This week, we celebrate National Law Enforcement Week. Since 1962 when President John F. Kennedy designated May 15th as National Peace Officers Memorial Day, the nation has marked the corresponding week as a time to honor and remember those who lost their lives in the line of duty. Today, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. carries the names of more than 19,000 fallen law enforcement officers. As ceremonies get under way, let us take this opportunity to honor the unwavering and truly heroic efforts of our law enforcement officers.
Unquestionably, law enforcement officers in South Jersey and the rest of the nation play an essential role in our communities: keeping us safe. While we are reminded daily of the threats and crime in our communities; theirs is a selfless, challenging risk to ensure that our property and our families are protected. It is for this reason that I continue to work closely with local law enforcement departments, the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police and the Police Benevolent Association on federal issues that are important to our peace officers.
One key issue is advocating for additional federal resources to ensure the safety of our law enforcement on the ground. In 1998, I partnered with Representative Peter Visclosky (IN-01) on bipartisan legislation to create the Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) Grant program. Since 1999, the BVP program has provided state, local and tribal law enforcement officers with vital body protection by aiding in the purchase of new bulletproof vests. To date, over 13,000 jurisdictions have participated with nearly $300 million in federal funds committed to support the purchase of an estimated 800,000 vests. This week, we again are teaming up to ensure reauthorization of the popular BVP program for an additional four years.
It is important for all of us to understand the incredible duties and responsibilities, as well as the sacrifices made by the officers and their families. This year's National Peace Officers Memorial Day ceremony includes the engraving of an additional 362 names onto the memorial, including the names of the 163 officers who lost their lives in the line of duty last year. We must never forget the courage of the officers who place themselves daily in harm's way; the communities they serve; and the families who support these local heroes. More importantly, we must always let them know we appreciate their service, their courage and their dedication to duty.