From the office of Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT
The Senate unanimously passed Senator Patrick Leahy’s legislation to permanently reauthorize and increase support for the lifesaving Bulletproof Vest Partnership grant program. The bill, S.1231, cosponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and 18 other bipartisan cosponsors, also increases funding for the program by $5 million to $30 million each year. The House of Representatives is expected to pass identical legislation shortly.
During the committee markup of the Senate bill last week, chairman Graham offered an amendment naming the program after Leahy (D-VT), recognizing his decades of dedication to the program. This is the sixth time Leahy has led efforts in the Senate to reauthorize this lifesaving program since former Republican Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (CO) and Leahy first authored legislation creating it more than 20 years ago.
The Senate and House consideration of the bill – which has not yet cleared Congress in final form – comes during National Police Week, a time when our nation pauses to honor the brave men and women of law enforcement who have lost their lives serving their communities.
For many jurisdictions – especially rural and smaller agencies – vests cost too much and wear out too soon. This program fills in the gap. To date it has provided more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies with matching federal funds to purchase 1.35 million vests. According to the Government Accountability Office, more than 3,000 officers’ lives have been saved by vests since 1987, several of whom were wearing vests provided through this program and have shared their stories with the Senate Judiciary Committee during previous years. The authorization for the program expires next year.
Leahy said, “I’m immensely proud of this program. It has put vests on the backs of well over 1 million police officers to date. This legislation will ensure that millions more officers will be similarly protected. It is perhaps the most tangible support that Congress can provide to our nation’s law enforcement officers. We are now one step away from sending it to the president for his signature.”
The legislation is widely supported by the law enforcement community, which has long spoken with a single voice on this issue. That includes the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Sheriffs' Association, the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Tactical Officers Association and the Sergeants Benevolent Association.