Ballistic vest vital device amid potential dangers for law enforcement on the job

PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Police Department is collectively breathing a sigh of relief as an officer was able to go home to his family Wednesday, after he was shot in North Philadelphia.

"We believe that played a significant role in that process," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel stated, in candid comments regarding an officer’s ballistic vest that likely saved his life. That officer was shot Wednesday morning while serving a narcotics arrest warrant.

Luckily, the officer survived, the bullet hitting his ballistic vest and ricocheted, hitting his hand.

"About seven months ago, they were able to upgrade, so whenever they’re doing search warrants, they’re wearing a vest, another ballistic vest over that and a ballistic helmet," Commissioner Bethel explained.

He was speaking specifically about a Level-3 bulletproof vest. FOX 29 learned it’s one of the highest levels of protection for a ballistic vest, one that is commonly used by law enforcement.

"It’s just another tool that we use in order to protect ourselves against armed assailants that fire on us," Assistant VP of the Office of Public Safety at St. Joseph’s University, David Finnie, stated. "It can save our lives, just like the officer who was hit. It’s also not with just bullets. It’s also with knives, it can help protect us from knives attacks."

The shooting incident comes nearly four years after Sgt. James O’Connor was shot in the line of duty while serving a homicide arrest warrant, one bullet missing his vest and fatally striking the decorated officer, highlighting the dangers of the job and why the vests are so imperative.

"One of the most dangerous operations to execute is a search warrant on a property," Commissioner Bethel said. "You are always at a disadvantage when you go into those properties because you don’t know who’s on the other side."

Finnie went on to say the grade of bulletproof vests did not exist 15 or even 30 years ago, adding technology is always advancing and he fully anticipates further advancements to make sure officer get to go home to their families after their shift.