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Posted: 12/18/2005 2:56:41 AM EDT
State law enforcement seeks to replace potentially bad
body armor

KFWB News 980 -- News, Traffic, Dodgers

Dec 17, 9:32 PM EST

State law enforcement seeks to replace potentially bad
body armor
Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Schwarzenegger administration is
moving too slowly to replace hundreds of bulletproof
vests that the federal government has warned could put
law enforcement officers' lives at risk, a union
official charged Saturday.
"It's despicable," said Chuck Alexander, vice president
of the prison guards' union, the California Correctional
Peace Officers Association. "It's already a dangerous
job. With defective equipment, it just makes it that
much more dangerous."
Earlier this month, the California Department of General
Services began collecting the suspect vests after
notifying state agencies in September of the potential
danger, said department spokesman Matt Bender.
The move came after an August advisory from the U.S.
Department of Justice. Body armor with the Japanese-made
fiber Zylon might degrade faster than expected and allow
bullets to penetrate, "creating a risk of death or
serious injury," federal officials cautioned.

About 5,890 vests containing Zylon were purchased by
California agencies in recent years. Although they
didn't have precise figures, state officials estimate
that hundreds remain in use. Some agencies began
purchasing new gear before the August advisory, Bender
The California Highway Patrol, which began buying new
gear before the latest advisory, has replaced "the
majority" of its 4,390 Zylon vests and ordered a final
batch of substitutes in November, spokesman Tom Marshall
The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
has replaced 1,300 of its 2,100 Zylon vests, worn by
parole agents and other officers.
Alexander said he voiced concerns about the equipment to
state officials last year.
"They told me a year ago they were going to fix the
problem," he said, adding that the $50 million
California spent on last month's special election could
have gone toward vests.
Corrections spokeswoman Elaine Jennings rejected the
union's claims, saying the agency started buying the
replacement equipment early this year, long before the
U.S. Justice Department's latest warning. With police
agencies across the country also looking to exchange
vests, manufacturers can only deliver so many at once,
she said.
"As soon as we found out there was a problem with the
quality of the vests we made a move to replace them,"
Jennings said. "It wasn't a matter of funding ... We
have moved to replace them as a fast as humanly
A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger referred
calls back to the corrections department.
The Department of Parks and Recreation expects to swap
roughly 300 Zylon vests still being used by its public
safety officers in five to seven months, agency
spokesman Roy Stearns said.
Questions about the safety of Zylon vests arose in 2003
after a Pennsylvania officer was wounded in the stomach
when a .40-caliber bullet pierced his vest. The same
year, an Oceanside, Calif. officer, Tony Zeppetella, was
shot and killed while wearing a vest made with Zylon.
Those vests were made by Second Chance Body Armor Inc.
The Michigan-based company is the target of lawsuits by
various state and federal officials. The U.S. Justice
Department is investigating allegations that the company
sold defective bulletproof vests for President Bush and
others, then waited nearly two years to alert customers
of a possible hazard.
California agencies bought their vests from two
different companies - Tennessee-based Protective Apparel
Corporation of America and Massachusetts-based First
Choice Armor, Bender said. Messages left with both
companies were not returned Friday afternoon.
Under California's contract with the companies, the
Protective Apparel Corporation of America vest costs
about $234 and the First Choice model $575, Bender said.
Tom Dresslar, a California attorney general spokesman,
said the state has not joined nationwide lawsuit against
Second Chance, though it has filed a claim seeking
restitution for local police agencies and others in the
company's bankruptcy case.

© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Link Posted: 12/18/2005 4:17:11 AM EDT
the "armor" most cops wear is a joke anyway, if your going to bother at all you really should get plates.
Link Posted: 12/18/2005 5:43:37 AM EDT
I understand they would be concerned, why not go out and buy your own instead of waiting for the state. They make 30 thou + a year, get your own then have the state reimberse you
Link Posted: 12/18/2005 2:42:33 PM EDT
my department just replaced all of our vests for the same reason. They town dragged their heels forever before they would let us purchase them. People need to realize we NEED these vest, we are required to wear these.
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