05.14.14

WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF CHIEF MICHAEL E. SCHIRLING CHIEF OF POLICE - BURLINGTON, VT POLICE DEPARTMENT SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY BULLET PROOF VEST PARTNERSHIP FUNDING

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

I have the privilege of serving as the Chief of Police in Burlington, VT.  Burlington is a community of approximately 40,000, located on the eastern shores of Lake Champlain about 35 miles south of the Canadian border.  It is the central hub of activity, commerce, and services for northwestern Vermont, which encompasses a population of approximately 150,000 residents.  We have a 149-year history of providing law enforcement services to Vermont’s largest City, currently employing 100 officers and 37 civilian personnel.

Each day in Burlington, in Vermont, and throughout the United States, law enforcement officers are thrust into a myriad of situations in which, despite their best efforts and skill, they lack full control of events as they unfold and are seriously injured or killed. In the roughly 1 million encounters they have each day, officers face more complex and unpredictable scenarios. This results from a wide range of complicating factors including offenders released from our prisons, those with intractable substance abuse and addiction, and some in our communities with unmet mental health needs.

In recent years the violence that we have encountered on both a local and national level has become increasingly challenging.  Among the most basic safety strategies is the use of bulletproof vests.  My agency has mandated the wearing of vests for all uniformed personnel.

Federal, State, local, university and tribal law enforcement are doing all that we can to protect our communities from crime, disorder, and the specter of terrorism and, while doing so, we recognize the fiscal reality that faces our nation today. There are undoubtedly initiatives throughout the Federal budget that support local and State programs that should be scrutinized as we try to control costs. Safety initiatives, especially those that represent such a small overall investment that yields such a dramatic return, should be among the last that fall victim to budget pressures. The safety of our nation’s law enforcement officers is a wise and necessary investment.  I urge you to fund this bulletproof vest partnership.  Without continued Federal assistance, I fear that there are many of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide that may be unable to continue to equip officers with this essential piece of safety equipment.

Thank you for taking testimony on this important issue, and for your continued leadership and assistance on criminal justice matters and the safety of our law enforcement officers, nationwide.

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