There are a lot of police officers who owe their lives
to the development of Kevlar.  Born in the late
sixties, Kevlar was first marketed in 1971 -- the
same year that I became a police officer.  However,
it would be some time before Kevlar would be fully
appreciated for the life saving material it is.  The
Baltimore City Police Department was one of the
first major American police departments to issue
Kevlar bulletproof vests to its officers as a standard
issued item.
The first vest we were issued consisted of a single
panel of Kevlar contained in a fabric carrier.  The
panel was worn in the front providing protection for
the heart and lungs.  The single panel was light
weight, and it was not uncomfortable.

In the early 1980's, we didn't regularly face the high
powered criminal arsenal that you'll encounter as a
police officer in the 21st Century.  It was still the
era of the
Saturday Night Specials which were
cheap, small caliber handguns. The single panel of
Kevlar would stop the penetrating power of the .22,
.32, and .38 caliber handguns we most frequently

All that changed for us on the night of November
18, 1985.  Vince Adolfo was hit by a round from a
.357 Magnum.  While the bullet was .38 caliber, the
Magnum version is a much more powerful bullet
than the standard .38 caliber.  The first round
struck Vince in the vest.  The impact spun him
around, and his killer fired a second time striking
Vince in the back where no Kevlar protection existed.
Police Officer Vincent J. Adolfo
Baltimore City Police Department
End of Watch: Monday, November 18, 1985

Biographical Info
Age: 24
Tour of Duty: 2 years
Badge Number: Not available

Incident Details
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: Monday, November 18,
Weapon Used: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect Info: Executed in 1997
But...it wouldn't have mattered.  The first shot
smashed through the single panel of Kevlar and into
Officer Adolfo.  Even though Vince was only --
literally -- a few minutes from one of the world's
best hospital emergency rooms at the Johns
Hopkins Hospital, his wounds were just too
massive, and he succumbed to those wounds.
Officer Adolfo's death literally saved the lives of
others.  Along with the tireless efforts of Vince's
young widow, the police department quickly
recognized the ineffectiveness of the single panel.  
It wasn't long before we were issued three (3)
additional Kevlar panels doubling the protection for
both an officer's front and back.  Following Vince's
death, there would be more Baltimore police officers
shot with high powered handguns, but, unlike
Officer Adolfo, the bullets would not pass through
their vests.

Body armor technology has come a long way since
1985.  The comfort level has been vastly improved,
but you'll still find some police officers who will
sacrifice their safety to comfort or the fit of their
uniforms.  As a sergeant and lieutenant, I
occasionally had to deal with subordinates who felt
they were somehow immune to the mandatory
wearing of body armor.  While I never had to act on
my threats to formally charge subordinates for their
stupidity, I would not have hesitated to do so if

When you become a police officer, you could find
yourself assigned to a squad with a weak sergeant
who exercises poor or inadequate supervision.  
While this circumstance won't help you while
learning all the things you'll have to learn, there are
some things that are just common sense -- wearing
your body armor is one of those things.  Don't ever
be influenced into doing, or not doing, anything
that places your safety in jeopardy.  Think of
wearing your body armor like you would your car
safety belt.  If you're not wearing it, you won't have
time to put it on when you need it.
Body Armor
"Think of wearing your body armor like you
would your car safety belt.  If you're not
wearing it, you won't have time to put it on
when you need it." ~ Barry M. Baker

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