By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
Law enforcement agencies in Montgomery and Fulton counties received a combined $27,000 in grant funding Monday from the state Attorney General's office for the purchase of new bulletproof vests.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman allocated a total of $579,034 in funding for 1,293 vests. It is the first round of awards through the inVEST Partnership, a statewide program that offers law enforcement agencies the opportunity to purchase bulletproof vests for sworn officers. The funding helps offset 50 percent of the costs.
"Every day in communities all across New York, the brave men and women serving in our police departments put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe," Schneiderman said. "We have an obligation to do everything in our power to protect those who are sworn to protect us, and we are. The inVEST Partnership grants we are announcing today will arm brave officers with life-saving vests they might not otherwise have, adding a critical layer of safety to one of the most dangerous jobs in the world."
Montgomery County received $9,854 for the purchase of 20 vests which will be distributed to the county sheriff's office, and the Amsterdam and Canajoharie police departments.
Sheriff Michael Amato said he applied in June for four vests for new deputies who will be hired by the department once they finish training. He was awarded $1,402 for the $3,000 bill.
"This award is a great help to not only reducing the costs of these vests, but being able to provide deputies with this very important piece of equipment so fast," he said, adding that the deputies will have them in time for weapons training at basic school.
Every deputy in the department is issued their own vests, which are made to specifically fit them. Amato said he only purchases a few vests a year, because the funds come out of the uniform budget.
"This would have been a big chunk for four pieces of equipment," he said. "I hope the attorney general continues this program because it is fantastic."
APD received $4,731 for 10 vests and Canajoharie received $3,721 for the purchase of six vests.
Fulton County was award $17,201 for 44 vests.
In 1998, the federal government passed the Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) Grant Act, which established a competitive grant program to provide up to 50 percent matching funds for state, county and local law enforcement organizations to purchase bulletproof vests.
Unfortunately, because of partisan gridlock in Washington, BVP grants to departments in New York state have dropped precipitously in recent years. Since peaking in 2010, grants awarded to law enforcement agencies in New York state decreased by 81 percent, or approximately $3.27 million.
According to the release by Schneiderman's office, since 1984, 71 officers in New York state have been shot and killed in the line of duty and 29 different law-enforcement agencies have experienced gunfire fatalities. The National Institute of Justice estimates that bulletproof vests have saved more than 3,000 police officers' lives nationwide during the same time.