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Long Island

LI police get state funding for new bulletproof vests

Police on Long Island are getting more than $750,000 in state grant funding to help purchase bulletproof vests -- money the Nassau detectives union head hopes gets his members' vests replaced.

The Nassau police department was awarded $498,729 to buy 1,397 vests; Suffolk police received $138,210 for 425 vests and the NYPD was awarded $671,359 for 2,402 vests. Several smaller departments on Long Island, including Riverhead and Freeport, are also getting funds, which pay for half the cost of each vest.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is expected to announce Wednesday the matching fund grants -- paid for with confiscated crime proceeds known as asset forfeiture funds called inVEST Partnership -- at Nassau police headquarters in Mineola.

This latest award is part of $3.5 million in grants from the attorney general's office for the lifesaving body armor that have been steadily defunded by the federal government.

Glenn Ciccone, president of the Nassau Detectives Association, said a small number of detectives got new vests last year, but that most of the department's roughly 340 detectives have complained to union leadership that their vests are old and worn. Ciccone said department officials have been "very, very vague," about the reason for the delay in getting new vests.

"We have many detectives that are out there doing enforcement, making those arrests," Ciccone said. "Every single person on the job should have a vest."

Nassau bought 840 vests in 2013 using capital funding, officials said, to outfit the 2,200-member force with new vests every five years.

Acting Nassau police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said Tuesday that those vests primarily went to patrol officers, "because they wear them every day." He said while some vests worn by detectives or other officers might be older, none are a safety risk.

"The Kevlar is still going to stop a bullet," he said, adding there is always money available to replace damaged vests. The department plans to order about 1,200 new vests using the state funds, including for detectives, "within days" of receiving the grant money, he said.

"We're ready to go," Krumpter said, predicting the vests will arrive about six weeks from the order date.

Krumpter said it's his "pet peeve" when officers don't wear vests -- a violation of department policy. Officer Arthur Lopez was not wearing his vest when he was fatally shot in the chest by convicted cop killer Darrell Fuller in 2012.

James Carver, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said the department tried in 2008 to give retirees' vests to rookie cops. "We fought them and they got their own vests," he said. "We put a stop to it."

Carver said he still gets complaints "from time to time" about vest conditions and added: "I'm not aware of anyone who has a hand-me-down vest -- that's unacceptable. When we hear it, we get it corrected."

More than 3,000 officers nationwide -- including some from Nassau and Suffolk -- have survived shootings since the mid-1970s thanks to body armor, according to the Department of Justice. But federal funding to help police departments buy vests has dropped about 30 percent in the past three years -- from $30 million in 2010 to $21 million in 2013.

In a statement, Schneiderman said, "When our brave law enforcement officers go to work to keep our communities safe, we owe it to them to do everything we can to keep them safe."

Last week, NYPD Det. Mario Muniz was shot in the chest while trying to arrest a suspected sex offender in the West Village. Muniz's vest stopped the bullet, likely saving his life, said Commissioner William Bratton.

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