Federal grant funds help outfit Shelburne Police Department with new bulletproof vests

The Shelburne Police are among 34 Vermont law enforcement agencies scheduled to receive bulletproof vests as part of the latest federal funding program led by U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt.

Shelburne is expected to receive $1,594 to help with the purchase of four vests under the grant, according to Vermont’s senior senator.

“We are fortunate to have the grant. We have used them for years,” Deputy Police Chief Aaron Noble said. “It helps when an officer has up-to-date body armor.”

Lt. Allen Fortin, who is in charge of the grant, said the vests are normally good for about four or five years before replacements are needed.

Each vest normally cost about $1,090, Fortin said, with the police agencies covering half the cost. Shelburne has money budgeted for the purchase and plans for a replacement rotation. At least two vests will be replacements and the other two are likely to be used for new hires, he added.

Vermont will get 280 protective vests as part of the $86,918 grant, Leahy said in making the announcement. They will be distributed to 34 police agencies, seven of which are in Chittenden County. Burlington will get the most with 34 vests; South Burlington expects to get seven, Colchester, six; Milton and Williston should get five each and Richmond will get two.

The fiscal year 2017 funding, administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, is made possible under the Leahy-authored Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program. Including these recent awards, Vermont police agencies to date have received more than $1 million to help purchase nearly 4,800 vests.

“In Vermont and across the nation, those who protect our communities increasingly are being called upon to respond to dangerous situations. As recent tragedies have shown us, yet again, we must do all we can to ensure the safety of those who risk their own lives to protect innocent people,” Leahy said in a statement. “We have solid evidence that these vests save lives.”

A former Chittenden County prosecutor, Leahy helped start the vest program after an August 1997 shootout on the Vermont-New Hampshire border in which the gunman killed four people: two state troopers, a judge, and a weekly newspaper editor. Three law enforcement officers were wounded, including U.S. Border Patrol Agent John Pfeifer, who is now chief along the international border between Canada and Vermont, New Hampshire and part of New York.

The gunman in that case, Carl Drega, 62, who was also killed, wore a bulletproof vest, was armed with a semi-automatic rifle, and stole a police cruiser during the wild shooting spree and ambush.

Leahy said the program helps small communities struggling under tight budgets to keep their officers safe. It also provides waivers for those communities that cannot meet the 50 percent federal match.

Nationwide, the program has awarded more than 13,000 jurisdictions about $430 million in federal funds to support the purchase of almost 1.3 million vests as of July.

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