A program that helps state and local law enforcement agencies buy ballistic vests was reauthorized Monday by President Obama, following a four-year lapse in funding.
“Our nation has a responsibility to support those who serve and protect us and keep our streets safe,” Mr. Obama said at a Medal of Valor ceremony for law enforcement officers, where he announced he had signed the reauthorization bill.
The legislation will provide $25 million a year through 2020 to the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant program, which has helped outfit officers across the nation with more than 1.2 million pieces of ballistic-resistant soft body armor since it was established in 1999. The program allows the Justice Department to offer matching grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to purchase or upgrade their body armor.
The last authorization bill for the program expired in 2012.
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the bipartisan legislation in the Senate last year and it was approved ion the House last Tuesday night. Senator Lindsay Graham was the lead Republican cosponsor of the bill.
Leahy, a former Vermont prosecutor and now the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said: “The Bulletproof Vest Partnership program has helped equip more than one million law enforcement officers with lifesaving bulletproof vests. Renewing this program will ensure that hundreds of thousands more officers will receive the same protection.”
Leahy’s bipartisan bill ensures that law enforcement agencies uphold mandatory wear policies so that the vests are worn regularly. It also creates incentives for agencies to provide uniquely fitted vests for female officers.