The wife of a Little Rock Police officer emailed KARK, saying the police department had officers wearing expired bulletproof vests, and she was concerned that might mean her husband would not come back home.
The department confirms there are a number of vests with expired warranties, but they’re working to replace them.
The Little Rock Police Department issues Kevlar, bulletproof vests to officers as part of their uniforms that patrol must wear daily. Those vests have a manufacturer warranty expiration date of five years.
According to the department, 22 vests have warranties that expired in December 2015. More than 200 more have expired as of June. That’s roughly half the vests issued with warranties past the expiration date.
“My truck is out of warranty but it still operates great, because I take good care of it. It all goes into how we take care of our uniforms, our vests,” said Lt. Steve McClanahan. “There was a delay in replacing the vests, because we were testing out new technology.”
There’s debate on how exposed expired vests leave officers, but manufacturers do caution that Kevlar can break down over time, especially when worn daily in high heat and humidity. Submergence in water can also pose a problem, in addition to altercations or tears. But the department said vests can stand up much longer than the warranty.
“It doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, it’s just suggested by the manufacturer. And another thing we can tell the families is that we’re getting the new vests, and officers are going to like a lot better but provide the superior protection that we need,” McClanahan said.
The department has begun fitting officers to replace those expired vests after spending two months doing a “wear test.” That comprised of shooting these new vests on the range and having officers wear them. According to the department, the new technology allows the vests to be lighter, more breathable and more water resistant. Another hundred vests will expire by this time next year, and according to the police department those cost around $800 each.
According to McClanahan, the department donates its expired vests to other police departments that can’t afford to purchase their own, but only after those departments sign a waiver releasing the city from liability.
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