FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEBJA
TUESDAY, APRIL 13, 1999202/307-0703

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT USING INTERNET TO HELP PROTECT OFFICERS

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Vice President Al Gore announced today that the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is using the Internet to help states, local jurisdictions and Indian tribes to obtain bullet-resistant vests for their public safety officers. OJP's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) will distribute $25 million to jurisdictions nationwide to cover half the cost of bullet-resistant vests. The Internet-based system will be operational Friday, April 16.

"This program represents a landmark accomplishment for OJP," said OJP Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson. "We are proud to employ this state-of-the-art technology to better protect those charged with providing public safety."

According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police/DuPont Kevlar Survivors Club--a partnership established between the two organizations in 1987, which keeps statistics on officers who escape harm because of a bullet-resistant vest and encourages officers to wear vests--over 2,325 officers have been saved from injury or death by a vest. Additionally, the organization projects that 42 percent of the officers who died from a felonious gun shot over the past 16 years would have survived the fatal bullet had they been wearing a vest.

BJA has identified approximately 30,000 jurisdictions that qualify to buy vests with over 80,000 public safety agencies. Due to the potential volume of applications, BJA determined the Internet was the most appropriate and expeditious way to administer this important program.

"Individuals who risk their lives to ensure our protection deserve fast and efficient access to equipment designed to protect them," said BJA Director Nancy Gist. "This Internet system will allow BJA to get funds where they need to go quicker and, ultimately, save lives."

The entire process is paperless and all information provided by the jurisdictions purchasing vests is transmitted via the Internet. BJA has designed the system so that a law enforcement agency or the CEO of any jurisdiction may gain access from any computer any time of day. The system has been secured by measures much like those employed by online services that provide stock and other purchases via the Internet.

BJA has also established a help desk accessible through a toll-free number to help agencies ordering vests navigate the system. Jurisdictions that encounter difficulty accessing the Internet system may call 1-877/75-VESTS for assistance.

Through the Internet system, agencies with personnel eligible for vests can browse vest models and get information on them through the system. They can also communicate with other agencies to find out what types of vests they prefer and discuss their experiences ordering vests. The entire process from determining which vests to buy to receiving payment from the federal government is handled electronically.

This program was authorized by the Bulletproof Vest Grant Partnership Act of 1998. The legislation, which President Clinton signed into law at a Rose Garden Ceremony on June 16, 1998, was the result of a bipartisan effort in both the House and Senate. The Act authorizes $25 million for Fiscal Years 1999 through 2001. Vests obtained through the program must have been submitted voluntarily to the National Institute of Justice and met or exceeded their standards.

Each jurisdiction may purchase one vest per officer per year.

The following are Websites about the program and agencies involved:

Bulletproof Vests: http://vests.ojp.gov.

BJA: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA.

OJP: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov.

NIJ's vest testing program: http://www.nlectc.org.

For additional information about the bulletproof vest initiative, contact Doug Johnson at 202/307-0703.

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After Hours Contact: Doug Johnson 1-888/491-4487 (pager)