Leahy Introduces Bill To Reauthorize Lifesaving Bulletproof VestGrant Program Program Benefits State And Local Law Enforcement Agencies WASHINGTON (Monday, May 7, 2012) – Senator Patrick Leahy(D-Vt.) Monday introduced legislation to reauthorize the lifesavingBulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program, a federal grant programthat helps state and local law enforcement agencies purchasebulletproof vests for officers working in the field. Leahy authoredthe law establishing the matching grant program. Law enforcement officers in Vermont and across the country areputting their lives on the line each and every day to keep ourcommunities safe, said Leahy. In these lean budget times, wecannot compromise officer safety. There has always been abipartisan commitment to the Bulletproof Vest Partnership GrantProgram, and I look forward to working with all Senators to ensurethe program continues. |
The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program was established bylegislation authored by Leahy after a tragic, 1997 shootout alongthe Vermont-New Hampshire border in which federal law enforcementofficers were equipped with bulletproof vests, while state andlocal officers from Vermont and New Hampshire were not. Two statetroopers were killed in the shootout. Following the tragedy, Leahyteamed with former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) tointroduce bipartisan legislation authorizing matching federalgrants to help state and local jurisdictions purchase lifesavingbulletproof vests. The program s current authorization is set toexpire in September. Since the law was enacted in 1999, the Bulletproof Vest PartnershipGrant Program has helped state and local law enforcement agenciespurchase nearly one million vests.
In Vermont, police departmentshave received over $767,000 in grant assistance through theprogram, which has helped purchase more than 3600 bulletproof vestsfor Vermont law enforcement. In 2011 alone, over 320 vests werepurchased for 28 jurisdictions throughout the state. Last year was an especially tragic one for the law enforcementcommunity, said Leahy. One hundred and sixty-three state andfederal law enforcement officers lost their lives in the line ofduty last year.
This is a grim reminder of the sacrifices far toomany individuals make serving to protect their communities andfellow citizens. The Senate should do all it can to support officersafety, and I urge all Senators to support the Bulletproof VestPartnership Grant Program. Leahy s commitment to the lifesaving Bulletproof Vest PartnershipGrant Program has continued since the program was first authorized,and the bill introduced Monday is the fifth reauthorization of theprogram. He has authored legislation to protect access to theprogram for small states like Vermont. In recent reauthorizations,he secured the inclusion of an all-state minimum funding formula toensure that all qualifying state and local jurisdictions receive aminimum of .5 percent of federal funds allocated to the program.Most recently, Leahy authored a provision in the program to allowfinancially struggling jurisdictions to apply for a hardship waiverof the 50 percent match requirement of the purchasing cost.
Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will considerthe bill introduced Monday at a business meeting later this week.He is also a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee,and of the panel s subcommittee charged with funding the program.Earlier this year, Leahy chaired a Judiciary Committee hearingexamining the effectiveness of the Bulletproof Vest PartnershipGrant Program, and invited Burlington Police Chief MichaelSchirling to testify about the importance of the program. Next week is National Police Week, which honors those lawenforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.Also on Monday, Leahy introduced a Senate resolution to commemoratePolice Week.
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