Cutting budget for bulletproof vests "doesn't make sense"

By Gary Brode |

Published 05/22 2014 10:41AM

Updated 05/22 2014 10:46AM

CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- Police are on their toes, ready for anything. One thing taking officers by surprise is the thought federal funding for bulletproof vests could be cut. WCIA-3's Gary Brode finds out why Congress is at a standstill about the vests.

Some just don't think they're worth the money. But, one police chief group found between 1980 - 2001, about 1,200 officers were shot on-duty. They found about 30% could have been saved by body armor.

A former Champaign officer is thankful he was wearing his one day.

"When I approached the vehicle, the guys inside the car shot me from about four feet, in the stomach."

June 7, 2011, John Murphy nearly died. His life was saved because of what he was wearing.

"In my case, I was real lucky because I had my vest on and the bullet hit the center of my vest, roughly in the center of my stomach and it did what it was supposed to do."

For more than a decade, the bulletproof vest grant gave police departments money to protect their officers, but Congress isn't sure about keeping the program going.

"What measure do we place on an officer's life by not providing him with that kind of tool to protect him or herself?"

Right now, departments, like Danville, use a 50-50 program to pay for the vests. That means, half comes from government funding, the other half comes out of the officer's clothing allowance.

"Impact of the future would be tremendous because of the costs."

A vest has a shelf life of five years and costs about $800. A SWAT vest is about twice that. No matter the price, Murphy says it's well worth the safety it gives.

"There's no question that vest made the difference between me being here today and possibly not having seen the end of the day on June seventh."

He walked out of the hospital a couple hours after being shot point blank. That's why Murphy's shocked it could be taken away.

"That's the single piece of safety equipment that an officer has to rely on and the idea that because of budgetary issues that it's somehow less important today than it was last year or ten years ago, just doesn't make sense to me."

Tuesday was the last day departments could file for next year's funding which is expected to be honored. The vest Murphy was shot in was given to the police academy in the hopes showing the vest which saved his life could save others in the future.

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