04.20.16

House Judiciary Committee Overwhelmingly Approves Leahy-Authored Bill To Reauthorize Lifesaving Bulletproof Vest Grant Program

Leahy Urges Full House To Pass Legislation Before National Peace Officers Memorial Day In May

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, April 20, 2016) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Wednesday hailed the House Judiciary Committee for overwhelmingly approving his legislation to reauthorize the lifesaving Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program, a federal grant program whose charter has long been expired and needs to be renewed.

Following the committee’s action on Wednesday, Leahy called for the full House to quickly pass the bill so that it can be sent to the President for signature.  The Senate passed the bipartisan measure, coauthored with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), last year.

Leahy said:  “For more than 15 years the Bulletproof Vest Partnership program has been saving lives by partnering with local law enforcement agencies to provide over one million vests to more than 13,000 officers.  Yet for far too many agencies – especially rural and smaller jurisdictions – quality vests still cost too much and wear out too soon.  This program helps to fill that gap.  I have personally met with officers who were saved because they were wearing a vest purchased through this program, which is now one step closer to renewal.”

Leahy added:  “I thank Chairman Goodlatte for moving my legislation today.  This program saves lives.  It has strong bipartisan support and should pass the House in the coming weeks so that it can be on the President’s desk by the National Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15.”

The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program has issued nearly 1.2 million vests to more than 13,000 state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country since it was established in 1999.  In Vermont, the program has helped purchase 4400 for officers throughout the state.  Congress has reauthorized the program four times, most recently in 2008.  However, 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 shootings on the Vermont-New Hampshire border.  Federal officers engaged in that shootout were protected by body armor, but their state law enforcement counterparts were not.  Two state troopers were killed in the shootout.

Leahy’s bipartisan bill ensures that 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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