U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced on Monday that they would renew their fight to reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant program, which helps police officers and local governments purchase live-saving body armor. Thousands of vests have been purchased by Delaware law enforcement through the federal program over its 14-year history, but with some in Congress now blocking renewal of the program, its future is in real jeopardy.
"Police officers work to keep us safe every day, and Congress should be doing the same for them," Senator Coons said. "Although many larger police departments are able to provide their officers with vests, too many officers are forced to buy their own. The federal Bulletproof Vest Partnership program makes those vests -- which can cost more than $500 each -- more affordable, helping ensure that when officers go out to protect our communities, they can do so safely. The program has saved thousands of lives nationwide, and just last year, it was the difference between life and death for two Capitol Police officers at the New Castle County Courthouse. Congress should be standing with our law enforcement officers, not in their way. Chairman Leahy and I are going to do everything we can to end this obstruction and see that the Bulletproof Vest Partnership is reauthorized." Senator Coons is co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus.
The two Capitol Police officers shot in the lobby of New Castle County Courthouse in February, Corporal Steve Rinehart and Sergeant Mike Manley, were both wearing vests purchased through the Bulletproof Vest Partnership. The vests saved their lives.
In 2001, Dover Police Sgt. David Spicer was trying to make an arrest when he was shot four times at close range. He lost nearly half of the blood in his body, but was wearing a vest purchased through the Bulletproof Vest Partnership. It saved his life.
"The Delaware State Fraternal Order of Police strongly supports this legislation and calls upon our elected officials to ensure our officers are protected by voting for reauthorization of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program," Delaware FOP President Fred Calhoun said. "Without these funds, many officers and agencies will not be able to afford these critical pieces of equipment. Every day, we rely on our officers to put themselves in harm's way to ensure the safety of our citizens. A small investment in the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program by the bipartisan leadership of our great nation will yield immeasurable returns in both the safety of Delaware's Law Enforcement officers and the citizens they diligently serve. The Delaware State Fraternal Order of Police believes that this vital piece of funding should not fall victim to partisan politics and that the time to fund the Bulletproof Vest Partnerships Grant Program is now."
"The Delaware Police Chiefs Council supports the initiatives of Chairman Leahy and Senator Coons to reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program," Lewes Police Chief Jeffrey Horvath said. "Body armor is essential equipment for police officers across the country. It is no less important than the service weapons, uniforms and properly equipped police cars we provide to our officers to do their jobs every day. With the constant battle of budget cuts facing police chiefs across the country, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership allows us to provide new vests for our new officers and will continue to allow us to replace old body armor on a five-year schedule. It is extremely important that our police officers are able to protect themselves with the best bulletproof technology available and with a vest that properly fits each individual officer sworn to protect and serve. The Delaware Police Chief Council considers the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant program to be of critical importance to law enforcement across our nation." Chief Horvath is chairman of the Delaware Police Chiefs Council.
The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act, which Senators Coons and Leahy re-introduced Monday, reauthorizes the competitive grant program from the Bureau of Justice Assistance that provides funding to state and local law enforcement agencies to assist in their purchasing of ballistic-resistant and stab-resistant body armor that complies with National Institute of Justice body armor standards.
"Just last month, we witnessed the superb investigative efforts of the federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who helped bring the Boston Marathon bombing suspect to face justice," Senator Leahy said. "Yet the senseless murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier was a reminder of the danger that our law enforcement professionals routinely face. This week, which has come to be known as National Police Week, provides us with the opportunity not only to remember those law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty, but also to honor their memories by better equipping those officers who continue to serve our communities." Senator Leahy is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Over the last 14 years, more than a million vests have been purchased nationwide.