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Body armor policy varies across area

Most officers are required to wear vests

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For Aiken Public Safety officers on road patrol, wearing body armor – more commonly called a bullet-proof vest – is a requirement. That policy was a lifesaver for Officer Travis Griffin, who survived a shoot-out Tuesday night.

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Sgt. Tommy Cooksey (left) and Deputy Ryan Brockman, of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, are urged, but not required, to wear body armor while on duty, unless they have been assigned to high-risk duties.  Sara Caldwell/Staff
Sara Caldwell/Staff
Sgt. Tommy Cooksey (left) and Deputy Ryan Brockman, of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, are urged, but not required, to wear body armor while on duty, unless they have been assigned to high-risk duties.


”He was shot square in the chest,” Lt. David Turno said. “The vest did exactly what it was supposed to do.”

Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson was also wearing a bullet-proof vest but sustained a gunshot wound to the head during the attack.

Aiken County Sheriff’s Office follows similar protocol for uniformed road patrol officers.

“If you are in uniform, you wear a ballistic-proof vest at all times,” Capt. Troy Elwell said. “We feel that the risk to the officer is too high when they don’t have a vest on.”

Those vests range from $500 to $1,000 apiece, weigh 5-8 pounds and are worn underneath their uniform, Elwell said. Despite some discomfort and limited mobility caused by the weight and material, Aiken County officers aren’t given the option of taking them off.

“That security is worth the discomfort,” he said. “Once you wear one on a daily basis and you hop into a patrol car without one on, it’s like you forgot your gun.”

Some officers in less-threatening situations such as criminal or forensic investigators aren’t required to wear a bullet-proof vest on duty. They are provided another piece of equipment – called a tactical vest – that can be slipped on over street clothes in a matter of seconds if they find themselves in a high-risk situation, Elwell said.

Richmond County sheriff’s deputies are required to wear protective vests, according to Capt. John Francisco, who trains new officers and is in charge of the uniform department. Exceptions can come in summer when rising temperatures make vests a health risk.

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has a different policy. Its officers are urged, but not required, to wear protective body armor, Capt. Steve Morris said.

Careful not to use the term “bullet-proof,” which denotes that a vest is a guaranteed life-saver, Morris said officers not wearing body armor must have it easily accessible at all times.

Officers assigned to high-risk duties such as a drug raid or search warrant duties are required to wear the equipment.

Columbia County Sgt. Tommy Cooksey said he has grown accustomed to wearing the extra protection and no longer notices its discomfort. He wears it at all times during his shift.

“It doesn’t make you invincible,” Cooksey said. “It’s limited in what it can do.”

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fatboyhog
2104
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fatboyhog 12/22/11 - 08:46 pm
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I have never understood why

I have never understood why the Chronicle publishes this info. All you are doing is reminding the criminals that wish to do harm to officers that they are probably wearing body armor. I wish that no one would grant the information that you request. If you'd have come to me asking, I'd have told you to take a hike.

Patty-P
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Patty-P 12/22/11 - 09:32 pm
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I agree fatboy...some things

I agree fatboy...some things are better left unsaid.

OnlyInAmerica
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OnlyInAmerica 12/23/11 - 09:25 am
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i'm pretty sure it's a well
Unpublished

i'm pretty sure it's a well known fact that LEO's wear body armor. no OPSEC violation here...get real! i just wish they would call the vest bullet resistant since there is no such thing as a bullet proof vest.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
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Crime Reports and Rewards TV 12/23/11 - 11:18 am
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We do need to give our front

We do need to give our front line defense a better way to defend themselves. Don't think vest are the entire answer, maybe fatboy has some suggestions but we know one thing. We can't keep letting the scum of the earth kill off our front line or we are next. We would even be in favor of some microwave frequency that only disables firearms when cops pull up on high risk suspects.

OnlyInAmerica
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OnlyInAmerica 12/23/11 - 11:39 am
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so you're seriously in favor
Unpublished

so you're seriously in favor of a firearm disabling device? i'm not sure who "we" is when you said it, but it's sure not me.

OnlyInAmerica
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OnlyInAmerica 12/23/11 - 11:49 am
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also...i for one do not rely
Unpublished

also...i for one do not rely on law enforcement for my personal safety. i am armed at all times or have a weapon nearby. law enforcement is a responsive organization for the most part. it is a dangerous business and the only thing that can lessen the chance of tragedy is training, common sense, and quality equipment.

robaroo
881
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robaroo 12/23/11 - 12:46 pm
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If there was some kind of

If there was some kind of "microwave frequency that only disables firearms", wouldn't criminals get a transmitter too?

By the way, the fact that cops usually were body armor isn't too much of a secret. The different rules for different law enforcement agencies is interesting.

OnlyInAmerica
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OnlyInAmerica 12/23/11 - 06:27 pm
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it usually has to do with
Unpublished

it usually has to do with insurance regulations more than anything else. in my opinion it should be left up to the individual officer to wear them or not.

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