At a news conference Wednesday announcing $750,000 in state funding for Long Island police to buy bulletproof vests, the sister of slain Nassau Police Officer Arthur Lopez lamented that her brother would have likely survived being shot if had he been wearing his bulletproof vest.
"No officer should ever walk a beat, respond to a call, or chase down a lead without wearing a bulletproof vest," said Charo Ramos, whose brother was not wearing a vest when he was shot in the chest in 2012 by Darrell Fuller. "Had Artie been wearing his vest on that October day, there'd be a good chance he would be with us today."
State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, alongside Ramos and several police officials, announced the matching grants -- paid for with confiscated crime proceeds known as asset forfeiture funds and called inVEST Partnership -- at Nassau police headquarters in Mineola. Nassau was awarded $498,729 to buy 1,397 vests; Suffolk received $138,210 for 425 vests and the NYPD was awarded $671,359.
Several other Long Island departments, including Hempstead and Rockville Centre, also received grant money, which reimburses departments for half the vests' cost, officials said.
Bulletproof vests have saved more than 3,000 police officers' lives since the mid-'70s -- including on Long Island, according to the Department of Justice. But federal funding for the vests has steadily decreased -- by 81 percent since 2010 in New York State, said Schneiderman, who called the defunding "disgraceful."
Nassau Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter thanked the attorney general for "stepping up," saying bullet proof vests are "not a luxury."
Suffolk and Nassau police require officers to wear vests all the time. Nassau officials said they're replaced every five years due to normal wear and tear. Suffolk said they replace the vests every seven years.
Suffolk Police Chief of Patrol John Meehan said a vest saved the life of Suffolk officer Marlene Tully in 1998 when a man grabbed her gun from her at a Bay Shore gas station and shot her in the chest and arm. "With this money we'll be assured that despite the fiscal situation that everyone's facing right now, these ballistic vests will be available," he said.