05.13.13

Leahy Introduces Bill To Reauthorize Lifesaving Bulletproof Vest Grant Program

Legislation To Support Vest Program & Resolution Honoring National Peace Officers Memorial Day Kick Off National Police Week

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Monday introduced legislation to reauthorize the lifesaving Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program, a federal grant program that helps state and local law enforcement agencies purchase bulletproof vests for officers working in the field. 

Leahy coauthored the original law establishing the matching grant program, which since 1999 has issued more than one million lifesaving vests to state and local law enforcement officers throughout the country.  Legislation to reauthorize the popular program was blocked last year, despite having broad bipartisan support. The program’s charter expired in September 2012, and the measure introduced today with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) would reauthorize the program for five years.  A copy of the legislation can be viewed here.

Leahy said, “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.  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.” 

Leahy authored the legislation creating the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program after a tragic, 1997 shootout along the Vermont-New Hampshire border in which federal law enforcement officers were equipped with bulletproof vests, while state and local officers from Vermont and New Hampshire were not.  Two state troopers were killed in the shootout.  Following the tragedy, Leahy teamed with former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) to introduce bipartisan legislation authorizing matching federal grants to help state and local jurisdictions purchase lifesaving bulletproof vests.  According to the Government Accountability Office, the lives of approximately 3,000 law enforcement officers have been saved by body armor since 1987. 

Also Monday, Leahy introduced a resolution recognizing the designation of May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day.  The bipartisan resolution cosponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) honors the sacrifice of those law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.

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Statement of Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
On Introduction of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act Reauthorization of 2013
And Law Enforcement Officers Resolution
May 13, 2013

Each and every day, thousands of men and women in law enforcement put their lives on the line to protect our cities and towns, enforce our laws, and keep us safe.  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.  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.  Today I am proud to introduce two measures that will do just that.

More than 50 years ago, President Kennedy designated May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day, to recognize the sacrifices of law enforcement officers who had died in the course of their duties.  Despite the progress that has been made in improving officer safety, there is still much work to be done.  Last year, 120 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers tragically lost their lives in the line of duty.

As they do every year, law enforcement officers and their families from across the United States will come to Washington this week to pay tribute to their fallen colleagues.  And as I do each year, I will stand with them.  Once again I am proud to introduce a resolution officially recognizing the designation of May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day, and I am pleased to be joined in sponsoring this resolution by Senator Grassley, the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee.

We can also honor the memories of the officers who lost their lives by taking concrete action to help protect and equip those officers who continue to serve.  That is why I am pleased that Senator Coons, Senator Durbin and Senator Blumenthal have joined me in introducing today the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act Reauthorization of 2013.  Once enacted, this legislation will continue for another five years the lifesaving grant program that Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and I authored in 1998.  This measure will continue Congress’ strong commitment to the safety and security of our Nation’s law enforcement officers, by helping to provide them with vital bulletproof vests and body armor.

The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program has had a tremendous impact on the ability of States and localities to give our law enforcement officers the protection they deserve while serving the needs of our communities.  Since 1999, the program has assisted state and local jurisdictions with the purchase of over one million bulletproof vests, and since 1987 body armor has saved the lives of 3,000 law enforcement officers.  That is 3,000 men and women who may not otherwise have made it home to their families and loved ones. 

As a Nation, we ask much of our law enforcement officers.  The men and women who serve face constant and unknown risks, and too often make the ultimate sacrifice.  These are the men and women who we ask to keep our streets safe and to protect our communities.  These are the men and women who approach a car at 3 a.m. during a traffic stop, not knowing who is behind the wheel or what might happen next.  And these are the men and women who are the first ones to respond when there is a shooting at a school, or an attack in our community.  As citizens and as Senators, the least we can do is to equip these officers with the protection they need to give them a better sense of security – a better chance of survival.  Reauthorizing and funding this program is the right thing to do, and it is something I hope all Senators will support.

Every additional officer who is able to put on a vest today as a result of this program is one more officer who has a far better chance of surviving a violent attack.  Protecting the men and women who protect all Americans should be a priority for Congress and we have a chance to advance that priority with the continuation of this program.

I hope all Senators will join me.  The safety of law enforcement officers across the United States should be something on which we can all agree. 

I look forward to the enactment of these two important measures. 

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