05.13.08

the Introduction Of A Bill To Reauthorize The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act

Leahy, Specter, Mikulski, Shelby, Hatch Introduce Bulletproof Vest Reauthorization Bill

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, May 13, 2008) – A bipartisan group of Senators today introduced key legislation to reauthorize the lifesaving Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program, a competitive grant program administered by the Department of Justice that provides matching funds to state and local law enforcement officers to purchase bulletproof and stab-resistant vests.  Identical legislation was also introduced today in the House of Representatives.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), and Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), today introduced a bill to extend the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Act through 2012.  The program’s authorization is slated to expire in 2009.  The grant program was created in 1999 under legislation authored by Leahy and then-Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.).  Since then, it has distributed more than $234 million to law enforcement agencies across the country, and has assisted in the purchase of more than 818,000 armor vests.  In recent years, the administration has sought to eliminate funding for the grant program.

“Every additional officer who is able to put on a vest today as a result of this grant program means that one more officer may survive a violent attack,” said Leahy.  “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 important program.  I hope that Congress will quickly pass this important reauthorization.”

“The reauthorization of this program will continue to provide federal aid for the brave men and women in uniform who patrol our streets,” Specter said.  “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to reauthorize this program that has provided millions of dollars to supply life saving bulletproof vests for officers not just in Pennsylvania, but in police departments across the country.”

“We know that bulletproof vests save lives. The men and women who fight to protect our communities every day need to know that we are on their side, and working to protect our protectors,” said Mikulski.  “I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation, and to fight every day for the resources and tools our law enforcement agencies need to keep us safe.”

 

“Each day our state and local law enforcement officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect our communities,” said Shelby.  “Regardless of a community’s financial status, we must ensure that our law enforcement officers have the equipment necessary to protect themselves.  This legislation will make certain that our law enforcement officers are protected while they are on the front lines of local communities protecting our citizens.”

 

Earlier today, Leahy chaired a Judiciary Committee hearing about the value of the life-saving body armor.  Law enforcement officers from Vermont and Maryland testified about the many benefits of the grant program.  Vests cost between $500 and $1000, and in recent years, law enforcement agencies have struggled to find the funds necessary to replace old vests or purchase new ones. 

 

Later this week, the Judiciary Committee will consider legislation introduced by Leahy, Mikulski, Shelby and others last year that would give the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Department of Justice the discretion to grant waivers or reductions in the match requirements for bulletproof vest awards to state and local law enforcement agencies that can demonstrate fiscal hardship. 

 

Thousands of law enforcement officers from across the country will come to Washington this week to commemorate National Police Week.  The Senate last week passed a resolution designating May 15 at Peace Officers Memorial Day.

 

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To read witness testimony and to watch the Judiciary Committee’s May 13, 2008, hearing on the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program, click here.

 

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

On the Introduction Of A Bill To Reauthorize

The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act

Senate Floor

May 13, 2008

 

I am proud to introduce a bill today to reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act for three years, through 2012.  This legislation has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress since it was enacted in 1998, and I thank Senators Specter, Mikulski, Shelby and Hatch for joining me in today’s introduction.  I am also glad to be joined by Congressmen Visclosky who will introduce this bill in the House of Representatives today as well. 

 

Since 1999, the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Department of Justice has distributed $234 million to State and local jurisdictions.  Those grants have resulted in the purchase of an estimated 818,000 vests.  Since its enactment, over 11,900 State and local jurisdictions have participated in this program.  Congress can be proud of the fact that this legislation has directly provided life-saving equipment to so many law enforcement officers.  I know that when State and local jurisdictions receive the matching grants through this program, their budgets can go farther in fighting crime in their communities. 

 

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the importance of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program.  We heard from a law enforcement officer who was shot in the chest at point blank range during an auto theft investigation.  He lived to tell the Committee and others his story, thanks to the bulletproof vest he was wearing.  In my home state of Vermont, the program has allowed the Vermont police to purchase over 350 sets of armor in the last 10 years.  The 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.    

 

As a Nation, we ask much of our law enforcement officers.  Men and women who serve face constant and unknown risks, and too often make the ultimate sacrifice.  During this week in Washington, law enforcement officers from around the country will remember those officers who died in the line of duty while protecting their fellow citizens.  Unfortunately, an ongoing trend of rising violent crime in the United States underscores the continuing need of this program that has had such a positive impact on the safety of law enforcement officers.  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 grant program means that one more officer may survive 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 important program.

 

I ask unanimous consent that a copy of the bill be included in the Record.

 

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