Over 3,000! POLICE Magazine reports that is the number of lives saved since the seventies when the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) began developing performance standards for bulletproof vests. Although the risk of fatal injury is 14 times higher for law enforcement personnel who do not wear protective body armor than those who do, one-third of officers are still unprotected. The Department of Justice is helping to lower that number. Since 1999, it has assisted over 13,000 jurisdictions purchase over one million vests through its Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program (BVP).
The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program
The purpose of the BVP is to reimburse eligible jurisdictions up to 50 percent of the cost of body armor that meets the most current NIJ standards. Funding may be used to purchase only one vest per officer during the stated replacement cycle. Tactical-level vests are eligible for purchase if they are the officer's primary vest.
What's New This Year
The BVP Reauthorization Act of 2015 allows preferential consideration to be given to applicants who provide armor vests to officers that are uniquely fitted for them, including vests designed for female officers. A survey conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum found that improved comfort and fit was a high priority among law enforcement agents. The program defines unique fit as a combination of:
1) Correctly-sized panels and carrier
2) Properly adjusted straps, harnesses, and other adjustable features
Applying for the BVP Program
Eligible applicants are Native American Tribes and state and local governments. The resource page has an updated FAQ section regarding the mandatory wear policy and links for more information about the unique fit requirement. Apply by May 29, 2018.
In addition to the BVP program, there are other resources available for protective body armor. More options to investigate include, but are not limited to:
- State grants and programs
- State law enforcement associations - For instance, the Protect Our Protectors program from the Georgia State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police takes requests from law enforcement agencies in Georgia on a rolling basis.
- Religious Organizations - The Armor of God Project provides recycled vests that exceed the manufacturer's five-year warranty to law enforcement agencies that cannot afford them. Requests are accepted on a rolling basis. Donations of viable used vests are also accepted.
- Private Foundations - Refer to our previous post, "Foundation Funding for First Responders," for examples of foundations that may fund body armor as part of their program. Note: Law enforcement agencies are eligible for Firehouse Subs Foundation grants; in 2016, 83 bullet proof vests were awarded.
- K9 Vests - K9 officers deserve protection too. K9 Cops to Dog Parks links one resource for protective vests for four-legged department members. In addition, for the past five years Aftermath has funded K9 programs—one department per year—including vests and other safety equipment. Check for current application period and deadlines.
Editors note: This article was updated to reflect the 2018 deadline.