Attorney General Mike DeWine is teaming up with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to provide grants of up to $40,000 to police agencies to purchase protective vests for their officers.
The new grant program comes as DeWine faces criticism from BCI agents, who complain their vests are past the manufacturer’s warranty dates.
The union representing sworn officers in the Bureau of Investigation and Identification put its grievance, filed in June, on hold while vests are on order, said DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney. The agency is still waiting to get delivery date for the new vests.
At BCI, 95 agents, two evidence transport officers and two investigators are among the 115 sworn officers in the Attorney General’s office who are assigned protective vests.
The Associated Press reported in June that more than 50 agents were wearing bulletproof vests that had expired, despite pleas to management that the be replaced.
Agents who don’t have up to date vests have been fitted and new ones have been ordered, Tierney said. Each vest costs $950.
Internal BCI emails among agents over the past several months show concern about the expired vests possibly putting officers in harm’s way.
DeWine, who is the GOP nominee for governor, put out a press release Tuesday announcing the new program with the BWC to offer grants of up to $40,000 to purchase body armor for on-duty officers. The program would require a local match of 25 percent.
“This new program will help our first responders get the latest body armor, helping to protect them while they do the important work of keeping their communities safe,” DeWine said in a written statement.
Ohio FOP President Gary Wolske said in a written statement that the union’s “members are dismayed at Attorney General DeWine’s politicization of our officeers’ safety. DeWine Allowed more than 50 of his own agents to wear expired Kevlar vests – some of them for more than seven years. Now that this has become a political problem for his campaign, he’s trying to take action for something that has been a safety issue for years.”