ADVERTISEMENT

Law enforcers in Erie County and across the state will be hitting the streets with another layer of protection after the first phase of a $2.8 million funding package for bulletproof vests was announced today by New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

The first round of funding will provide $579,034.39 to support the purchase of 1,293 vests, including 375 vests in Erie County that will be distributed to 12 law enforcement agencies.

Among the agencies: Buffalo Police, 160 vests; Cheektowaga, 49 vests; Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, 20 vests; and Erie County Sheriff’s Office, 52 vests.

“We have an obligation to do everything in our power to protect those who are sworn to protect us, and we are,” Schneiderman stated in remarks prepared for an early afternoon news conference at Main Place Tower.

InVEST Partnership, the state program, hopes to provide police agencies with up to 50 percent matching funds for the purchase of the vests. A $3.5 million allocation from the state’s Asset Forfeiture Account will fuel the grant, Schneiderman said. The allocation represents criminal and civil forfeitures. InVEST Partnership will provide matching funds for between 6,000 and 10,000 vests,

The attorney general’s office began accepting applications on June 9. So far the process has drawn queries from 158 law enforcement agencies in 54 counties that have requested 7,600 vests.

Funding is available either to equip newly hired officers or to replace vests for veteran officers. Approved departments are required to submit receipts for reimbursement by the end of this year.

“Every day, Western New York’s finest leave their loved ones behind with no idea what dangers they may encounter and no guarantee they’ll make it back home safe,” said State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Buffalo. “They proudly take an oath to serve and protect and willingly place themselves in harm’s way in order to keep our families and communities safe.”

The use of bulletproof vests has been credited with saving the lives of more than 3,000 police officers throughout the country since 1984, the National Institute of Justice estimated.

“We need to do everything in our power to protect our police officers and these new bulletproof vests are yet another critical layer of safety that will help us further reduce crime in Buffalo,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

Other Erie County municipalities that will receive the funding are: Blasdell, Evans, Orchard Park, Amherst, Lancaster, West Seneca, Kenmore and the Village of Hamburg.

Countywide breakdowns in Western New York follow: Allegany, 26 vests; Cattaraugus, 21; Chautauqua, 40; Genesee, five; Niagara, 20; Orleans, 43; and Wyoming, five.

email: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com