Protective Vests in Law Enforcement: a Pilot Survey of Public Perceptions
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.
KeywordsLaw 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.
This study was approved by an institutional review board.
All participants provided informed consent to participate.
- Barker JF (2007) Comfort perceptions of police officers toward protective vests (doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global 304872557Google Scholar
- Carlton SD, Carbone PD, Stierli M, Orr R (2014) The impact of occupational load carriage on the mobility of the tactical police officer. The Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning 22(1):32–37Google Scholar
- Cizanckas V, Feist F (1975) A community’s response to police change. J Police Sci Adm 3:284–291Google Scholar
- Exec. Order No. 13688, 80 F.R. 3451 (2015).Google Scholar
- Fachner G, Thorkildsen Z (2015) Ambushes of police: environment, incident dynamics, and the aftermath of surprise attacks against law enforcement. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
- Gundersen D (1987) Credibility and the police uniform. J Police Sci Adm 15(3):192–195Google Scholar
- Messinger S, Warner D, Knight C, Scott G, Rector M, Barron T et al (2013) The distribution of emergency police dispatch call incident types and priority levels within the police priority dispatch system. Annals of Emergency Dispatch & Response 1(2):12–17 Retrieved from https://www.aedrjournal.org/pdf/Issue2/Messinger-AEDR-2-2013p12-17.pdf Google Scholar
- Shaw L (1973) The role of clothing in the criminal justice system. J Police Sci Adm 1:414–420Google Scholar
- Taylor B, Kubu B, Kappleman K, Gunaratne H, Ballard N, Martinez M, Fischer C (2009) The BJA/PERF Body Armor National Survey: protecting the nation’s law enforcement officers (phase 2 final report). Police Executive Research Forum, Washington DC, Maryland Retrieved from: http://www.policeforum.org/assets/docs/Free_Online_Documents/Police_Equipment/the%20bja-perf%20body%20armor%20national%20survey%202009.pdf Google Scholar
- Taylor, N. A. S., Peoples, G. E., & Petersen, S. R. (2016). Load carriage, human performance, and employment standards. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, & Metabolism, 41, 131-147. Doi: dx.doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2015-0486
- Tenzel J, Cizanckas V (1973) The uniform experiment. J Police Sci Adm 1(4):421–424Google Scholar
- Tenzel J, Storms L, Sweetwood H (1976) Symbols and behavior: an experiment in altering the police role. J Police Sci Adm 4(1):21–27Google Scholar
- Tinsley PN, Plecas D, Anderson GS (2003, November) Studying public perceptions of police grooming standards. The Police Chief 70:42–45Google Scholar
- Volpp JM. Lennon SJ (1988) Perceived police authority as a function of uniform hat and sex. Percept Mot Skills 67(3):815–824. doi: 10.2466/pms.1922.214.171.1245