Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 100–108 | Cite as

Protective Vests in Law Enforcement: a Pilot Survey of Public Perceptions

  • J. O’Neill
  • S. A. Swenson
  • E. Stark
  • D. A. O’Neill
  • W. J. Lewinski


The primary purpose of this study was to begin an examination of the relationship between public perception and the number of attachments on external protective vests worn by law enforcement. A secondary purpose was to examine perceptual differences between non-law enforcement majors and law enforcement majors. Images of six vests that systematically varied in the amount of external attachments were rated across eight attributes: (1) approachability, (2) militarized appearance, (3) intimidation, (4) professional appearance, (5) organization, (6) confidence instilled in an officer, (7) confidence instilled in the public, and (8) recognizable as law enforcement. Vests with more external attachments were rated as more militarized and intimidating. However, participants also rated militarized appearance and intimidation as the least important attributes when considering external protective vests. Confidence instilled (by the images of vests) in an officer and confidence instilled in the public were the highest-rated attributes. These findings suggest that a militarized and intimidating appearance might not detract from the public’s overall acceptance of external protective vests in law enforcement. In addition, law enforcement majors and non-law enforcement majors differed significantly in their ratings of all eight attributes. This suggests that exposure to law enforcement education might affect public perceptions of external protective vests. It is possible that education of the public on the function (e.g., load distribution) of external protective vest attachments might offset negative perceptions.


Law enforcement Militarization Police Protective vest Public perception 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


No funding was provided.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study was approved by an institutional review board.

Informed Consent

All participants provided informed consent to participate.


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Copyright information

© Society for Police and Criminal Psychology 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. O’Neill
    • 1
  • S. A. Swenson
    • 1
    • 2
  • E. Stark
    • 2
  • D. A. O’Neill
    • 1
  • W. J. Lewinski
    • 1
  1. 1.Force Science® Institute Ltd.MankatoUSA
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentMinnesota State University MankatoMankatoUSA

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