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Date last updated: Saturday, March 3, 9:36 PST
Ohio police benefit from vest grants
By Mark Gokavi
The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program is set to expire in September and local law enforcement agencies hope new legislation keeps it going.
Since 1999, the United States Dept. of Justice program has helped 13,000 jurisdictions receive $277 million in federal funds committed to help buy about 800,000 vests.
Beavercreek, Xenia, Bellbrook and Fairborn all have benefitted from the grant. Beavercreek police Capt. Doyle Wright said his department has been awarded $31,813 since 1999. The grants pay for half of a vest, which the manufacturer says lasts five years.
"I think it's vital, especially for smaller agencies," Wright said. "Even for the larger agencies, with the budget crunch the way it is today and everybody's having to pinch their pennies and watch it very closely, getting 50 percent of a $550 purchase back just gets you that much further into buying the next vest."
The program was introduced by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), who plans to introduce legislation to reauthorize the project. Local police departments spoke about the issue at a recent Senate panel hearing. They don't want to see the initiative meet the budget chopping block.
"Working to support our law enforcement officers has always been, and should continue to be, a bipartisan effort. The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program increases officer safety and effectiveness," Leahy said in a press release. "I hope that now as we proceed to reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Congress will join together with one voice to send a strong, clear message to our nation's law enforcement officers that we will do all we can to protect them, just as they work so hard to protect all of us."
Wright said the department has had to buy as many as 10 in one year because of new officers and replacing old vests, which are used for target practice or given to smaller agencies.
And while an officer in Beavercreek Twp. was shot at in the 1970s, he said there hasn't been one who has been shot at since the city incorporated in 1980. He added that the vests have other benefits.
"That vest actually protects you when you're in a crash, it protects the officers when people hit them because it's taking some of that force away," Wright said. "This is added protection in case that were to occur. It's insurance."
Copyright 2012 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.