Area communities get bulletproof vests

The Brattleboro and Winhall police departments, and the Windham County Sheriff's Department, were among 34 Vermont law enforcement agencies receiving federal funding to help purchase a total of 280 lifesaving protective vests.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., made the announcement on Nov. 8.

The FY 2017 funding, administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, is made possible under the Leahy-authored Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program.

With these most recent awards, Vermont agencies to date have received more than $1 million to help purchase nearly 4,800 vests.

“In Vermont and across the nation, those who protect our communities increasingly are being called upon to respond to dangerous situations,” Leahy said in a news release. “As recent tragedies have shown us, yet again, we must do all we can to ensure the safety of those who risk their own lives to protect innocent people.”

He noted that the need for protective vests is heightened by the rise in drug trafficking in Vermont and around the nation.

Brattleboro will receive $4,053 to buy 14 vests, Winhall will get $1,585 for five vests, and the Sheriff's Department will be awarded $9,364 to buy 35 vests.

A leading member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Leahy led the work to create the vest program in the aftermath of a 1997 shootout on the Vermont-New Hampshire border in which the gunman killed four people, including two state troopers. Three law enforcement officers were wounded. The gunman, who was also killed, was armed with a semi-automatic rifle and wore a bulletproof vest.

Nationwide, the Leahy-authored BVP program has awarded more than 13,000 jurisdictions a total of $430 million in federal funds to support the purchase of more than 1.2 million vests (1,294,837 as of July 2017). Leahy leads in securing annual funding for the program as Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Leahy noted that the program is vital for small communities that struggle under tight budgets to keep their officers safe. Through his efforts, communities that cannot meet the 50 percent federal match requirements may also be eligible for waivers. Leahy led the five-year reauthorization of the BVP program in 2016.

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