Police receive funding for vests

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2006

The officers of the Suffolk Police Department are now a little bit safer, thanks to federal funds from a Department of Justice grant program.

The police department received $4,700 toward the purchase of about 21 bulletproof vests, according to a press release from Rep. Randy Forbes’ office. The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program provides up to 50 percent of the cost to assist state and local police departments in equipping law enforcement officers with the lifesaving items.

“We’re absolutely happy to be receiving the money from Congressman Forbes,” said police Capt. Dean Smith. “It supplements what the department has already committed to do.”

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Smith said the department provides a vest for every officer, but doesn’t require them to use the body armor.

“Regardless of whether we got this grant, we’d be buying vests. This just means we can buy other things to help us do our job.”

Smith said the grant, which the department receives yearly, helps them with financial resources.

“We have made a commitment to provide every officer with a vest,” he said.

The vests cost about $400-450 each.

The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act of 1997 provides up to $25 million in federal funds nationwide each year to fund 50 percent of the cost of bulletproof vests for departments that need them. According to the text of the act, bullet-proof vests helped save the lives of about 2,000 law enforcement officers between 1985 and 1994. Fifty percent of the funds are reserved for communities with less than 100,000 residents, such as Suffolk, to ensure that departments with less funding are able to purchase the needed equipment.

Other local law enforcement agencies receiving vests through the program include Franklin, Isle of Wight County, Smithfield, Windsor and the state police.