Capping Years Of Work To Overcome Congressional Obstruction, Leahy’s Bill To Renew His Lifesaving Bulletproof Vest Grant Program Passes House; President Will Sign It

. . . House Finally, And Overwhelmingly, Approves Leahy Program Initiated In The Wake Of The Drega Shootout On The Vermont-New Hampshire Border

WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, May 11, 2016) – The long-expired Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is finally being extended after years of delay.  The House passed the bill Tuesday night, months after the Senate passed it last year. 

On Tuesday night the House of Representatives unanimously approved Leahy’s bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the matching grant program, which has issued more than 1.2 million lifesaving vests to state and local law enforcement officers throughout the country since it was established in 1999.  Leahy’s bill was approved by the Senate last year, and with the House’s vote on Tuesday, the legislation now goes to the White House for the President’s signature.

Leahy, a former Vermont prosecutor and now the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said:  “The Bulletproof Vest Partnership program has helped equip more than one million law enforcement officers with lifesaving bulletproof vests.  Renewing this program will ensure that hundreds of thousands more officers will receive the same protection.”

He added:  “This week many will gather at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in the nation’s capital to recognize the more than 20,000 officers killed in the line of duty.  In Congress it must be our solemn duty to do everything we can to keep our officers safe.  Reauthorizing the Bulletproof Vest Partnership program is the least we can do, and I look forward to the President promptly signing this bill into law.  I also thank Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) who was the lead Republican cosponsor of the bill.”

In Vermont, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program has helped purchase 4,400 vests for officers throughout the state.  Congress has reauthorized the program four times, most recently in 2008.  But the program’s charter expired in September 2012.  Leahy had teamed up with former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) to establish the program, in the wake of the Drega shooting rampage on the Vermont-New Hampshire border in 1997.  Federal officers engaged in that shootout were protected by body armor, but many of the state officers were not.  Two state troopers were killed in the shootout.

Leahy’s bipartisan bill ensures that law enforcement agencies uphold mandatory wear policies so that the vests are worn regularly.  It also creates incentives for agencies to provide uniquely fitted vests for female officers.

Supporters of the bill include the Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs’ Association, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, National Tactical Officers Association, Sergeants Benevolent Association, and the International Union of Police Associations. 

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