SANDY — Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff wants law enforcers throughout the state to know that safer bulletproof vests are on the way.

The new vests, which were subjected to heavier testing, must meet the standards set by the National Institute of Justice in 2006. The so-called '06 vests were expected to be available by December or January, Shurtleff said.

But Shurtleff urged any officer still using vests that don't meet at least the '05 standards to get an updated vest immediately. The '06 vests will include more panels and will be a bit heavier. But most importantly, they will not include Zylon.

Zylon was touted as the strongest man-made fiber known. The problem was Zylon lost some of its strength over time and did not perform well when wet or in hot temperatures. Zylon and the manufacturers of bulletproof vests who used the material faced angry scrutiny and civil lawsuits from police.

The testing for the new vests includes a larger variety of bullets — and higher caliber — fired at the vests. It also includes artificially aging a vest by putting it in water and factoring in other environmental elements to see how it would hold up five years from now,

"We needed to bring (the testing) up to a higher standard," said Sgt. Nick Roberts, Salt Lake County Sheriff's range master. "The body armor today will outdo anything tested or previously done."

Shurtleff said Utah has been a leader in getting the NIJ to improve its testing standard.

More dangerous weapons and increasing technology forced vest makers to catch up with the needs of law enforcement, according to officials.

"Everything out there that we can test will be tested," Roberts said, referring to what types of ammunitions are used to test the vests.

Shurtleff attempted to demonstrate the durability of some of the older vests at his press conference Wednesday, by firing at a vest from close range with a .40-caliber handgun at the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Academy's indoor firing range.

It was unknown Wednesday how much the new vests would cost. Shurtleff urged law enforcers to have their individual agencies contact the Utah Division of Purchasing to find out how they can get the new life-saving equipment.

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