The Life-Saving Effectiveness of Body Armor for Police Officers

Published in: Journal of Occupational & Environmental Hygiene, v. 7, no. 10, Oct. 2010, p. 557-562

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2010

by Tom LaTourrette

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The objective of this study was to determine the effect of protective body armor on a police officer's risk of being killed and estimate the benefits and costs of outfitting police with body armor. In the United States, for police shot in the torso from 2004 to 2007 (n = 262), we calculate the relative risk of death from a gunshot without and with body armor. We estimate the benefit of body armor using the willingness-to-pay approach and compare it with the cost of supplying armor to police not currently wearing armor. The results show that the relative risk of dying without armor is = 3.4 (95% CI: 2.4 to 4.6). Outfitting all police with armor would save at least 8.5 lives per year, resulting in a benefit that is nearly twice the cost, or a net benefit of ~$100/officer. Body armor more than triples the likelihood that a police officer will survive a shooting to the torso. Outfitting all police with armor yields a positive net benefit and is strongly justified economically.

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