WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Representatives of rank-and-file police and sheriff's officers this week joined Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) on Capitol Hill to mark crossing the threshold of issuing more than 1 million vests under Leahy's Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program.
Pointing to the program's lifesaving record, they also called for final action on Leahy's bill to renew the program's charter, which expired in September.
Leahy and former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) coauthored the bill that established the program, and matching grants have been awarded to state and local police and sheriff's agencies since 1999. Before the program, many officers had to save up to buy their own body armor if they wanted its protection on the job. Despite broad bipartisan support for the successful and popular program, a Leahy bill to reauthorize the program -- which he steered through the Judiciary Committee in May -- has been stalled since then on the Senate Floor, blocked by anonymous holds. The program was most recently renewed in 2008, and its authorization lapsed at the end of September.
Leahy said, "Today an officer's bulletproof vest is a piece of equipment as indispensable as a side arm and radio. This program has helped raise awareness and use of this lifesaving equipment. Police work is hard work, and often it also is dangerous work. These brave officers protect our communities, and these vests help protect them. As we cross this threshold, Americans have more than a million reasons to feel good about what they have done to help protect our law enforcers. This is a milestone that speaks to the success of this program, and to the strength of the law enforcement partnership among the states, local communities and the federal government."
Urban and rural communities alike have benefitted from the program since it took effect in 1999. In Vermont nearly $840,000 in grant money has helped to supply 3930 vests. According to the Government Accountability Office, $247 million in matching grants have been used to purchase more than one million vests from 1999 through 2011. Approximately 3000 law enforcement officers' lives have been saved by protective body armor since 1987, according to the GAO.
At an announcement on Tuesday about the million-vest milestone, Leahy and Coons were joined by Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police; Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Ocean City, Md., police department; James Burch, deputy assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice; and Sgt. David Spicer of the Dover, Delaware, police department, who survived being shot in the line of duty by wearing protective body armor.
Leahy said, "The need to continue the vest program is more important than ever. Law enforcement agencies have experienced an alarming rise in violence against officers over the last two years. I hope we can get past the roadblocks and keep this vital partnership going. The safety of the nation's law enforcement officers is far too important to be undermined by political games."
SOURCE Office of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy