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Old January 21, 2011, 11:29 PM   #1
msmith81
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HELP! I need advice with my Ballistic Vest.

Hello,

I work for my local school district as a District Resource Officer, and I need some solid advice about wearing my ballistic vest on duty. My district doesn’t provide vests, but we are provided Tasers, OC, and soon to be carrying batons. Given the nature of my job to approach intruders, as well as search kids with possible weapons, and occasional drugs, I felt it prudent for me to purchase a concealable ballistic vest since I occasionally find myself in situations that could go south fairly quickly. I was wearing my vest today, and it was noticed by the Associate Principal at the high school I was working at. He brought me into his office and chided me for wearing a vest, and we debated for some time about why I felt the need to wear one. He told me I would not be allowed to work at his school while wearing my vest. He then contacted our Director of Security, whom I talked to by phone, and I was informed that wearing a vest would be considered part of my equipment and uniform, and that it would have to be authorized by the school board (which is highly unlikely), before I am allowed to wear it. I was later approached by a student who told me that the Associate Principal had been mocking me and making fun of me in front of her and other students over my choice to wear a vest. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! Wearing a vest concealed is a purely defensive measure and puts no one at risk, and very well may save my life or the life of someone else if I am shot and still able to subdue a suspect. I need some solid advice as to my rights and the best approach of how I should handle this, since this should be a non-issue and was made into a HUGE issue. I’m not planning on backing down on this one, as I feel our officer safety should be priority number one. Should I approach the local paper, speak at a board meeting, etc.? With the recent rash of school shootings, I feel it well within my rights to choose to wear a vest, and telling me if I can or can’t wear one is similar to telling me what underwear I’m authorized to wear. Thanks in advance for your input!
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Old January 21, 2011, 11:41 PM   #2
hogdogs
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I would threaten law suit if they continue. I would think that no UN-EXPOSED profane or provocative attire could be banned. It isn't particularly useful as a weapon either... And then there is your FIRST amendment right to free speech... and your vest is sayin' you would rather stop a bullet outside the body rather than in your warm squishy torso!

Do school buses deliver kids to the same school? Does the driver wear a seatbelt? Do the children?

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Old January 22, 2011, 09:27 AM   #3
msmith81
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re: Lawsuit

Thanks for the input. If I end up needing to file a lawsuit in the long run, I will. My hope though is to spark a little logic and common sense into these people before I have to take things this far. In the same breath I was told they recognize there are guns in schools and understand that I would want to take measures to protect myself, they told me a school shooting won't happen at their school and they were more concerned with the perceived image of a uniformed officer wearing a concealed vest. In fact, because I was wearing a vest, I was accused of possibly having a pistol stuffed in my sock. I just don't know how to pound some logic into these peoples heads before things escalate to the point where an attorney is necessary. Oh... and I really liked your analogy of a seat belt. People don't wear them with the intention of getting into an accident, just to be pro-active to protect them self in the off chance they do get into an accident. I also view the vest as the same situation. I don't choose to wear a vest because I want to be shot, but if in the course of my duty I end up being targeted, at least I have taken necessary precautions for my own safety. Any more input is greatly appreciated!
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Old January 22, 2011, 09:39 AM   #4
hogdogs
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Are you a "sworn officer"?
Here if FL, the "resource officer" (silly name as campus cop works for me) will be a full fledged deputy and he will be in FULL UNIFORM and they are REQUIRED to wear their vest... Even at the little K-12 country schools that haven't had more than a fist fight in 60+ years.

Brent
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Old January 22, 2011, 10:01 AM   #5
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The pinko school administrator needs to be straightened out, her lack of professionalism of mocking you in front of students diminishes the entire system. I would look hard at a lawsuit or threat from your highers to pull support to her school. At the very least I would ask to never be assigned to her school again.

All that aside, I would look at buying a thinner more concealable vest. Would be better for all concerned I think. Or, if you get full backing from higher and she can't give you any more grief I would get a surplus flak-jacket and wear it in one day just to torment her
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Old January 22, 2011, 10:13 AM   #6
msmith81
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Brent,

No, I am not a sworn officer. I am employed by the district and our title is District Resource Officer. In addition to a handful of us at each high school, there is an assigned "sworn" School Resource Officer employed by the local sheriff or city PD, paid for by the school district budget. There is quite a bit of gang activity and drug activity on our campus', and we are one of the largest districts in our state. I appreciate being able to work side-by-side with PD, but the reality is that we are typically the first to respond to incidences, intruders, weapons and drug searches, etc. long before PD ever gets involved. In the same debate over my decision to wear a barely noticeable vest, the school administrator told me of a situation last year where there was a kid searched who had two loaded .45 caliber pistols in his backpack. In another incident at different high school within my district last year, a student pulled out a pistol and shot it in the air during a school lock-down procedure, because he was dared by his classmates he didn't have the guts to do it. Burying your head in the sand while saying "it won't happen here" is ludicrous, and if I am expected to be a first responder to any campus incident, I should have the right to wear a vest as a precaution. In addition, I don't see how having us in full 5.11 tactical BDU pants and shirts, with a bright yellow x26 Taser, Pepper Spray, handcuffs, radio with earbud, etc. on our duty belts is less offensive.
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Old January 22, 2011, 10:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
they told me a school shooting won't happen at their school
During later discussion, be prepared to ask how many schools that have had shootings planned to have them. In Pollyanna's eyes, bad things can't happen at 'her' school and you are nothing more than a large, well-paid hall monitor. The truth is that if the kids were all little angels, she could take care of issues that arise, but the school board recognizes a need for some muscle to provide security.
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Old January 22, 2011, 10:24 AM   #8
msmith81
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The ironic thing is the administrator that chided me for this is a former school security officer himself. You would think that he would be on my side on this one, but instead called my superiors to complain about it. I completely agree, he compromises the whole system by talking about and mocking any issue he has with me to another student. The unfortunate thing is I am not getting much support from my higher-ups either on this matter. The vest I have is custom made and is as thin as possible, and is not very noticeable. My primary concern was the concealment of it when I bought it. The problem is that one person saw me at the right angle and noticed it, patted me on the back and felt it, then outed me to the administrator.
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Old January 22, 2011, 10:26 AM   #9
msmith81
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Good advice gc70. I will try to gather information on other district shootings and their responses. The problem with school safety is it is typically a knee-jerk reaction to something gone wrong.
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Old January 22, 2011, 10:33 AM   #10
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I am guessing the sworn officer you work along side of IS wearing body armor?

If so... she needs to tell him to pull it off and let me know how that works out for her.

If you are expected to engage a student who could possibly be armed to search etc. (I really would have been a handful for yall as I always knew the rights afforded citizens and couldn't understand why us students were not afforded the same rights), you have to hope for the best but expect the worst.

You may not have a leg to stand on if you were injured before but now that you have been told not to vest up, the school, through a delegated authority figure, has basically opened them selves up for the maximum legal ramifications if you are hurt.

Brent
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Old January 22, 2011, 10:36 AM   #11
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Sounds like a hostile work environment to me. (In the EEO sense of the term)
If their little slice of paradise is so secure & wonderful, why would they need a resource officer at all? Tell them you will need it the next time their unicorns get uppity.
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Old January 22, 2011, 10:45 AM   #12
msmith81
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Our PD officers do wear vests in schools. I brought this up during my debate with administration, and they told me there is a huge difference between what PD is expected to do and what we are expected to do. While I agree that their scope is much larger than ours, we are the ones the come across a situation first to assess if PD involvement is necessary. I was then mocked by the administrator because he assumed by my wearing a vest that I would want to bring a Taser to a gun fight. I'm not an idiot. If an active shooter comes walking through the halls of the school, and I'm standing in the hallway, wearing a uniform and gear will make me an instant target. It's not a matter of bringing anything to a gun fight. Essentially "Oops, I've been shot, better call PD" is my understanding of what they are telling me. Apparently, I'm an overpaid human punching bag in their opinion.
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Old January 22, 2011, 11:02 AM   #13
msmith81
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Hahaha! In case the unicorns get uppity. That's funny. I completely agree though, if their little fantasy land is so great, why are we so well equipped? In response to a shooting at another school districts board meeting, the board requested a second security officer be present at our meetings. If they are anticipating the worst, and we are expected to intervene and protect them in a gun fight, we should be able to protect ourselves with a vest. 'Nuff said.
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Old January 22, 2011, 11:14 AM   #14
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Get this in writing. Then explain to them that since they have deliberately and with forethought refused you to utilize a known and effective means of passive protection, that if you are ever injured on the job in an area that the vest would have covered, you may well end up owning all the bond elections for the next 10 years. If the administrators thinks watching the football team play in ten year old jerseys and Goodwill cleats is funny because every spare dime is going to pay your lawsuit off, well, they are bigger idiots than I have ever seen.
BTW, if you are comfortable using officer presence, spray and Taser to maintain control in an arena like that - you need to come work in prison. Pay and retention is far better, same type of job, step up to adult babysitter.
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Old January 22, 2011, 11:39 AM   #15
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Read your employee handbook and employment contract or whatever similar documents you have that set your conditions of employment. My guess is that they only specify what outer garments must be worn and not baseware. If that's the case simply make it clear to her that any attempt to apply special rules against you will be passed directly to your labor attorney. If those rules do address baseware then you might need to investigate the legality of them specifying conditions that do not affect your performance; generally speaking an employer cannot do that but there are some exceptions.

As to her ridiculing you in front of students, legally that's creating a hostile work environment and is creating the case for "constructive dismissal" if you get to a point where you feel you must resign - but be prepared to firmly prove this. Constructive dismissal means, in short, that you can claim you were wrongfully terminated even though you resigned, and you can seek whatever remedies might be available. These things vary widely by state and so you might want to do some research and consult a labor attorney. You probably also have the obligation to warn management as a prerequisite for making any future legal claims; and since she is management, warn first her and then if the condition continues to go over her head.
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Old January 22, 2011, 03:34 PM   #16
msmith81
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Armoredman - Thanks, this is good advice. I will request their decision in writing. Our pay is $21 an hour so the pay is pretty close, at least compared to corrections officers starting out in my area. I have a few friends in corrections facilities who told me I should apply, but I don't intend on continuing a career in LE. I'm going to school to get my RN certification, so I intend on a career change in the future anyway. If not for me, I'm going to push this issue for the rest of my team.

mes227 - I went through the binder of SOP's we are issued, and what they are telling me I am required to do in the course of my job duties is contradictory to their opinion on my wearing of a vest. I'm paraphrasing here, but the SOP's say that we will at times find ourselves in dangerous situations, and we are expected to be enforcing local laws and school rules on school grounds, which can result in us dealing with the possible armed student and/or intruder, and thus our safety should be our first concern. If their expectation of us is to detain dangerous individuals before PD arrives, wearing a vest is a no-brainer...
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Old January 22, 2011, 06:05 PM   #17
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Sounds like you are in the right as far as the published rules and guidelines and the principal is in the wrong. Certainly in the wrong for mocking your vest to others, especially students. If you are union, you really need to talk to your steward, about hostile work environments and employee safety. Maybe also the lawyers.

And FWIW, vests don't help against uppity unicorns. A trauma plate might help against the impact of the hooves, but the regular vest won't stop the horn. Or a knife or an icepick. Be careful out there!
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Old January 22, 2011, 08:18 PM   #18
msmith81
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Thanks for the input 44AMP. Luckily, I thought ahead and actually bought the bullet and unicorn resistant type of vest. Since knives are a more frequently confiscated weapon in schools, I felt stab protection built into my vest to be a wise investment as well.
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Old January 22, 2011, 09:03 PM   #19
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I was later approached by a student who told me that the Associate Principal had been mocking me and making fun of me in front of her and other students over my choice to wear a vest.
First of all, vests are a purely defensive piece of gear. Secondly, it is absolutely wrong for the Asst Principle to mock you in front of the students. For you to be able to maintain your authority regarding security matters over the students, publicly mocking you would strip you of that authority. I cannot believe that the Asst Principle can be in that position and not understand that. Absolutely blows the mind...
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Old January 23, 2011, 12:11 AM   #20
msmith81
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Tyrenz - I agree fully, this whole situation blows my mind. I had no idea the waves it would make when I decided to equip myself with a vest. The ironic thing is the minute something serious goes down on campus, we are their best friends. I can see some of the issues a regular LEO runs into everyday. You are hated until you are needed, and then it becomes why weren't you here sooner when you are needed.
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Old January 23, 2011, 12:24 AM   #21
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Lots of good advice here. I can't believe that someone would care about what's essentially an undergarment. If you somehow end up on the losing side of this situation and still want to keep your job, I would suggest looking at some kevlar t-shirts. While they won't provide nearly as much protection as an actual ballistic or stab vest, they will protect against most knife slashes. You'll be out of luck against firearms, but it sounds like knives are your main concern anyway. I have one and they are no thicker than a regular shirt and certainly won't be noticed even if someone touches you.
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Old January 23, 2011, 12:41 AM   #22
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msmith81,

Yes there are some good opinions that have been expressed BUT, get some answers and possibly some backing before you go toe to toe with the idiots you are dealing with. Remember the old adage "don't ask the question unless you know the answer first" sort of applies in this case.

What I would suggest is to call the National Labor Relations Board, or if I'm not mistaken, each state has a Labor Relations Board. Talk with those people and see where you stand in their opinion. They have attorneys on staff who do nothing but labor issues. If they agree with you and also with common sense about you wishing to protect yourself in a method that is not visible and certainly not offensive, you couldn't ask for a better group to help you.

Good luck
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Old January 23, 2011, 12:45 AM   #23
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Apparently, I'm an overpaid human punching bag in their opinion.
If you stay, and don't wear a vest, you are confirming that opinion. The minute the boss made derogatory comments to students about you, the administration undermined any authority and respect the students had for you, making your job MUCH harder .......

The Military pays better, I'd bet, and has better benefits, I am sure, and probably has a better work environment....... you might look into that.
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Old January 23, 2011, 01:57 AM   #24
msmith81
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Wow, a big thanks to everyone who has responded. I am very appreciative and overwhelmed by all the advice and support I have received here. I fully intend on researching any move I make before I make it. They picked a losing fight with the wrong person. I am very thorough and intend on crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's before I stick it to them. This forum has been a fantastic place for me to accomplish this by picking other peoples brains. It's nice to know that I'm really not some lunatic, and that I am supported by the general public.

boomboomthump - Thanks for that information! I didn't know that group existed, and I will definitely give them a call.
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Old January 23, 2011, 10:50 PM   #25
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msmith81,
Your story reminds me of something that happened to me back in my kindergarten/1st grade days.
I decided to get a lock for my locker because I thought it would be a good idea. Our lockers were all unlocked and free to open by anybody. After a day or so the teacher gave me some BS about why I needed it and that no one else had one/needed one. Because I was just a little kid I wasn't able to realize the drivel that was coming out of her mouth.
Moral is, I guess, your bosses are idiots. Fight for the vest and update your resume. You just might get canned for being a minute late for your shift and they won't have to be tortured with your common sense anymore.

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