Tampa, Florida -- A recent survey of hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country reveals only about half require their men and women to wear the body armor they are assigned while on duty.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Police Executive Research Forum surveyed 782 agencies across the country. 59 percent said they require the use of armor, while 41 percent say they do no not.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says they do not required their deputies to wear the vests, but encourage them to do so.
Sheriff Judd says Deputy Michael Braswell and Deputy Paul Fairbanks were wearing their vests when they were allegedly shot by suspect Michael Tutt early Friday morning.
"Quite frankly, the reason Deputy Braswell is alive and well today was because he was wearing his bulletproof vest," said Sheriff Judd.
The policies vary agency to agency across the Bay area, but all of the agencies say they encourage the use of vests by their men and women.
Thomas Sabo, general manager of Dana Safety Supply in Tampa, which supplies vests to law enforcement agencies, says he knows the value of the armor.
"It's an absolute lifesaver," he said. "It's a very good feeling when you get to go and shake a person's hand and give them a replacement vest and you know that their wife and kids have a husband and father to come home to them at night because of something you were involved in."
It's estimated the vests have saved the lives of more than 3,000 law enforcement officers.
Sabo says the technology is improving, making the vests thinner and more comfortable to wear.
Some agencies in the Bay area tell us if their deputies and officers aren't wearing the vests for them, it's for their families.
"It's peace of mind," said Tracie Wright, whose husband is a local sheriff's deputy.
"It brings reality back at how he goes to work everyday and not knowing if he's coming home, taking it day by day. You never know what you're going to get into on the road," added Wright, referring to the Friday morning shooting of the Polk deputies.
Both deputies are expected to make a full recovery.
Sheriff Judd said, "If you need a poster child of why you should wear your vest if you're in law enforcement, Deputy Braswell can provide that for you."
Here are the results from local law enforcement on the use of vests:
Pasco Sheriff's Office:
The Pasco Sheriff's Office provides and pays for bullet proof vests for all of our deputies.
We do not have a policy requiring a deputy to wear a bullet proof vest, that is a personal decision they are allowed to make for themselves. However, after speaking with our Major he says he would estimate virtually all deputies who work the road wear bullet proof vests in our agency.
Citrus County Sheriff's Office (response in blue):
Does your agency have a bullet proof vest policy? Yes
If it is optional how many deputies/officers choose to wear them? This information is considered tactical in nature; hence, it would not be subject to public disclosure.
Dade City Police Department:
We have a policy that requires all uniformed patrol officers to wear a vest.
New Port Richey PD:
Our policy is as follows: Vests shall be issued to those who elect to wear them. All personnel, while in uniform, shall wear their issued vest w/ exceptions of Lieutenants and above. Personnel working special events or specialized assignments may be exempted by the Chief of Police. If there is any other questions please let me know.
DeSoto County Sheriff's Office
We provide vests for every sworn deputy and they must sign a waiver if they do not want to wear it all the time. Over 80% of our uniform patrol deputies wear theirs all the time. Detectives and admin deputies have throw over covers they can put on quickly over their clothes and they keep those with them at all times.
Bullet proof vests are optional. We have no way of knowing how many officers opt not to wear the vests. I can tell you from talking to officers, most wear them
Sarasota County Sheriff:
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office has a policy, General Order 10.1 (attached). All Sworn are issued a vest and a replacement every five years. Use is voluntary, with the exception of pre-planned, high risk (SWAT, etc.).
Body Armor: Body armor is highly recommended to be worn by sworn law enforcement members while on duty and must be carried with them and readily accessible when driving his/her assigned vehicle whether on or off-duty. Body armor will be worn by all sworn members engaged in pre-planned, high risk situations.
Hernando County Sheriff's Office:
It is the policy of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office to use all available resources to minimize the possibility of injury to officers. Protective vests are available to all sworn personnel while on duty.
WEARING OF VESTS
1. Wearing of protective vests is mandatory for the following:
a. All on-duty uniformed personnel, below the rank of captain, performing enforcement duties. On-duty uniformed personnel shall include deputies assigned to COPPS, K-9 Unit, Marine Patrol and the School Resource Officer program.
b. Judicial Services Division:
• On-duty uniformed personnel, below the rank of captain
• Detectives assigned to the Warrants Section
c. Sworn personnel working off-duty details in Class A or Class B uniforms.
d. Personnel assigned to pre-planned, high-risk situations. Pre-planned, high-risk situations are those situations where time is available to prepare a law enforcement response to circumstances where there is a risk of injury to personnel or citizens, to include search warrants, the apprehension of dangerous felons, and other potentially dangerous pre-planned special operations.
2. All other sworn personnel, both uniform and non-uniform, will have the option of wearing their issued protective vest while on duty. Personnel not required to wear protective vests will keep their protective vests in their assigned vehicle and readily available for use at all times.
a. To exercise the discretionary wearing of protective vests, a Waiver and Release form must be signed and notarized. Upon a deputy's assignment/transfer to a position where the wearing of a vest is discretionary, the Human Resources Director or designee shall ensure that the Waiver has been offered and/or completed.
b. The signed Waiver and Release form will be maintained in the individual's personnel file.
c. Waiver and Release forms are available from Human Resources.
3. Vests worn by uniformed personnel are to be worn under the uniform shirt.
4. Vests worn temporarily by non-uniformed personnel, such as detectives during raids, may be worn outside the clothing, but the mesh vest with the designation "Sheriff" must be worn over the protective vest.
5. Vests, if worn by non-uniformed personnel on a daily basis, are to be worn under the shirt.
Bradenton Police Department:
All officers are issued body armor - Wearing is optional however must have available for use or inspection in squad car if not wearing.
General Orders, policy # 2101.14 (Body Armor) states
" soft body armor is issued to all officers of the department as part of their initial uniform and equipment issue. This vest is issued specifically for the safety of the officer. It SHALL be worn at all times and without exception. The only type to be worn is a department approved and issued vest. This will be worn with bulletproof panels under the uniform shirt by all uniformed officers. "
Temple Terrace Police:
The wearing of Soft Body Armor by Officers of The City of Temple Terrace Police Department is addressed by Police Department General Orders.
The Temple Terrace Police Department encourages officers to wear body armor on a routine basis, and particularly in high-hazard situations.
All sworn law enforcement officers are afforded issuance of body armor upon employment and every 60 months thereafter; however, once issued, they are required to wear it on duty except as outlined below:
a. When a physician determines the officer has a medical condition precluding body armor use.
b. When an officer is engaged in plain-clothes or undercover work that a supervisor determines would be compromised by its use.
c. When the officer is assigned to administrative functions.
d. When exempted by the Chief of Police.
Currently with the exception of three officers all of Our Officers are issued and wear soft body. We have 53 sworn officers.
Road Officers have an option, however the majority of our officer do wear their vest. The only policy we have is for tactical use.
You can research the policy on our website. www.flhsmv.gov search policy.
Members of the TRT Unit may wear the Class C uniform during training, emergencies and other tactical situations when deemed necessary by the unit commander. The protective ballistic safety vest shall be worn during all tactical situations. (See Policy 22.06.)
Pinellas County Sheriff's Office:
He is the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Policy - General Order 05-01 Uniforms and Appearance. Please see Section 5-1.3 D which relates to your question.
5-1.3 Body Armor
A. Law enforcement deputies, bailiff deputies, Criminal Justice Specialists (CJS) assigned to Court Security,
detention deputies assigned to the Transportation Section and the Civil Processing Section will be issued
body armor at the time of their employment or special assignment. These members who are currently
employed and who do not have body armor or their current issue is five years old or older from manufacture
date may request issuance of same by entering an electronic requisition in the AS / 400.
B. Deputies performing high-risk assignments (i.e. SWAT, Narcotics, etc.) shall be issued body armor designed
to meet the conditions of their specific assignment and are required to wear said body armor
whenever they are engaged in the performance of such assignments.
Revised 01-14-2010 Page 4 of 13 General Order 5-1
C. Members may self-purchase body armor and be reimbursed, not to exceed the amount the agency pays
per vest as of the date of the member's purchase, provided:
1. The body armor meets or exceeds agency issued body armor standards.
2. The member is eligible to receive body armor.
3. The member submits an electronic requisition for approval and sends a copy of the body armor purchase
receipt to the Purchasing Division, via chain of command. The agency will not reimburse the
member for sales tax.
D. The Sheriff's Office encourages deputies to wear body armor on a routine basis. Deputies must wear
body armor in all pre-planned, high-risk situations as defined in General Order 18-1, High Risk Situations.
E. Cleaning and maintenance of body armor is the responsibility of the member to whom it has been issued.
North Port Police:
We provide vests for all officers. They are not required to wear although we encourage.
Required to wear vests while on duty-with some exceptions: marine unit (Kevlar doesn't work when wet), undercover operations, detectives don't wear unless making planned arrests
St. Petersburg Police:
Our policy only requires officers to wear a vest during high risk situations. Otherwise, the wearing of a bullet-resistant vest is optional.
The city does offer a reimbursement program for those officers who purchase a vest, but there is no way today to determine how many participate in that program.
According to CPD policy, if an officer accepts a bullet proof vest from the department, he or she is required to wear it while in uniform. 233 have accepted, which accounts for all.
Laura Kadechka, 10 Connects