Reps. Nehls and Panetta Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Law Enforcement Officers from Dangerous, Chinese-Made Body Armor

Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20) and I introduced The Body Armor Safety Act of 2022. This bipartisan legislation will help protect the nation’s law enforcement officers and first responders by ensuring that no body armor for use by law enforcement can be imported into the United States unless it meets the applicable requirements and receives recognition of compliance from the Compliance Testing Program of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

Over the last ten years, there has been an alarming amount of Chinese body armor being imported into the U.S. market and then sold to our nation’s law enforcement organizations and other first responders. Unfortunately, the ability of the NIJ to follow up on such activities is limited since they occur outside of the United States. 

As attacks on our brave law enforcement officers are at an all-time high, we must do all we can to ensure this low quality, counterfeit body armor produced by Communist China has no place in this country. As a former Sheriff, I am proud to introduce this legislation with my colleague, Rep. Panetta, to ensure our brave law enforcement officers are equipped with high-quality protective gear that is recognized by U.S. safety standards and that individuals who convey otherwise are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“The job of police officers and first responders, unfortunately, often puts them at great risk of being violently and physically attacked.  That’s why they must have the proper safety equipment to adequately protect them in the line of duty.  However, there are companies out there that are selling counterfeit foreign body armor kits to our police departments and emergency personnel,” said Congressman Panetta.  “The bipartisan Body Armor Safety Act would ensure that U.S. safety standards are followed, and people are prosecuted and penalized accordingly if they are caught producing or selling cheap and counterfeit body armor products.  This law would give our first responders the proper protection, but also the confidence to do their job safely as they protect and serve our communities.”

This bill has support from the Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA), the Police Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), and local law enforcement. 

“Law enforcement officers depend on protection provided by body armor, especially in the face of today’s increased threat of violent assaults on officers. The Major County Sheriffs of America is proud to support [this] bill to prevent low-quality body armor from being sold to law enforcement personnel in the United States,” said the Major County Sheriffs of America.

 “As a critical piece of safety equipment for peace officers, body armor, quadruples the likelihood of their survival when shot in the torso. For this reason alone, we cannot afford to have low quality, counterfeit body armor. It is imperative that America’s law enforcement receive the highest quality protective equipment to perform their duties safely,” said Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California.  

“As a law enforcement leader, it is vitally important to me that body armor purchased for my Deputies meets or exceeds the minimum standards set by the National Institute of Justice. We owe it to our men and women in uniform to ensure the body armor they wear is effective and penalties should be imposed on companies who falsely claim to meet those standards,” said Phil Sandlin, Constable of Harris County, TX – Precinct 8.

“Increasing the oversight in quality of imported body armor sold to law enforcement agencies throughout the country ensures our officers will have the best quality in protective equipment as they serve and protect our communities. The highest certified quality in body armor would save many officers lives. I support this proposed bill completely,” said Roberto Filice, Chief of Police of the Salinas, CA Police Department.

This legislation would also ensure that if an individual forges, counterfeits, or falsely alters any National Institute of Justice Standard certificate, validation, mark, or any other recognition of compliance concerning any body armor, or if an individual engages in any conduct to convey false or misleading claims of compliance concerning any body armor such that recognition of compliance may reasonably be believed to have been issued by the National Institute of Justice or its Compliance Testing program, they will be fined, imprisoned for not more than five years, or both.

Cosponsors include Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Jim Costa (D-CA), Don Bacon (R-NE), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Greg Steube (R-FL), Mike Bost (R-IL), and Carlos Gimenez (R-FL).


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