Funding for police bulletproof vests held up

WASHINGTON — A program that has supplied more than 1 million bulletproof vests to police departments around the country is facing a holdup on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has blocked reauthorization of the 15-year-old Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant, arguing that the federal government has “no role” in funding local police departments

But Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and author of the program, said at a hearing Wednesday that “the law enforcement community has spoken with a single voice on this issue. They understand the unfortunate reality that life-saving vests can be extremely expensive, particularly for smaller jurisdictions, and that they can wear out too soon.”

Local police officials testified that the vests, which on average cost between $800 and $1,000 apiece, can be life-saving tools in a dangerous job.

Ann Carrizales, an officer with the police department in Stafford, Texas, was shot in the face and chest during a routine traffic stop last October.

“I remember the muzzle flash, looking directly at the weapon and taking a mental note of its caliber, and then there were his eyes,” Carrizales told the senators Wednesday. “I will never forget his eyes.”

Carrizales testified that while she feels fortunate to work for a department that provides officers with the equipment they need, others “are forced to choose between what is most important to officer safety and how much money to put into ensuring their officer’s safety.”

Since 1999, the federal government has spent $375 million to reimburse more than 13,000 local law enforcement agencies to help pay the costs of more 1 million bulletproof vests, according to the Department of Justice, which runs the program. It estimates that the vests saved the lives at least 33 law enforcement and corrections officers in fiscal year 2012.

“I have heard of and known numerous (Fort Worth Police Department) officers who have avoided serious injury because of the ballistic vests they carry,” Sgt. Raymond Bush, a department spokesman, said in an interview. “Their importance cannot be overstated.”

Terry Grisham, executive administrator for the Tarrant County, Texas, Sheriff’s Department, told the panel that funding for equipment is a “challenge.”

Despite submitting hundreds of applications, many large police departments didn’t receive federal funding for vests in 2013. Larger agencies, characterized as serving populations of more than 100,000, are not as high a priority for the grant program as smaller departments.

The Medill News Service is a Washington program of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

More in Local News

Car crashes near Everett after State Patrol pursuit

The driver and a second person in the car suffered injuries.

They chose the longshot candidate to fill a vacant seat

Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick will serve as representative for the 39th legislative district.

Definitely not Christmas in July for parched young trees

“I live in Washington. I should not have to water a Christmas tree,” says one grower. But they did.

Marysville babysitter faces jail time in infant’s death

Medical experts differed over whether it was head trauma or illness that caused the baby to die.

Whether cheers or jeers, DeVos appearance will rouse spirits

Trump’s secretary of education is coming to Bellevue to raise money for a pro-business think tank.

Superior Court judge admits DUI on freeway

Prosecutors recommend a “standard” penalty for Marybeth Dingledy, who “is terribly sorry.”

Self-defense or murder? Trial begins in shooting death

Explanations as to why a man was shot in the back on a Bothell cul-de-sac are starkly different.

Golfers help Pink the Rink

The fundraiser to aid breast cancer research culminates with a Nov. 4 Silvertips game.

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Alliance plans meeting to discuss future of the Everett Station

Key themes are economic development, parking, green space, safety, and transportation connections

Most Read