05.24.19

President Signs Permanent Renewal Of Leahy-Led Bulletproof Vests Program For Police

President Signs Permanent Renewal
Of Leahy-Led Bulletproof Vests Program For Police

. . . law also names the program after Leahy, its longtime champion

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, May 24, 2019) – The White House announced that President Trump Friday signed into law legislation authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that permanently reauthorizes the lifesaving Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program.

Under an amendment offered in the Senate Judiciary Committee by the Senate bill’s lead cosponsor, Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the program now is named for Leahy, recognizing his role in authoring the program with Republican Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) more than 20 years ago, and Leahy’s leading role in renewing the program six times since then. The counterpart House bill, which the President signed and which is identical to the Senate bill, was championed by Congressmen Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.).

Leahy’s role in authoring the program — and his commitment to it ever since — was in part motivated by a horrific incident along the Vermont and New Hampshire border in 1997. A man named Carl Drega went on a killing spree in which numerous law enforcement officers were shot. All of the federal law enforcement officers involved were wearing bulletproof vests and survived. But two New Hampshire state troopers were killed; neither was wearing a bulletproof vest.

To this day, for far too many jurisdictions — especially rural and smaller agencies — vests cost too much and wear out too soon. This program fills in the gap. It has provided more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies with 1.35 million vests. That includes more than 5,000 vests for Vermont law enforcement agencies. The program has saved the lives of countless officers, several of whom have shared their stories over the years with the Senate Judiciary Committee when Leahy was serving as chairman or ranking member. According to the Government Accountability Office, more than 3,000 officers’ lives have been saved by vests since 1987.

Leahy, a former prosecutor, said: “I’m immensely proud of what this program does to protect our law enforcement officers. It’s perhaps the most tangible support Congress can provide to these brave men and women, who risk their lives to protect all of us in our communities. Without this new law, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership program would expire next year. Now that this legislation is signed into law, it will never expire. It has already saved the lives of so many, and put vests on the backs of well over one million officers. Now we know that millions more officers will be protected.”

The day before the Senate passed the legislation, Leahy’s office received a call from the Union City Police Department in Georgia. Last month one of its officers, Officer Jerome Turner Jr., was shot multiple times while responding to a call. One round hit him directly in the chest, but it did not get through his bulletproof vest. Officer Turner lived after undergoing six hours of surgery. His department called Leahy to tell him that the vest that saved his life was purchased through this program. Officer Turner says what Leahy too has long believed: The Bulletproof Vest Partnership program is critical to ensuring that officers around the country return home to their families every night.

The legislation was strongly supported by the law enforcement community, led by the Fraternal Order of Police and joined by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Tactical Officers Association, and the Sergeants Benevolent Association.

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