Sarah Guy, Manager, Legislative and Media Affairs, IACP]
n May 14, 2014, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on the Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) Grant Program, a lifesaving program whose charter expired in 2012. IACP President Yost Zakhary was invited to testify before the committee along with Officer Ann Carrizales from the City of Stafford, Texas, Police Department.
The hearing, The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program: Supporting Law Enforcement Officers When It Matters Most, was during National Police Week. President Zakhary discussed his own department’s use of the BVP and how it enabled his agency to purchase a total of 72 vests with matching funds since 2000. This means that every officer in his department is fully equipped with lifesaving body armor.
President Zakhary informed the committee that officer safety and wellness has always been the IACP’s top priority and that it is the position of the IACP that no injury to or death of a law enforcement professional is acceptable. A key element to officer safety is the use of bulletproof vests. That is why the IACP developed a model policy for the purpose of providing law enforcement officers with guidelines for the proper use and care of body armor and adopted a resolution for mandatory vest use. The resolution calls for all law enforcement executives to immediately develop and implement a mandatory body armor wear policy for their departments.
President Zakhary shows the committee a vest worn by an officer from the Graham Police Department in Texas. The officer was shot in the chest and the bullet entered right at his badge. The blood on the vest was from wounds sustained from fragmentation that struck the officer where he was NOT protected by the vest. The vest was purchased by the BVP and saved the officer’s life.
In addition, the IACP partnered with DuPont in 1987 to create the IACP/Dupont Kevlar Survivors’ Club. The mission of the Survivors’ Club is to reduce death and disability by encouraging increased wearing of personal body armor. The Survivors’ Club also recognizes and honors those deserving individuals who, as a result of wearing personal body armor, have survived a life-threatening or life-disabling incident. Since its inception, the Survivor’s Club has documented 3,180 verified saved lives, thanks to body armor.
President Zakhary also detailed several cases where bulletproof vests were directly attributable for saving an officer’s life, from protection against assaults with firearms to vehicle crashes to stab wounds.
He went on to note the devastating effects that the loss of one officer can have on an agency, including a crippling effect on the manpower and the agency’s ability to deliver services, not to mention the devastating blow that the loss inevitably has on fellow officers, family, and friends. The death or injury of an officer also creates a wide variety of unanticipated and very costly expenditures for the agency. Possible expenditures include medical bills; funeral expenses; workers’ compensation and death benefit payments; increased insurance premiums; sick leave; retirement system costs; legal fees; civil judgments; replacement and retraining expenses; and overtime pay. Even when viewed solely in a financial light, an officer’s death can have significant consequences.
President Zakhary called for the funding and reauthorization of BVP, saying “officer safety is an all-hands task, and it is the responsibility of the government, as well as government leaders, to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens and the lives of the officers who have dedicated their lives to protecting their communities.”
Immediately after the hearing, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) requested a unanimous consent vote on the Senate floor. Unfortunately passage of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act (S. 933) was blocked.
The IACP needs your help in advocating for this valuable program so that state and local law enforcement agencies can continue to have access to critical funding to purchase lifesaving vests in order to fully outfit every officer in their department.
The IACP asks that you reach out to your senators and urge them to pass the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act (S. 933) because every officer deserves the right to be fully outfitted with the necessary equipment in order to return home safely to their family, friends, and loved ones after their shift. ♦
Please cite as:
Sarah Guy, “IACP Advocates for the Reauthorization of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program,” Legislative Alert, The Police Chief 81 (June 2014): 8.