02.15.12

Burlington Police Chief Schirling Tells Senate Panel That Bulletproof Vests Pgm. Saves And Protects Officers’ Lives

Leahy Program, Expiring This Year, Was Enacted 15 Years Ago In Aftermath Of The Drega Shootings On The Vt.-N.H. Border

WASHINGTON – Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling was lead-off witness Wednesday for a hearing convened by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) about extending the charter of the Leahy-authored Bulletproof Vests Partnership Grant Program, which offers federal help to local police departments in buying body armor for their officers.

This year is the 15th anniversary of the Drega killings on the Vermont-New Hampshire border.  Federal officers involved in the Drega manhunt had bulletproof vests, but state and local police officers did not, because of the cost.  Acting on that lesson from the tragedy, Leahy wrote and won enactment of the bulletproof vests program, which has helped local police and sheriff’s offices in Vermont to buy more than 3600 vests for their officers since 1999.  Schirling said Burlington has acquired more than 260 vests for its police officers under the Leahy program.

This is also the expiration year for the vest grant program’s charter, and Leahy will be offering legislation to extend it, and Wednesday’s hearing is part of that effort.  Since enactment of the program in 1998 Leahy has worked to improve and reauthorize the program, including easier matching requirements for smaller jurisdictions in Vermont and other states.  

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