying, “the common denominator from Chicago to Charlotte is that guns are getting in the hands of the wrong people and lives are being erased, all because of easy access to guns by people intent on doing harm to themselves or others.” 

“America is in crisis because of gun violence. The longer we wait, the more people die,” said Jim Johnson, the Chief of Police of Baltimore County, MD, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) representative to the Partnership. “We’ve been rocked coast-to-coast from Charleston, South Carolina to Roseburg, Oregon. We keep seeing incident after incident unfold – from mass shootings to those that occur daily in our communities. This madness cannot continue. Enough is enough!” 

Johnson cited numerous statistics that he and others said were cause for alarm: 

• 466,113 people were victims of crime involving guns in 2014 – up 40% over the year before, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). 

• Firearm deaths are up over the last decade. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on average 92 Americans were killed by guns every day in 2013 – up from 82 a day in 2003. This number reflects a marked increase in suicides. 

• Mass shootings are occurring with greater frequency. A September 2014 FBI report found a 56% increase in mass shootings in the period between 2007 and 2013 compared to the earlier time period of 2000 and 2006. 

• Two-thirds of the 8,124 murders committed in the U.S. in 2014 involved firearms, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. • 2,000 children age 18 and under die from firearm-related deaths each year, according to CDC data. The Partnership outlined three background check proposals that the organizations say will save lives: 

• Expand background checks to cover all gun purchases – not just those made through licensed dealers. In far too many states individuals can transfer guns to others without any questions asked and no check required. Guns used in crime in cities like Chicago and New York are predominantly originating from places with weaker gun purchase laws. The Brady Law requires background checks for firearms purchased through federally licensed dealers. However, no check is required for private sales, such as those transacted at a gun show or through an online or print ad. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, federal and state background checks blocked more than 2.4 million prohibited purchases from federally licensed dealers between 1994, when the Brady Law took effect, and December 31, 2012. Background check laws screen out those prohibited by law from possessing firearms and do not impact law-abiding citizens’ ability to buy guns. • Strengthen the background check system by ensuring that states and federal agencies share all disqualifying records with the NICS system. Dangerous people have been able to pass background checks because their criminal and mental health disqualifying records barring them from gun possession were never shared with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). 

• Allow the FBI sufficient time to adequately conduct background checks when further investigation is needed before a firearm is transferred, as it was in the case of the shooting that took nine lives at the AME Church in Charleston. NICS background checks are generally completed in just a few minutes. But in some cases, more investigation is required to determine whether a flagged record disqualifies a prospective purchase from firearm possession. Under current federal law, the sale can proceed in three business days even if the FBI has not completed the check. 

“Last year, the FBI reported that more than 2,500 guns were sold to people who should have been barred but sales proceeded nevertheless,” Johnson said. “As the Charleston shooting rampage painfully shows, there are some cases where more time to investigate before a firearm is transferred would mean more lives saved.” 

Emphasizing the interstate gun trafficking problem, Gregory A. Thomas, President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives said, “Guns know no borders. Dangerous criminals are buying guns in states where they can evade background checks and transporting them to states with tougher background check laws. We need states to do more and we need national policies that tighten up gun purchasing requirements.” 

Thomas added, “In my hometown of New York City, just last week Randolph Holder, another brave police officer was shot and killed. I say another, because we are still mourning the loss of three other officers shot and killed in the last eleven months, including in ambush shootings.” Thomas said the guns used to kill those three officers all originated in Georgia, a state with weaker gun purchase laws. 

Chuck Wexler, Executive Director, Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) discussed its just released report in which it found overwhelming support among law enforcement for universal background checks during a series of regional conferences and in a subsequent survey of more than 250 police executives. Of the police executives surveyed, 95 percent of respondents said they support comprehensive background checks, 94 percent support temporary bans on gun possession for those under a restraining order for domestic violence, and 96 percent support prohibiting gun possession by persons who have had an involuntary hospitalization with a clinical finding of being a danger to oneself or others. 

“Our report was based on a two-year project and involved police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and mayors. It shows that police chiefs, along with their mayors and prosecutors, strongly support measures to protect communities by preventing serious criminal offenders and dangerous persons from harming community members with firearms,” Wexler concluded. PERF is a police research organization that develops best practices and policies on critical issues in policing, 

The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence (www.lepartnership.org) is an alliance of the nation’s law enforcement leadership organizations concerned about the unacceptable level of gun violence in the United States. The Partnership is working to address the pervasive nature of gun violence and its horrific impact on community.

The Partnership includes:

Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA)
Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA)
International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA)
International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA)
National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE)
National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE)
Police Executive Research Forum (PERF)
Police Foundation (PF)


FBI report: 51 officers feloniously killed in 2014


The above chart provides a breakdown of the circumstances under which 51 officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2014; an additional 45 officers were killed in accidents during the same time period. Source: FBI.gov



Explorer Aldaco has served in various leadership positions in his Post to include Explorer Operations Supervisor. He was honored as the Border Patrol Explorer of Year in 2013. In addition to his participation in Law Enforcement Exploring, he also serves as a volunteer with the Junior Humane Society. Upon completing college, Explorer Aldaco wishes to join the U.S. Border Patrol and eventually become a helicopter pilot with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations division. 

HAPCOA, established in 1973, is the oldest and largest association in the U.S. of Hispanic American command officers from law enforcement and criminal justice agencies at the municipal, county, state and federal levels. Through HAPCOA, chiefs of police, sheriffs and police superintendents from around the country are committed to meeting the challenges of selecting, promoting and retaining Hispanic American men and women in law enforcement positions within the criminal justice system. HAPCOA members work diligently to address the concerns of their respective communities and improve community relations through the implementation of innovative, state-of-the art training and educational programs. 

The HAPCOA Scholarship Award for Law Enforcement Explorers was established to recognize Law Enforcement Explorers of Hispanic ancestry who have shown potential to become future leaders in the law enforcement and criminal justice profession. The award is granted on the basis of grade point average, participation in extracurricular activities, leadership experience, awards/recognitions, letters of recommendations, and an essay on the topic of “Why I want to pursue of a career in the law enforcement or criminal justice profession.” 

The award recipient receives an engraved award plaque and a monetary honorarium in the amount of $1,000 to be utilized for tuition, books and related expense. Congratulations to Explorer Aldaco on his selection for this prestigious award. 



Members of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence (the Partnership) send our deepest condolences to those who lost their loved ones and our hearts go out to all those injured and traumatized by the despicable shooting rampage yesterday at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. 

While we do not yet know all the details about the shooter or how he acquired firearms, we do know that more can and must be done to keep guns out of the hands of those intent on harming others. 

We cannot accept the suggestion that nothing can or will be done to prevent mass shootings and the carnage occurring every day all across America.  We do not accept the argument that discussion about solutions at this time is inappropriate.  As law enforcement professionals, we will never accept the proposition that because we cannot prevent every shooting, that we should do nothing to prevent those we can.  Now is the time for discussion and now is the time for action.  Enough is enough.


Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA)

Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA) 

International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) 

International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)

Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA)

National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE) 

National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE)

 Police Executive Research Forum (PERF)

Police Foundation (PF)


Yvonne Vann

HAPCOA Family:

I am reaching out to you today to ask you to keep Yvonne Vann and her loved ones in your prayers. Yvonne has waited over four years for the trial of the alleged killer of her husband, Kenneth Vann, to begin and for justice to be served. Today that trial started marking the beginning of a several week, grueling period for Yvonne and her family. I know many of you would like to be with Yvonne in the courtroom but are not able, but please be with her in spirit and keep her and her family in your thoughts.

In the early morning hours of May 28, 2011, Sgt. Kenneth Vann was ambushed and murdered as he sat in his marked patrol car, stopped at a traffic light. Kenneth’s murder was a precursor to the now ever increasing acts of random violence directed toward those who protect and serve, he was murdered because of what he represented, he was a Law Enforcement Officer. 

My sincere appreciation goes out to each one of you who put on a uniform and put your own safety at risk to serve others and protect the greatest nation in the world, be safe. 


Don Tijerina



HAPCOA U.S. Embassy Chapter Swears in 10 new members

The HAPCOA US Embassy Chapter held its regular meeting this past Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 at the Executive Salon of the Panamanian National Police, located within its Headquarters in Panama City, Panama.

This meeting was attended by 15 active members and 10 new members.  The new members included Director Luis A. Zegarro of Direccion Institucional en Asuntos de Seguridad Publica (Panama’s version of ATF), Mario Chan the Deputy Director of the Panamanian Civil Defense/Sistema Nacional de Proteccion Civil (much like FEMA), the Assistant Director of Immigration and several other senior members of the law enforcement community.  HAPCOA Chapter President Eric Moncayo, CBP Attaché, US Embassy Panama, held a ceremony where the newly recruited members were sworn-in and presented with their HAPCOA pins.  A reception sponsored by the National Police was held following the swearing-in event. 

In addition, HAPCOA Executive Director Anthony Chapa was recognized via proclamation by Director General Omar Pinzon, of the Panamanian National Police for his efforts at bringing HAPCOA to Panama and for establishing a chapter that has provided support to all law enforcement in this country.  The Panamanian National Police “Medalla al Servicio Distinguido” (Distinguished Service Medal) was presented to Executive Director Chapa by HAPCOA member Comisionado Javier Castillo, Deputy Director of the Panamanian National Police. 

Please visit the Panamanian Police twitter site for photos: https://mobile.twitter.com/protegeryservir/status/639126842952294406

Merecido homenaje a Anthony Chapa en reunión de HAPCOA, un privilegio contar con sus aportes en Seguridad Nacional.