POLICE GET SOME FLAK; NEW STYLE Pounds 2m Jackets Stop Officers Breathing

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Byline: CHARLES LAVERY EXCLUSIVE

POLICE say their new pounds 2million Kevlar-plated flak jackets can stop a bullet from a Magnum 357 handgun.

But according to unimpressed officers the vests are so bulky they also stop them breathing.

A damning survey from the Police Federation reveals that the body armour, worn underneath uniforms, leaves officers red faced and gasping for breath.

It cites "areas of concern" as heat retention, difficulty entering vehicles, restricted breathing, lower back pain, neck pain, difficulty driving and difficulty breathing in a chase or struggle.

The federation says the vests are not shaped to fit female officers.

And it adds, helpfully: "Do not force your way into vehicles in a manner likely to strain any muscles."

Departing Strathclyde Police Chief Constable John Orr wants all his officers to have the body armour, a stab-proof and bullet-proof vest worn next to the skin, under ordinary police clothing.

The heavy Kevlar plates can stop a bullet from a 357 Magnum and the force has ploughed pounds 2million into developing and buying the vests.

Under new rules, every officer must don one before leaving the station, but some say they can hardly move in the armour. Federation reps have been inundated with complaints.

Officers have protested about a range of problems, from hyperventilating while wearing them, to being unable to get into patrol cars.

In a memo to officers at one police office, federation reps state that bosses have been left in no doubt about the "impact the vests were having on both morale and the ability to carry out day-to-day duties."

It also states: "In relation to the entering and leaving of vehicles, I can only suggest that you do not force your way into them in a manner likely to strain any muscles."

One concerned officer said: "It's a nonsense. Officers are having to stop chasing neds because they cannot run the same distances as they could before, and that cannot be good news.

"We all welcome anything that gives further protection, but not at the risk of long-term damage to ourselves in the shape of bad backs and necks or hyperventilating. …