Bulletproof cops aim of new vest
SAN FRANCISCO (UPI) — Last May 31, Frank E. Goulart, a Los Angeles motorcycle police officer, pulled over a traffic violator and walked up to inspect his license. The driver shot him with a .32 caliber pistol at a range of two feet.
Goulart, 25, father of two boys, fell to the ground. But Goulart was able to get up, gun in hand, pin down the assailant with return fire, and eventually arrest him. Under his uniform shirt, Goulart was wearing bulletproof vest.
Two weeks later in San Francisco the same thing happened to motorcycle officer Robert Hooper, 39, father of three children.
A .38 caliber bullet fired by an angry driver knocked Hooper down. He got up with only a bruise, the size of a dollar, under his vest as the driver sped away.
Hooper and Goulart avoided the fate of 15 other law enforcement officers in California who last year were shot and killed on duty.
Now city councils in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco are in the process of equipping all their officers with vests. Soon the vests probably will be standard equipment in much of the country.
What makes this possible is new materials, made of ceramics and flexible fiberglass, similar to the uniforms of astronauts.
In the competition for police department contracts, Donald G. Pouliot, a Hayward, Calif., vest distributor, says “the materials are being improved almost daily.”
The newest vests weigh as little as two and a half pounds and are only a half-inch thick. They can be worn under a uniform shirt with only a slight bulge, making an officer rather thick chested.
This is a dramatic change from the rigid, 50-pound bulletproof vests now in use. The heavier models are only practical when police anticipate a shoot-out.
Hooper bought his vest with $60 of his own money as protection against scraping metal when he takes a spill on his motorcycle.
This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.