The federal government is looking for better bulletproof vests to protect women in law enforcement.

Bulletproof vests designed for men can be deadly to women because of design flaws that could allow a bullet to ricochet into a woman’s chest and travel all the way to her throat.

Congress is now rushing to address the issue, including passing a bill that would require the Department of Homeland Security to purchase vests designed to fit women’s bodies.

Bulletproof vests are intended to absorb a bullet and disperse its energy, distorting the bullet and preventing it from penetrating. The vests are specially designed to minimize ricochets.

But an undercover FBI study conducted several years ago found that the way a traditional bulletproof vest was worn around a woman’s torso could cause a bullet fired at a certain angle to ricochet and strike the wearer’s head.

The news sent ripples through law enforcement, with Sens. Katie Britt, R-Alabama, and Gary Peters, D-Michigan, saying they thought the Department of Homeland Security needed some encouragement.

Their bill has already passed the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which Peters chairs.

“Our brave Homeland Security law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, and they deserve the best equipment possible to protect themselves while on the job,” he said.

The Washington Times contacted the Department of Homeland Security.

As of 2020, there are 137,000 federal law enforcement officers authorized to make arrests and carry firearms. About 15% of those officers, or about 20,500, are women, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

About 8,000 of them work for the Department of Homeland Security, the majority of them for Customs and Border Protection.

Two years ago, the U.S. Capitol Police issued a warning to its police force, which includes more than 300 female officers, about the dangers of bulletproof vests worn by women.

The Capitol Police said the FBI discovered the issue and notified other law enforcement agencies. reported that when Capitol Police tested bulletproof vests, they found the same issue.

“Testing has determined that when a projectile strikes the upper chest area of ​​a women’s body armor vest at an extreme angle, the projectile will not penetrate the vest, but will instead ricochet off the surface of the vest or be deflected into the neck area,” the advisory explains. “The angle at which the women’s body armor vest is worn may cause a projectile to ricochet off the top center of the vest and travel into the area of ​​the jugular notch.”

Chest body armor is a fabric carrier that holds ballistic panels made from woven fibers. For men, the panels lie flat, but for women, they must fit around the bust line in what the industry calls a “non-flat” design.

The Senate bill directs the Department of Homeland Security to strive to accommodate “individuals whose body types most closely resemble female agents and officers.”

The bill passed unanimously out of committee on May 15, during National Police Week.

“Just as they are defending their country, they should be given the equipment that will keep them safe while they’re on the job,” Britt said after the bill advanced.

It was only in this century that bulletproof vest manufacturers began to target the female law enforcement market in response to the increasing number of women joining the police.

They discovered early on that vests that didn’t fit well around a woman’s breasts would leave the sides exposed.

The Department of Homeland Security’s science and technology division has been studying bulletproof vests and women in law enforcement for years.

In a 2020 report, the department reported on focus groups with women who use body armor. The picture was not good.

“Focus group participants stated that in their experience, these designs do not conform well to the contours of the body,” the report concluded.

The National Institute of Justice, which sets standards for bulletproof vests used by law enforcement, updated its testing methods last year to improve testing of vests designed for women, including adding new shooting positions.

The military branches have been studying women and bulletproof vests for several years, prompted by legislation pushed by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

The Army’s Modular Scalable Vest includes what Army Times calls “female-specific features,” such as increased protection for women with “larger bust sizes” and a cut-out collar to accommodate long hair.

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