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Status Report to the Attorney General on Body Armor Safety Initiative Testing and Activities

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2004
18 pages
This is a 90-day status report on the body armor testing currently being conducted by the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
Although NIJ has conducted the testing of body armor since the early 1970's, NIJ became aware of the potential problems with Zylon-based body armor after the injury of a police officer in Forest Hills, PA, in the summer of 2003. On November 17, 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the initiation of the Justice Department's Body Armor Safety Initiative for the primary purpose of testing the performance of Zylon-based armors. Under this initiative, NIJ has been directed to examine Zylon-based bullet-resistant armor, both new and used; to analyze upgrade kits provided by manufacturers to retrofit Zylon-based bullet-resistant armors; to review the current process by which bullet-resistant armor is certified; and to report to the attorney general within 90 days on the status and activities of the testing program. NIJ has prepared and initiated an extensive test plan to examine Zylon-based bullet-resistant armors and the adequacy of upgrade kits provided by manufacturers. The test plan involves a study of the Forest Hills incident, tests to determine Zylon degradation in used armor, the testing of upgrade kits, and applied research efforts to understand degradation mechanisms. NIJ is also developing a comprehensive plan to review and modify, as necessary, the standard and compliance testing program under which body armor is certified. This 90-day status report presents preliminary findings on the Forest Hills incident; describes the design of a multiphase, statistically based test plan that will ensure a representative sampling of used armors; reports on the testing steps for upgrade kits; and reports on current applied research efforts to understand any degradation process for Zylon. Progress is described in the review of the NIJ Standard and Compliance Testing Program and related activities.

Date Published: March 1, 2004