Personally Owned Body Armor vs Department Issue

I’ve been doing some research lately, and not finding any answers, about the use of personally purchased body armor vs department issued.  I was asked a question about benefits and workers compensation in regards to this question.  The officer that asked the question wanted to know if benefits or workers compensation could be denied or reduced to an officer/family if they choose to wear their personally purchased body armor.

 I know a number of people choose or have to buy their own rifle plates and some the same with soft armor.  And I realize that not all departments issue body armor which in this day and age baffles my bind, but I digress.

 Anyhow, has anyone ever seen where an officer or their family were denied benefits or paid reduced benefits when they were injured wearing personal armor vs department armor?  Is there any legal standing one way or the other on this issue?

 The above question is asked assuming that the armor being worn is from a reputable company with NIJ certification and not outside of its warranty period; and that the personally owned armor is equal to or exceeds the department issued armor as far as ballistic ratings and body coverage are concerned.

Joined:  April 2010.     Location:  Metro Atlanta, USA

Original Post

From a purely legal standpoint, I would start by analyzing as to whether the personally owned armor would have somehow contributed to causing the injury or the severity of the injury. I would then see if the issued armor could be shown to have prevented the injury or reduced its severity. If one could show that the issued armor was somehow superior to the personally owned and would have prevented or reduced the severity of the injury, I think it would be a potential problem when it comes to reducing benefits.

From a practical standpoint, who buys crappier armor than they are issued? We are issued 2A (even though our duty round is .357 Sig). I wear a Velocity Systems LPAC with level 3 soft with level 4 plates.  If I'm injured or killed, I'm hopeful that whoever is representing my wife in any possible litigation will be able to conclusively demonstrate that I was wearing a superior product to what I was issued and as such my wearing it did not exacerbate or cause any injury for which I am seeking recompense.

That being said, have you considered a policy? If the armor is approved for use by the agency, they'll be hard pressed to deny benefits.

"Hold my beer and watch this"

Thanks for the answers thus far.

Just to clarify in case I wasn't clear in the initial post.  There has not been an incident that I am aware of or involved in with this inquiry.  An officer who wanted to beef up his protection was referred to the HR person with the question.  HR told him there would be no benefits, or a reduction in benefits, if he used his own armor regardless if the rating was higher or not.  

In this particular instance, officers are issued level II soft armor and level III or III+ish plates.  The officer wanted to use a self procured level IIIA vest instead of the issued level II.  Officers carry Glock .40 S&W pistols.

I agree that a policy directive is the best route to go.  However, that is not an immediate option at this point.  Maybe in the future.  The current policy does not specifically prohibit it but does not specifically allow it either.  

I suppose failure would become an issue more if the vest were inferior or not maintained as it should be.  And yes some cops will buy an inferior product because they think its less expensive, lighter, or someone told them it was "just as good"!

Maybe this is truly a non-issue.  But with as much time as we spend here looking for the best options in protection I thought it might be worthwhile and something that may not have been considered by others.  That and I'd like to have an educated answer to give the officer that asked.

Joined:  April 2010.     Location:  Metro Atlanta, USA

It sounds like HR is guessing, or passing bad info. Remember all of the bullshit going around about how SGL I would not pay benefits if you didn't have a seatbelt on, or if you smoke, or other such nonsense?  Have them cite a specific regulation, rule, law or policy that says that in writing, not just some HR person's interpretation.  If they can produce that, ask for a copy. Then let them know you were going to run it by your civil attorneys and union to look at recourse for them not allowing you to have better equipment than what you are issued.  Incidentally you may want to look at the duty ammo you carry and see if the level II vest is rated to protect against the rounds you carry.  If not, you have a very valid reason for needing to upgrade your armor. Depending on how motivated you are, you can research the most common calibers and ammunition that are used in crimes or recovered in your jurisdiction, too.  You might also want to look at what other agencies around you issue in terms of duty ammunition and body armor. It should be very easy to establish a de facto industry standard for the level of protection you should have, and articulate threats that warrant a higher level of protection. 

 Again, it sounds like an ignorant HR person making things up. But if there is such a prohibition, I would raise hell about it. 

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"One of the nice things about being around other soldiers is they will suffer your bullshit gladly, knowing sooner or later you will shut up and listen to theirs." - Jim Morris, War Story

 

"The military was strange like that. In the middle of the night you run into a major problem that requires you to put your faith in someone you never met before and probably would never see again. But that person knocks himself out to do his job and helps you get on with yours." - Harold W. Coyle, Team Yankee

 I forgot to add, don't forget to out the HR person as the one who started this whole mess. 

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"One of the nice things about being around other soldiers is they will suffer your bullshit gladly, knowing sooner or later you will shut up and listen to theirs." - Jim Morris, War Story

 

"The military was strange like that. In the middle of the night you run into a major problem that requires you to put your faith in someone you never met before and probably would never see again. But that person knocks himself out to do his job and helps you get on with yours." - Harold W. Coyle, Team Yankee

I would think that HR is the wrong source to answer this question.  I would ask your legal department.  The fact is that if you are denied benefits, you or your estate are going to end up addressing it in court, therefore I would think that legal would have a better understanding of the issue.

x/S

¿Si no nosotros, que quien?

Sounds like the Legal unit, Training/Firearms unit, and Quartermaster/Supply unit need to get together to recommend a formal standpoint or policy.  In my department, we are only issued level 2 soft armor (albeit nice, certified level 2 armor) except for specialized units such as SWAT.  Our training unit is pretty good and has been advocating for guys to be prepared with plates, carriers, etc. So, although there is no formal policy, to my knowledge, the accepted, official standpoint is you are covered as long as the level of protection and coverage of the personal armor is equal or better than the issued armor and you use it properly. It doesn't even need to be certified as long as it is SRT tested at least.

Good luck,

  • The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
  • The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.

- Sun Tzu -

The Art of War

OhMyMuthaFuckingGawd, do we ever frikkin' need a Snopes for Command Staff. Forrest Whittaker eye? I now have two. 

Maybe, just maybe, if an agency has a mandatory wear policy covering a very specific make/model  maybe they might be able to get away with this. When I read the OP, my very first thought was the SGLI / IBA drama from mid-2000s. That died out pretty quick. There were, however, justifiable concerns about troops ditching armor that would stop frag being replaced with Level II concealable. It was almost funny to watch some of what went on ... we had a guy with a complete Paraclete set-up who had to wear an empty IBA cover underneath to be "in compliance."

Anyway, back to the original topic. We have two authorized make/model vests. You can accept one of them or you can apply the money budgeted to the cost of whatever you choose - as long as it is equal or better/higher. My last few (3?) vests have been personally purchased FBI compliant ones with partial re-imburement from the office. 

The Fed's BPVP doesn't even require one to only wear a specific make/model issued vest, it does however require simply a mandatory wear policy for NIJ blessed vests..  

As has been mentioned, the officer in question got lied to by someone who had no idea what they did not know and was too damn lazy to do a wee bit of research. 

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