Saturday, May 14, 2016

CONYERS Hails House Passage of Bill to Help Law Enforcement Agencies Purchase Bulletproof Vests

Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, during National Police Week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 125, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2015, unanimously by voice vote.

Under S.125, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant (BVP) program will be authorized at $25 million per year through Fiscal Year 2020. The legislation would provide state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies with matching grants to cover 50 percent of the costs for new bullet-resistant vests. The legislation also requires law enforcement agencies to purchase protective body armor that meets safety standards; and fits female officers properly. The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2015 passed the U.S. Senate in May 2015; and now heads to the President’s desk for signature.

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) spoke on the House floor in support of the legislation shortly before it passed the House. Below are Ranking Member Conyers’ remarks as prepared for delivery:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Mr. Speaker I rise in strong support of S. 125, the “Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2015.”  This bill – which would  provide matching grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies so that they can purchase bullet-resistant vests for their officers – is important for several reasons.  To begin with, S. 125 will facilitate the provision of critical protection to law enforcement officers, who often risk their lives while serving our communities.
“While some of the approximately 800,000 law enforcement officers throughout the United States do have some form of bullet-resistant armor, far too many of these brave men and women are not afforded the same protection due to state and local budget constraints.

“Since its inception, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program has assisted state and local law enforcement agencies in obtaining the necessary protective equipment to safeguard the lives of their officers.  To date, this Program has provided more than 1 million officers with life saving vests. 

“During the past 30 years, bullet-resistant vests have saved the lives of more than 3,000 law enforcement officers.  The timeliness of this bill provides a perfect opportunity to acknowledge National Police Week.  Right now, thousands of law enforcement officers are in Washington, D.C. to honor their fellow officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“Each year, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial holds a vigil to recognize the newly engraved names of officers who died while serving and protecting the people in our communities. 

“We must do everything in our power to protect those who protect us.  The Bulletproof Vest Program will help prevent the deaths of officers, and we hope that even fewer names will have to be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.  

“Second, the bill is critical because it provides up to 50% of the costs for an officer’s new armor vest.  The officer’s department, in turn, pays the remaining costs.  Importantly, smaller police departments that service areas with less than 100,000 residents receive priority funding under this measure. 

“Finally, S. 125 responds to the critical concern that bullet-resistant vests – to achieve their intended goal of protecting an officer from life threatening gunshots – must meet certain standards.  
“To this end, the bill requires a law enforcement agency to purchase body armor that meets strict performance standards set by the National Institute of Justice.  Additionally, the agency must have a policy that encourages officers to wear their vests while on duty.  And, the agency must ensure that these vests properly fit female officers. For all of these reasons, I strongly support S. 125 and I reserve the balance of my time.”

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