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Justice Dept: No Body Armor Policies, No Grants

Justice Dept: No Body Armor Policies, No Grants

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USAToday.com via YellowBrix

April 12, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is threatening to withhold millions of dollars in federal aid to local police departments unless they adopt policies that require uniformed officers to wear body armor.

The requirement, which takes effect this month as local agencies apply for as much as $37 million in federal aid to purchase bullet-resistant vests, comes in the wake of a recent surge in fatal shootings of police officers.

Jim Burch, acting director of the department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, said the new federal policy is in response to the spike in violence — a 44% jump in fatal police shootings over the same time last year — and research showing that 41% of police agencies do not require their officers to wear body armor.

“What struck us is the number of agencies that don’t have a mandatory policy … a potential huge vulnerability,” Burch said. “If we’re investing federal dollars, we should require agencies to have policies.”

Last year, the Justice Department distributed $37 million to reimburse 4,127 agencies large and small, from Anchorage and Boston to Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles, for the purchase of 193,259 vests.

Justice officials began contemplating changes to the vest program after a 2009 review by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based law enforcement think tank, found that 41% of departments do not require officers to wear body armor at least some of the time. The federal program would mandate that officers wear the vests while in uniform.

Among the other findings in forum report, which surveyed 782 agencies: fewer than half of the agencies that required armor had written policies addressing the issue. And the overwhelming majority of the agencies — 90% — do not regularly inspect the equipment to ensure that it fits or has been properly maintained.


“There is no good reason I can think of for not requiring it,” said Chuck Wexler, the forum’s executive director. “This is an appropriate role for the federal government.”

The Justice action has prompted a number of police officials to re-evaluate their own policies or risk losing access to federal aid at a time when local government budgets are being slashed and services, including law enforcement, are being dramatically cut back.

Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel doesn’t believe the federal government should dictate how local departments operate, including whether individual officers should be required to wear vests.

Under his department’s policy, all officers must have vests. Braziel said he will now require that officers wear vests, if only to ensure that the federal money keeps flowing. Last year, Sacramento received $45,412 for 360 vests.

“Decisions like these are better left to individual departments,” Braziel said. “But right now we’re scraping for every dime we can get. We’ll be making a quick change (in policy).”

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said his department is drafting a new policy to meet the new federal requirements.

“It wasn’t about the money,” Flynn said, adding that he was motivated by the Justice action to focus more attention on officer safety. In addition to new vest requirements, Flynn said there are plans to beef up security at police stations.

Seven Milwaukee officers have been wounded in the line of duty in the past two years. All but one was wearing body armor. But Flynn said officers now need to know that armor should be regarded as necessary equipment.

“It’s a second skin,” the chief said. “It’s part of the job. It’s what you do.”

Alarmed by the spike in officer fatalities, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last month convened a meeting of law enforcement officials. He said vests purchased through the federal program helped save the lives of six officers so far this year.

“Our law enforcement officers put themselves in harm’s way every day to ensure the safety and security of the American people in cities and communities across the country, and we need to do everything we can to protect them,” Holder said.


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  • Camndad_max50

    Motorcop_213

    over 3 years ago

    22720 Comments

    JScott, that is the purpose in the mandate to qualify for grants. The agency has to step up and supply the vests and make them mandatory to recieve federal funds. This is a great step in the right direction.

  • Prince_hall_max50

    onetime

    over 3 years ago

    1294 Comments

    Honestly we shouldn’t even have this discussion. Wearing a vest should be mandatory like having your side arm. I can’t remember a time when the government made the right decision on anything pertaining to LE. I have read post about vest and the lowest bidder….well something is better than nothing! In Fl we all just buried a brother who was shot six times in the chest area and wasn’t wearing a vest. Don’t make it optional have a mandate that your people wear it or go home!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    BForJuvCor

    over 3 years ago

    846 Comments

    You can write these groups and ask to make the donation secret so as not to give up their source. If i can find some regional or state agencies i will forward them to you.

  • N629132540_2149000_2406846_max50

    Jscott703

    over 3 years ago

    82 Comments

    Bforhuvcor thanks for the advice its like pulling teeth with our chief its a small town like it sometimes feels like mayberry

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    BForJuvCor

    over 3 years ago

    846 Comments

    Jscott784 has your department looked into federal grant money for them? There are advocacy groups out there that will supply vests, AED's and other necessary life saving equipment if you ask. Just a suggestion. We in PA, have groups that will supply vests for K-9's and officers alike. Soemtimes the vests are hand me downs but anything to help is always appreciated.

  • N629132540_2149000_2406846_max50

    Jscott703

    over 3 years ago

    82 Comments

    what do you do when your dept is too small to get you one and your too poor to buy one i had to trade a gun with someone i knew just to get one but still its one size too small but i do wear it every day it covers most areas just wish the gov would give money for them if we have to have them to get money ?!?

  • 2008_masonic_coin_max50

    skanea1

    over 3 years ago

    958 Comments

    Did hell just get cooler? A rule from the government that actually makes a lot of sense? Please, WEAR THE VEST!

  • New_shot_gun_max50

    tangohammerli

    over 3 years ago

    46 Comments

    The vest weather stab or ballistic is designed to improve your chances of survival in the event you are targeted. If the vest is laying on a chair or hanging in a closet it cant possibly do its job. And if you are incapacitated due to not wearing yours; someone beyond yourself may be next on the bad guys hit list! A tool you cant afford to go without...not if you care about others.......

  • Policelinkbadge_max160_max50_max50

    Gombino

    over 3 years ago

    2658 Comments

    Wear the vest. Period.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    BForJuvCor

    over 3 years ago

    846 Comments

    I would like to think that it would be everyone's concern to come home at the end of your shift safe into the loving arms of your family, not go to the morgue in a bag because you decided comfort out weighed safety. Please wear your vests, watch your six and make damn sure every person stopped is treated with the utmost caution. You never know these days who is going to shoot first.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    USPCO

    over 3 years ago

    2 Comments

    I am a CO for the BOP and we have stab vests issued to us now but its not required that we wear them. I personally dont wear mine I dont have faith in it. I plan on buying my own vest. we went with the lowest bidder. Also if an Convict is gonna go for the kill shot on a CO he is going for the neck which isnt protected at all.

  • In_remembrance_of_oakland_pd_max50_max50_max50_max50_max50

    rhood

    over 3 years ago

    23592 Comments

    By wearing your vest, the life you save may be your own.

  • John_groh_max50

    wiseass0282

    over 3 years ago

    10982 Comments

    I think every uniform Officer should be required to wear a vest provided by the Department they work for. Back in 1974, Second Chance Vest were a new thing. They were thick and a alot more heavy then the vest they have these days. When I joined the PD my father purchased one for me to wear and told he he would kick my ass if I didn't wear it. So I was one of the first. It wasn't until 10 or 15 years later that our agency started providing vest for the Officers. Since then I have known many who have been saved by them.

  • Christmas_2010_038_max50

    Mongo1

    over 3 years ago

    346 Comments

    This is a "No Brainer", obviously Chief Braziel doesn't even qualify for that. You take away backup and patrol partners and expect technology to overcome safety. You reduce the budget and save money through cuts in human capitol at the local level and cannot come up with a policy, Please give me a break. A 44% increase in Officer Fatalities is a significant increase over a recording breaking year. It's a 9.0 with a Tsunami, wake up.

  • Angel_kincaid_park_2014_max50

    AKangel

    over 3 years ago

    4972 Comments

    I would be happy to know every Officer is wearing body armor, Be blessed, BE Safe...

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