One of the most modern pieces of police equipment is simply an improvement on an ancient one.
Ulysses might have traded all the gold in Greece for one "Body Bunker," a high-tech, bullet-proof shield recently acquired by Salt Lake police to maximize their protection in the battle against crime.Lt. Bill Gray, who heads the Police Department's Special Emergency Response Team (SERT), said the four Body Bunkers purchased last month will provide added safety to officers deployed on high-risk assignments.
"We will use them on drug raids, hostage situations and on situations where a suspect has barricaded himself." Gray said the shield could also be used to protect a dignitary.
Earlier this month, police used the shields in serving a no-knock search warrant at the home of a drug suspect in South Salt Lake. The suspect pulled an automatic handgun from his waistband and pointed it at the intruding officers but didn't fire.
According to the shield's manufacturer, such scenes are common.
"People are so intimidated by the Body Bunker that they won't shoot," said Bill McNeil, president of Pro-Tech Armored Products, Massachusetts. "Since Boston police began using them a few years ago, no one has fired on them."
The Boston Police Department, in fact, has developed a training video, which is being used by Salt Lake police.
The shield is a special laminate of Kevlar, a ceramic material used in most bullet-proof vests. A small viewing port is made of several layers of a hard plastic known as polycarbonate.
McNeil said the shield is designed to stop bullets fired from almost all handguns, including the high-powered .44- and .357-caliber Magnums.
However, the shield isn't intended to stop high-powered rifles. "Those guns will go through the Body Bunker like sliced butter," he said.
That fact shouldn't be of much concern to police departments, said McNeil. Most of the time, the shields are used in drug busts or raids in which the suspects have insufficient time to arm themselves with a rifle.
"We have not received any reports of rifles being fired at the Body Bunker," McNeil said.
The Body Bunker, used by nearly 400 law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada, comes in two sizes. The large one is 5 feet tall, 3 feet wide, weighs 30 pounds and costs $2,600. The small shield stands 4 feet high, 3 feet wide, weighs 19 pounds and retails for $1,300.
"We like them," said Gray. "If our budget allows, we'll try to purchase four more next year."