Leahy Shepherds Bulletproof Vest Grant Reauthorization Through Committee

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), approved legislation Thursday 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 authored the law establishing the matching grant program.  The bill will now go to the full Senate for consideration.

“This is National Police Week, and it is fitting that the Judiciary Committee has approved legislation to help protect those working every day on the front lines in our communities to keep us safe,” said Leahy.  “The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program has always received bipartisan support in Congress, and I am pleased that support continues.  I hope the Senate will approve this legislation quickly, and urge the House of Representatives to act on it as well.”

Leahy introduced the reauthorization legislation last week.  Since the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program was established in 1999, the program has helped state and local law enforcement agencies purchase nearly one million vests. In Vermont, police departments have received over $767,000 in grant assistance through the program, which has helped purchase more than 3600 bulletproof vests for Vermont law enforcement. In 2011 alone, over 320 vests were purchased for 28 jurisdictions throughout the state.

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.  The program’s current authorization is set to expire in September.

Leahy’s commitment to the lifesaving Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program has continued since the program was first authorized, and the bill introduced Monday is the fifth reauthorization of the program.  He has authored legislation to protect access to the program for small states like Vermont.  In recent reauthorizations, he secured the inclusion of an all-state minimum funding formula to ensure that all qualifying state and local jurisdictions receive a minimum of .5 percent of federal funds allocated to the program.  Most recently, Leahy authored a provision in the program to allow financially struggling jurisdictions to apply for a hardship waiver of the 50 percent match requirement of the purchasing cost.

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