Leahy Shepherds Bulletproof Vest Grant Reauthorization Through The Senate Judiciary Committee

WASHINGTON (Thursday, August 1, 2013) – The Senate Judiciary Committee 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.  Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) authored the original law establishing the matching grant program and the reauthorization that received bipartisan support in the committee today.  The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.

“I am thrilled that the Judiciary Committee has approved legislation to help protect the brave officers working every day on the front lines in our communities to keep us safe,” said Leahy, who introduced the measure in May.  “The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program has always received bipartisan support in Congress.  This life-saving program has provided over one million vests to offices throughout the country, including thousands of vests in Vermont.  With today’s showing of bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee, I hope the Senate will move quickly to approve this legislation.”

Since the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program was established in 1999, the program has helped state and local law enforcement agencies purchase more than one million vests. In Vermont, police departments have received more than $800,000 in grant assistance through the program, which has helped purchase more than 2,400 bulletproof vests for Vermont law enforcement agencies and their officers.  In 2012 alone, more than 300 vests were purchased for 25 jurisdictions throughout the state.  Through June 2013, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership has supported the purchase of 1,123,799 vests nationwide.

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 expired in September of 2012.

Leahy’s commitment to the lifesaving Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program has continued since the program was first authorized, and the bill is the fifth reauthorization of the program.  He has authored legislation to protect access to the program for smaller 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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