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Regional News

Police departments get new vests through state-funded program

Ellen Abbott
Bulletproof vests, like the one shown, have been given out to several regional law enforcement agencies, including the Syracuse and Utica Police Departments.

A new state program is providing bulletproof vests for police departments across the state. One Syracuse Police detective is living proof of how important these vests are to an officer on the street.

It was April 13, 2009, when Syracuse Police Detective Richard Curran and his partner found themselves in a shootout on Syracuse’s south side with a wanted parolee who was carrying an illegal .357 handgun. Curran was wearing an up-to-date bulletproof vest, and was shot at close range.

“The first round struck my vest in the lower back area at a distance of only 4 to 6 feet," Curran said. "The bullet traveled through the carrier and struck the vest. The Kevlar-like material inside the vest was strong enough to withstand the force of the projectile. If I wasn’t wearing a vest that day, or if the projectile had traveled through the vest, then I wouldn’t be standing here today.”

Police officials say these high-tech vests are as important as any other crime fighting tool available to cops. But the thing with these vests though, says Curran, is that they don’t last forever.

“Unfortunately with bulletproof vest technology, the effective lifespan is only five years," Curran said. "So it’s important to not only wear your bulletproof vest, but update it every five years, because that’s all it’s mandated to ensure that protection.”

So police departments are very happy about the state’s "InVest" partnerships.

A recent round of funds will support the purchase of 215 vests for the Syracuse Police Department;  92 for the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department; 50 for the City of Utica Police Department and 277 for New York State Police.

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler says that really helps in a city that’s strapped for funds.

“We’re going to have to purchase vests for our officers anyway," Fowler said. "Now we’re going to use that money for some other law enforcement tool that’s going to help the officers out, that’s going to help the community out, that’s going to make us all that much safer.”

This state program replaces a federal partnership that’s become the victim of gridlock in Washington, D.C. Curran says these vests may be more important now than ever.

"With the violence today, and unfortunately many criminals are armed with higher caliber firearms," Curran explained. "The fact that we have newer vests allows police officers to go do their job with the peace of mind that they have the latest equipment to enhance their protection."