25 August 2021
Steve Hartshorn, PFEW National Board Lead for Firearms and Less Lethal, updates on how your Federation has your back.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; body armour serves a very important function and should absolutely be worn when it’s needed. But if you don’t need to wear it e.g. you’re in a safe area, then it’s in your best interest to take it off and protect yourself from potential damage caused by carrying extra weight long-term.
“This is why we are running our Back to Basics initiative; to help raise awareness of ways to prevent any back problems that may be associated with heavy kit like body armour.
“As part of this focus, we’re working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council on its Body Armour Working Group. We have a seat at the table with other policing organisations, such as the Home Office and force health and safety leads to be a voice for our members and take all body armour issues straight to the top.
“Part of this work includes requesting that the Home Office reviews its body armour guidance – a document to help forces make informed decisions when selecting body armour and best practice for its use. Last issued in 2017, we believe it needs reviewing to ensure it’s still fit for purpose, and we are pursuing this with the Home Office.
“Since we started Back to Basics in June, we’ve noticed that a lot of the comments point to one thing; officers commenting often have old body armour or it’s rarely refitted.
“People change; they gain weight, they lose weight and body armour can be compromised just by doing the job. We believe that the refitting and checking of body armour every 12 months should be mandatory across all forces to keep officers safe and their backs in shape. Anecdotally we know that there is a mixed picture out there, with some forces doing it annually, while others don’t appear to be doing it at all. We have raised this through our wellbeing leads across England and Wales, who are actioning this at force level.
“We have also written to all forces requesting they share their internal body armour policies with us, so we can establish what is common-place and what is not. Frustratingly, while some have responded others were less keen to do so, but we will continue to push for them.
“Our work around body armour is for the long-term and really we’re just at the beginning. We want to end up in a place where all 43 forces routinely review every officer’s body armour every 12 months.
“But looking after body armour isn’t just for forces to consider; as cops we all need to take some personal responsibility too. How many of us keep our body armour on all day, rather than taking it off when we’re in a safe environment? We all get back to the station and charge our body worn video pods and radio batteries. We need to start taking off body armour as second nature too.
“This work is all about prevention. After all, your most important piece of kit is yourself.”