CHICAGO — Typically, officers aren’t allowed to talk about coming under fire because it may interfere with investigations. But there are some exceptions and some provided an insight into the danger any officer can face at any time.

You’ve heard of the thin blue line – but in many instances it is a thin piece of Kevlar that keeps officers alive. How they pay for it may surprise you.

Chicago police officers are getting shot at more often. In this year alone, the department said 25 officers have been shot at and four of them have been hit, all happening in the last two weeks.

The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation gathered interviews with officers who have come millimeters away from a potentially fatal encounter with a bullet.

July of last year outside the 25th District police station on the Northwest Side,  a carjacking suspect pulled a gun, shooting three officers in a chaotic and dangerous scene heard on cellphone video.

“The moment I proceeded past the concealment of the building I had this feeling that was like a complete pinch to my left shoulder at that point, I blanked out for a moment,” an officer who was shot said. “Ultimately, adrenaline was kicking and you just stay in the fight until the end.”

What saved him and others? A bulletproof vest.

The police department pays for one vest when an officer comes on the job.  But they wear out and become less effective after five years.

At $500 a piece, they’re not cheap.

It’s why the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation has stepped in, through donations, buying more than 11,000 vests in the last seven years.

“When I saw the muzzle flash, it was like the Matrix, everything coming slowly,” an officer said. ““Hit me right in the heart.”

The difference between life and death is a thin layer of super strong plastic.

The fact, police groups privately raise money to pay for the vests isn’t lost on officers who have had close calls.

All of those officers said their training helped them stay cool under fire – and even respond to neutralize the threat even after they were shot

For more on the “Get Behind The Vest Program, click here.

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