Op-Ed: inVEST In Bulletproof Vests For Cops

Op-Ed Published in the Journal News

By Eric T. Schneiderman

Providing bulletproof vests to police officers should be a no-brainer. But Washington gridlock has slowed federal funding for vests. The New York State Attorney General's office has created the inVEST Partnership, which employs civil foreiture funds to help reimburse local law enforcement's cost for bulletproof vests.

Every day, in every city and town in our state, law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to protect their neighbors. They confront dangerous, often violent, criminals on a daily basis. We owe these brave men and women an enormous debt of gratitude. But more than that, we owe it to each of them to make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure their safety while they are guarding ours.

That's why my office created the inVEST Partnership — to help local law enforcement agencies in Westchester, and across the state, buy bulletproof vests. My office will dedicate $3.5 million in civil forfeiture funds to reimburse local law enforcement agencies for up to 50 percent of the cost of new vests. This commitment effectively restores funds that have been lost to federal budget cuts in the last three years.

Story : State AG: More bulletproof vests coming for law enforcement

Providing bulletproof vests to police officers should be a no-brainer. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, in the past 30 years 71 officers have died in the line of duty as a result of gunfire in New York State.

No police officer should have to put his or her life on the line without at least having a bulletproof vest, which is why the United States Congress passed the Bulletproof Vest Grant Act in 1998. It provided up to 50 percent matching funds for state and local law enforcement agencies to buy this lifesaving equipment – giving police departments in New York State approximately $25 million to purchase over 212,000 bulletproof vests.

But somehow, our political process in Washington has become so broken that even this simple, non-controversial program has fallen victim to the gridlock and dysfunction that plague our national politics. Since its peak in 2010, New York State has seen federal funding for bulletproof vests fall by 81 percent.

That is unacceptable, which is why I decided to use funds seized from criminals to replace the funds denied by Congress.

With this commitment, we expect to provide matching funds for between 6,000 and 10,000 vests, depending on cost.

While no vest offers foolproof protection, more than 3,000 law enforcement officers have been saved by ballistic body armor in the last 30 years, according to National Institute of Justice. And while the vests are designed to protect against bullets, they may also provide some protection in car accidents, particularly in front-end crashes. This is not insignificant, since car crashes are the second-leading cause of officer deaths since 2004 – surpassed only by shootings.

I am committed to working with industry and law enforcement agencies to make New Yorkers safe from gun violence. We developed model gun show protocols, in cooperation with gun show operators, to ensure that every sale of a firearm at a New York gun show is accompanied by a background check. We've worked with Facebook and Instagram to deter illegal gun sales online. And we've taken hundreds of weapons off the streets through gun buybacks.

But the fact remains that there dangerous people on our streets with dangerous weapons. The inVEST Partnership will help protect the brave men and women who put on a badge and uniform every day to keep our communities safe.

About a month ago, I spoke at a Fallen Officer's Memorial service. I looked in to the eyes of family members whose loved ones suffered fatal injuries in the line of duty. Some died in car accidents. Some contracted terminal illnesses working on the pile at Ground Zero. And some died of gunshot wounds. Being a law enforcement officer will never be a safe job. But if we can spare even a few families the pain of losing a loved one in the line of duty, we have an obligation to act, and that is what my office is doing.

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