Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutionsby Senator Patrick J. Leahy
Posted on 2015-01-08
LEAHY (for himself, Mr. Graham, Mr. Coons, Mr. Blunt, Mr.
Schumer, and Mr. Cornyn):
S. 125. A bill to amend title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe
Streets Act of 1968 to extend the authorization of the Bulletproof Vest
Partnership Grant Program through fiscal year 2020, and for other
purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, today I am proud to introduce the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2015. Once enacted, this legislation will continue for another five years the immensely successful grant program that provides matching funds for State and local law enforcement agencies to purchase protective vests for officers serving in the field.
Our Nation needs no additional reminders of the dangers faced by law enforcement officers each and every day. Far too often we have grieved as officers are killed in the line of duty. In 2014 alone, 126 men and women serving in law enforcement lost their lives. Although protective vests cannot save every officer, they have already saved the lives of more than 3,000 law enforcement officers since 1987. Vests dramatically increase the chance of survival when tragedy occurs. I have met personally with police officers who are living today because of a bulletproof vest, and they will attest to the fact that the vests provided through this program are worth every penny.
No officer should have to serve without a protective vest. Yet we know that, for far too many jurisdictions, vests can cost too much and wear out too soon. The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program helps to fill the gap. Since it was first authorized in 1999, it has enabled more than 13,000 State and local law enforcement agencies to purchase more than one million bulletproof vests, including more than 4,000 vests for officers in Vermont. As these officers have helped to protect our communities, these grants have helped to protect them. Unfortunately the authorization for this grant program lapsed in 2012. We must not delay any longer in reauthorizing this program This bill also contains a number of improvements to the grant program. It provides incentives for agencies to provide uniquely fitted vests for female officers and others. It also codifies existing Justice Department policies that grantee law enforcement agencies cannot use other Federal grant funds to satisfy the matching fund requirement, and they must also have mandatory wear policies to ensure the vests are used regularly.
Protecting those who serve has historically been a bipartisan effort in Congress. Republican Senator Ben Nighthorse-Campbell and I worked together to create this program more than 15 years ago. It was so successful that, in the past, it was reauthorized with a voice vote. It was the right thing to do, it saved lives, and that was enough for both Democrats and Republicans. This is not a partisan issue, and I am pleased that Senator Graham is the lead cosponsor of this measure. Senators Coons and Blunt are also original cosponsors of this bill.
The law enforcement community speaks with a single voice on this issue. And I am proud that this bill is supported by the Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs' Association, Major County Sheriffs' Association, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, National Tactical Officers Association, and Sergeants Benevolent Association.
There are very few bills that can so directly affect and improve the safety of those who serve and protect our communities. This program saves lives, and I am hopeful that all Senators--Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike--will join us now to ensure its swift reauthorization.
______ By Mr. WYDEN (for himself and Mr. Merkley): S. 132. A bill to improve timber management on Oregon and California Railroad and Coos Bay Wagon Road grant land, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.