Safety standards for police body armour
Assaults on the Police continue to increase. Of particular concern is the threat of injury from edged weapons. Shootings remain rare. The Home Office has embarked on a program to provide all police officers with suitable body armour. Body armour has been on general issue to police officers in America for over twenty years and has a superb record in saving lives from shootings. Little is known about its ability to prevent serious stab wounds from knives, as this is a much less common threat in the American policing environment. Therefore the specification for armour for police use in this country must be set to provide protection against the threats in the UK policing environment. Current knife-resistance standards are based on animal experimentation and have not been examined by any other model. To understand the protective requirements of armour, it is necessary to understand the weapon threat, the assailant’s method of delivery, and the vulnerability of the target. The biophysics of human stabbing (the assailant’s method of delivery), is the subject of ongoing investigation, and is outwith the scope of this thesis. In this thesis, the history and development of body armour is reviewed. An overview of the materials and properties of modern armour is presented. To understand the threat, the epidemiology of assaults on police officers and civilians is described. To determine the ideal protective qualities of body armour for issue to the police, two studies are presented. The first is a retrospective cohort study of 500 civilian victims of penetrating injury. The frequency of wounding, and the severity of wounding by body region is plotted on anatomical charts. This will demonstrate the vulnerability, and hence the protection requirements of each body area to penetrating injury. No previous study has measured the depth of the internal organs from the skin. A CT study is presented. It describes the accessibility of the internal organs to the passage of a blade by measuring the shortest distances from the skin. By applying the results of these two studies to the location of the internal organs (which lie in fairly constant relation to surface anatomy landmarks), the ideal protective qualities of armour panels over corresponding areas of organ vulnerability are plotted. The case for adopting three levels of knife resistance protection is made. The ballistic protective requirements of body armour are discussed. Finally, proposals for zoned body armour are presented and ergonomic and production issues are described. The model presented in this thesis has been accepted in principle by the Police Scientific Development Branch of the Home Office with a view to establishing a zoned body coverage requirement for police body armour.