DENVER -- Business at the Colorado legislature wrapped up with plenty of across-the-aisle arguing about how to spend tax money on roads and state retirement funds. However, lawmakers appeared to be united behind a request from the Governor’s Office to start allocating more money to police body armor protection.
Gov. John Hickenlooper told FOX31, following the shooting deaths of three Colorado peace officers (all of whom were wearing soft body armor vests) within a five-week span earlier this year, he requested the legislature fast-track money for State Patrol ballistic gear.
“At a certain point you say, ‘Oh, my God! Enough!’ And what are the results (of spending that money)? We don’t have to triple check. Let’s make sure that the people putting their lives at risk for the safety of the public – that we’re doing everything we can to protect them,” said Hickenlooper.
The $380,000 supplemental funding request, which was approved by the legislature, was earmarked for hard-body armor, ceramic rifle-resistant plates, ballistic helmets, and trauma kits for the Colorado State Patrol.
A months-long FOX31 Problem Solvers investigation found bullets from rifles were the largest, rising threat to police officers in the past five years.
According to FBI data, at least 25 peace officers were killed nationwide between 2006 and 2016 when rifle fire penetrated their soft body armor vests. Vests commonly worn by police are rated to stop most handgun rounds, but additional rifle-resistant plates are required to be worn to stop higher-velocity rounds.
When a sniper, using a protest as his stage, opened fire on Dallas police in July 2016, records show four of the five officers killed were wearing soft body armor vests.
The Texas Governor’s Office responded by budgeting $25 million -- all of it handed out, no strings attached, to any Texas peace officer who wanted rifle-resistant plates or hard body armor protection.
Governor Hickenlooper told FOX31, on top of the $380,000 in funding for CSP, he’s hoping lawmakers will create a larger fund to help local police agencies buy the safety gear they need.
“At a certain point, quality costs money. You got people’s lives at stake and we need to make sure they got the best body armor there is,” said Hickenlooper.