- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate Passed May 16th, 2019Passed by Voice Vote
- The house Passed May 14th, 2019Roll Call Vote 400 Yea / 9 Nay
Committee on the JudiciaryIntroducedApril 29th, 2019
- house Committees
What is House Bill H.R. 2379?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 2379
In-Depth: Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) introduced this bill to reauthorize the life-saving Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program at $30 million a year in perpetuity:
“The brave men and women who place their lives on the line to protect our communities deserve every ounce of support from their government. For law enforcement officers who face daily dangerous situations, bulletproof vests save lives. Making this important grant permanent so law enforcement officers can have access to vests is one of the most sensible policies Congress can pursue.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), sponsor of this bill’s Senate companion, adds:
“This is a partnership that makes a lifesaving difference. I hear about its importance all the time, across the country, from officers who have this protection because of this program. That’s why I’ve fought for this program for more than two decades. Protective vests are perhaps the most tangible support Congress can provide for our nation’s law enforcement officers. This legislation will outfit hundreds of thousands of police officers with protective vests. It will save lives. And I’m hopeful that Congress can come together to renew and strengthen the program once again.”
The National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) supports this bill. In a letter to the House of Representatives, FOP president Chuck Canterbury writes:
“I am writing on behalf of the membership of the Fraternal Order of Police to advise you of our strong support for H.R. 2379, the ‘Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Reauthorization Act.’ The measure would permanently reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) program that was created with the strong support of the FOP in 1998—more than two decades ago. This program began with a very simple goal: to increase the number of law enforcement officers wearing soft body armor by providing matching Federal funding to State and local law enforcement agencies purchasing this equipment. This legislation would permanently authorize this vital and life-saving program. The brave men and women in law enforcement will always need anti-ballistic protection and the BCP program has proven to be one of the most successful officer safety programs in the Federal government. Since 1999, more than 13,000 jurisdictions received a total of $467 million in Federal funds for the purchase of near 1.35 million vests… While we know there is no way to end the deadly risks inherent in a law enforcement career, we must also do everything possible to ensure that officers who put their lives on the line everyday also put on a vest. Body armor is one of the most important pieces of equipment an officer can have and often means the difference between life and death. It is critical that this program be permanently reauthorized so that it can continue to make these vests available to more officers in every region of the country. We urge its swift passage.”
In a 2012 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program, David Maurer, who directed the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) efforts to examine and review the Depts. of Homeland Security and Justice at the time, testified that the GAO had found the BVP was carrying a “significant balance” in excess of $27 million. Additionally, GAO found that $14 million had been previously deobligated from the program in 2009 to pay off a Congressional rescission to the Dept. of Justice’s budget. In total, these funds represented $41 million in funds for the BVP that went unused from 2002-2012.
When police officers wear body armor, they need to be aware of the image they project when wearing this equipment. According to Officer Bill Hummel, a department spokesman in the Aurora, Colorado police department, showing up at a scene in “full military-style gear” can escalate some situations.
There may also be some bodily harms associated with officers’ wearing of body armor. In a 2017 article in the Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers also found that body armor constitutes an “additional external load” that is associated with “increased rates of injury and reduced operational capabilities in tactical populations.” In their research, the researchers found that body armor “does have significant physical performance and biomechanical impacts on the wearer, including: a) increased ratings of perceived exertion and increased time to complete functional tasks, b) decreased work capability (indicated by deterioration in fitness test scores), c) decreased balance and stability, and d) increased ground reaction forces.”
This bill has 12 bipartisan House cosponsors, including six Democrats and six Republicans. A Senate companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with the support of 18 bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including nine Democrats and seven Republicans, in the 116th Congress.
A number of police organizations support this bill. They include 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.
Of Note: Bulletproof vests for law enforcement are costly and subject to wear and tear, leading many law enforcement agencies across the U.S. to struggle to maintain necessary protective gear. For over 20 years, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program has helped law enforcement agencies ensure that police officers are equipped with the latest technologies to ensure their safety.
Since its inception in 1999 after a tragic 1997 shootout along the Vermont-New Hampshire border in which federal law enforcement officers were equipped with bulletproof vests while state and local officers from Vermont and New Hampshire weren’t (and two state troopers were killed), the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program has awarded over 13,000 jurisdictions a total of $467 million in matching federal funds to help purchase over 1.3 million vests. Congress has renewed the program five times. The current authorization expires in 2020.
- Sponsoring Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) Dear Colleague Letter
- Senate Sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) Press Release
- National Fraternal Order of Police Letter to House of Representatives (In Favor)
- Senate Judiciary Committee on the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program (Context)
- Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Onfokus)