Updated gear comes at a cost

Ben Godar

Despite a federal grant that helps Burbank Police cover the cost of

bulletproof vests, officers might still have to spend some money out

of their own pockets for the lifesaving gear.

This week, the City Council approved a request to reapply for

continued funding from the Department of Justice. Burbank Police have

participated in the program since 1999, receiving about $21,750 to

offset the cost of the vests, police said.

Each Kevlar vest has a lifespan of about five years due to the

rigors of being worn every day, police spokesman Sgt. Bruce Speirs

said. The grant reimburses officers for up to $495 toward the

purchase of a new vest, but Speirs said vests could cost between $600

and $700. Some of the extra cost might come from the officers' annual

uniform allowance, but he said the rest comes out of their pockets.

However, Speirs pointed out that until about 10 years ago,

officers shouldered the entire cost of their uniforms. The city

briefly shouldered the cost until the federal grants became

available.

"I've never heard anyone complain about having to pay $20 or $100

for their vest," he said. "There's a lot of guns on the streets, and

wearing a vest is as accepted by officers as wearing a seat belt."

Officers select their own vests because preferences vary as to

which style and brand is best. Speirs said the department requires

uniformed officers to wear the vests at all times, while

non-uniformed officers must keep theirs on-hand at all times.

The vests will stop all common handgun calibers as well as shotgun

blasts, Speirs said. While no Burbank officers have ever been saved

as a result of wearing a vest, he said national statistics make it

clear the vests save lives.

"It's incredible how many officers have been shot and saved by

these things," he said. "In light of the threats of modern police

work, we can't do our job without it."

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