Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy Unanimous Consent Request Seeking Passage of S.933 The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act
Next week we will commemorate National Police Week, a time when the nation pays tribute to the sacrifices made by all who serve in law enforcement, particularly those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. These law enforcement officers risk their lives every day to protect our communities, and we often speak eloquently here in the Senate about supporting law enforcement and their families. Although such tributes are important and well-deserved, the police officers in our communities deserve more than speeches; they deserve action and real support. We owe it to all who serve to help protect those who protect us – and one important, tangible way to do so is to help provide them with life-saving bulletproof vests.
For more than fifteen years, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant program has helped to provide bulletproof vests to law enforcement officers around the country. Republican Senator Ben Nighthorse-Campbell and I worked across the aisle to design a program that helps local law enforcement agencies purchase bulletproof vests. To date, this program has enabled over 13,000 state and local enforcement agencies to purchase over one million vests. Protective vests are credited with saving the lives of more than 3,000 law enforcement officers since 1987.
No one can dispute that this program saves lives. That is why Congress has historically acted quickly and decisively to support the bulletproof vests program. Between 2000 and 2010, the program enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, and was reauthorized three times by unanimous consent. This time around, every single Democratic Senator supports passage of this bill, and it is cosponsored by Senators Hagan, Cardin, Landrieu, Shaheen, Pryor, Franken, and many other strong supporters of law enforcement including the Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association, Major County Sheriffs' Association, and National Association of Police Organizations. For reasons still unclear to me, however, the bill is being blocked on the Republican side, and we have yet to add a single Republican cosponsor to the measure.
This does not have to be a partisan issue – and it should not be a partisan issue. Senator Grassley and I developed a bipartisan reauthorization that included improvements to the program. One important change is that agencies are now given a grant preference for purchasing vests uniquely fitted to women officers. The program now is stronger than ever. The Republican Senators who have blocked passage should not continue to thwart the vast majority of Senators who want to see this program reauthorized.
I would also urge support for the National Blue Alert Act, which has been reported by the Judiciary Committee with a strong bipartisan vote. This bill is sponsored by Senators Cardin and Graham, and I am a proud cosponsor. The bipartisan Justice for All Reauthorization Act, which I coauthored with Republican Senator John Cornyn and which reauthorizes important programs such as the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant program, is another important bill to law enforcement that we should approve without further delay. It defies common sense that any Senator would object to these pieces of legislation.
Next week, I will attend the National Peace Officers Memorial Service, and there will be a wreath-laying at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which now contains the names of over 20,000 fallen officers. The names of 286 fallen officers will be added to its walls, serving as another somber reminder that the brave men and women in law enforcement risk their lives each and every day. They work tirelessly to keep our communities safe, and they deserve our best efforts to do the same for them.
Today I ask for unanimous consent that the Senate pass S.933, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2013. This program has always been bipartisan, and we must not let misplaced ideology put officers’ lives at risk now. Together we can honor the service of those who keep us safe by protecting their lives with bulletproof vests. If you stand with law enforcement, then you need to stand with them when in matters most. I can assure you – and they can assure you – it matters here, and it matters now.
# # # # #
David Carle: 202-224-3693
Next Article Previous Article