Local News

Should Bulletproof Vests Be Mandatory for Officers?

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WILSON — The Robeson County shootings reminded people of the dangers law enforcement offficers face. With a deadly shootout possible at almost any time, one might think that officers would be required to wear bulletproof vests.

In our state, construction workers are required to wear helmets in dangerous situations. By law, everyone is supposed to wear seatbelts on the highway. However, in most departments, law enforcement officers are not required to wear bulletproof vests except in high risk situations.

Authorities say that most officers wear them throughout the day anyway, especially the younger officers.

Wilson Police Officer J.P. Anthony has been shot at before, and for him the uniform is not complete without the vest.

"It gives you that extra benefit of safety when you don't know what's going to happen from day to day," Anthony said. "It's a life-saving tool that every officer should utilize if they have the means to."

Officers in most departments, including state troopers, are required to keep the vests nearby in case of an emergency. But some lawmen do not like to wear them, because the older models were too restricting and too hot.

Newer vests are better, and apparently more important than ever, because today's criminals seem to be growing more violent.

"To me, every time I walk up to a car now, I'm thinking okay, 'What can I do different than they did?' I think a lot of guys now are starting to think that way," Trooper J.B. Gardner said. "They're starting to think, 'Well I need to put that vest on.'"

A few departments require their men and women to wear vests throughout the day. But most departments do not, and right now, no one is moving to make a change.

A new bulletproof vest costs $500 or more. While cost can be an issue, many departments use federal grant money to buy them.