NJ to purchase body armor for police

Dozens of police departments in Bergen and Passaic counties will share more than $412,000 in state grants

By Monsy Alvarado
Herald News

PASSAIC COUNTY, N.J. — Dozens of police departments in Bergen and Passaic counties will share more than $412,000 in state grants to purchase bulletproof vests, state officials announced Tuesday.

The money is part of $3.6 million in grants from the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Body Armor Replacement Fund. It was established by legislation in 1998 and is funded through a $1 surcharge on traffic tickets and forfeitures of bail.

"In these tough economic times, police are hard-pressed to find money for new equipment," state Criminal Justice Director Stephen Taylor said in a press release. "This $3.6 million in funding will help to ensure that one of their most crucial pieces of equipment - lifesaving body armor - will not be outdated and worn out when our officers hit the streets to protect New Jersey residents."

Law enforcement agencies throughout the state were notified of the awards on Tuesday. Grants were provided to all 544 agencies that applied.

"I'm pleased," said Tenafly police Capt. Robert Chamberlain, which will receive $3,141 for the vests, which can cost more than $500 each. "This vest is important for law enforcement officers and they are not cheap."

In Bergen County, 71 police departments will receive $263,515. In Passaic County, 18 departments will share nearly $148,570.

Among the largest recipients are the Passaic County Sheriff's Department, which will receive $42,762.92, the Bergen County Sheriff's Department, which will get $38,246, and the Paterson Police Department, which will receive close to $31,516.

Each officer fitted
The vests usually need to be replaced every five years, and are specifically fitted for the police officer who is going to wear the armor, officials said.

"It's a good program, and protects the guys on the road," said Woodland Park Chief Anthony Galietti, whose 25-member department is set to receive $2,630. "With the economy and the budget the way they are it's great to receive the grant because it's the first line of defense for the guys out there."

Lodi Deputy Chief Vincent Quatrone echoed the same sentiments for the $3,908 his department was awarded.

"Vests change lives, and it's something we want to be able to provide to the officers," he said.

Chamberlain, who is in charge of purchasing the vests for the 31-member Tenafly Police Department, said he has four police officers on the vest replacement list. He said he may add two more when the borough hires two officers later this year.

He said the department allows the officers to choose the type of vest they want from accepted vendors, and could spend between $500 to $1,000 on the armor.

The state has a multi-vendor contract with distributors, which enable law enforcement agencies to purchase the make and model of vest that best meets their needs, according to the press release.

As a condition of the grant, agencies must purchase vests from a list of vests certified by the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2010, $3.5 million was distributed statewide, more than double the $1.3 million awarded in 2009, state officials said.

"Last year, upon taking office, this administration restored millions of dollars in dedicated funding for police body armor which the prior administration had diverted as a stopgap for unrelated state budget expenses," Attorney General Paula Dow said in the press release.

The Body Armor Replacement Fund Program has provided nearly $50 million to police departments to purchase thousands of vests since it began in 1998.

By the numbers
Law enforcement agencies in each county to receive the most money under the 2011 Body Armor Replacement Fund. For a complete list of recipients, visit northjersey.com/grants

Passaic County

Passaic County Sheriff's Department: $42,762.92

Paterson Police Department: $31,515.53

Passaic Police Department: $14,388.82

Clifton Police Department: $13,110.71

Wayne Police Department: $10,469.28

Source: Division of Criminal Justice

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