When an officer is fired upon, their first line of protection is their bulletproof vest. Sadly, many of the law enforcement agencies in Utah are using expired an bulletproof vest that is worn out.
In fact, some vests need safety pins to hold them together while others are being worn years after the expiration date has passed.
According to Jonathan Mangum, a deputy with the Carbon County sheriff’s office, he’s got a safety pin holding the panel in its place. If it wasn’t there, it would fall out and he’d have no protection.
Ten expired Bulletproof Vest
The majority of police vests have a five-year manufacturing expiration date. The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office, which is located in Price, have 10 patrol vests and eight SWAT expired bulletproof vests. Some of them are over 10 years old.
Lt. Jason Llewelyn with the department said it’s similar to milk in the fridge. They say it’s best not to drink it after the stated date on the carton, but there are instances when the milk is good and instances when it’s not.
According to Jessi Adams, her husband is the only Carbon County overnight deputy and he must wear an out-of-date SWAT vest. Adams said she knows her husband isn’t protected like he needs to be. She said it makes her angry because there isn’t a reason that it should be like that.
Expired Bulletproof Vest vs. Protection: What’s The Level Of Protection
Nicholas Roberts, a range master with the Unified Police Department, demonstrated the level of protection for an expired vest by shooting it four times. He said the thread underneath broke but all four rounds did not penetrate the expired bulletproof vest. The vest Roberts shot into expired back in 1996. However, he stressed that the next expired bulletproof vest may not have the same result.
Roberts said he’s shot into seven-year-old vests and they have failed while a 10-year-old expired bulletproof vest held up.
Roberts, who is a National Institute of Justice board member that investigates ballistics body armor, said research has shown vests will falter for three reasons:
• Inappropriate storage
The Key Problem Behind The Lack Of New Bulletproof Vests
Until the time that somebody designs a bulletproof vest that can withstand these conditions, police departments across the country will need to continuously spend money to replace their expired bulletproof vest. The Unified Police Department recently spent $150,000 for their vests.
Unified Police Department Sheriff Jim Winder said there’s real concern amongst officers and administrators about how to handle the increasing costs associated with the vests. He said the reality is protection must be there for all their officers.
Many law enforcement agencies in Utah have a challenge to pay for new bullet proof vests. After all, budgets are strict and a new vest can cost between $600 and 3,000 a piece.
Mangum sad there’s not enough money to pay for a new cover on his vest.
Possible Governmental Solution To Cost Problem
Adams has been taking the funding fight to lawmakers such as Rep. Paul Ray, a republican from Clearfield. Clearfield is on the committee for House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice.
Ray said the Department of Justice can afford to pay 50 percent of the cost, if the state and counties are willing to pay 25 percent a piece.
The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office has no money to replace the expired bulletproof vests that need replacing and it didn’t meet any of the guidelines set forth in the Department of Justice’s Bulletproof Vest Partnership grant. This grant would have paid for 50 percent of the total expenditure. However, the money has got to be found.
Carbon County Chief Deputy Tom Stefanoff said the money that was to pay for the radio equipment will go toward patrol and SWAT vests that no longer have any warranty on them.
New vests have been recently ordered but it may take a few weeks – perhaps longer – before they’ll arrive. During this time, officers must wear the old, expired bulletproof vest.
Llewelyn said with the vest they do have currently, they pray they can withstand bullets. And, he said, that’s what needs to happen.
Congress is currently looking at the issue – trying to decide if they should reinstate full funding for bulletproof vests. If this does occur, departments could be completely reimbursed by applying for a grant.