Law enforcement officers in 31 Vermont towns, cities and counties will receive critical funding to purchase bulletproof vests under the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), an original coauthor of the legislation creating the program, hailed the news and called on lawmakers to support the program by passing a reauthorization bill currently pending in the Senate.
The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program, established in 1998 through bipartisan legislation coauthored by Leahy, has helped to provide more than one million bulletproof vests to law enforcement officers across the country, including more than 4,000 vests for Vermont officers. The grants will help offices in Vermont purchase more than 271 new vests.
"There is no question that bulletproof vests have helped save the lives of law enforcement officers across the country," Leahy said. "They help protect the Vermont officers who are on our streets every day helping to reduce crime and keep our communities safe. They protect us, and these grants help protect them. The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program has proven results, and I congratulate these agencies for their successful use of this lifesaving program."
Leahy added: "The terrible tragedy at the Navy Yard is a sad reminder that our law enforcement officers face constant and unknown risks and too often make the ultimate sacrifice. Thankfully, tragedy was avoided for one brave D.C. officer who, despite being shot twice in the chest, was saved by his bulletproof vest. We in Congress have a legitimate role and responsibility in making sure that our nation's law enforcement officers have the resources and the protection they need. The Senate must make it a high priority to pass bipartisan legislation to extend this program so that no officer goes without the lifesaving protection they need."
The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program provides matching federal grants to state and local authorities for the purchase of bulletproof vests. Leahy worked to include in the grant program an all-state minimum formula to ensure that all states may qualify for funding. Leahy has also fought to include a matching requirement to ensure that smaller jurisdictions, including certain jurisdictions in Vermont, a federal grant will always cover at least half the cost of a vest. Financially struggling jurisdictions may apply for a hardship waiver under a provision championed by Leahy.
Earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Leahy-authored legislation to reauthorize this lifesaving program through 2018.