Justice Department to Use Internet to Help Protect Officers

    WASHINGTON, April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Beginning last Friday, a new
Internet-based system will help states, local jurisdictions and Indian tribes
obtain bullet-resistant vests for their public safety officers.  Vice
President Al Gore announced Friday the new system which the Justice
Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) will utilize to distribute $25
million to jurisdictions nationwide.
    "Making this program available over the Internet will enable us to reach
more communities and help protect more law enforcement officers than ever
before," said Attorney General Janet Reno.
    BJA, which is part of DOJ's Office of Justice Programs (OJP), has
identified more than 80,000 public safety agencies in approximately 30,000
jurisdictions that qualify to buy the vests.  Each jurisdiction may purchase
one vest per officer per year and the BJA program will cover half the cost of
each vest.
    "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 -- which keeps statistics on officers who escape harm
because of a bullet-resistant vest and encourages officers to wear vests --
more than 2,325 officers have been saved from injury or death by a vest.
Additionally, the organization estimates 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.
    "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
    Through the Internet system, agencies with personnel eligible for vests
can browse vest models and get information on them through the system.
Participants can also share information about such matters as pricing,
particular features of various models and purchase experiences.
    All of the vests available through the program have been voluntarily
submitted for testing to the National Institute of Justice and meet or exceed
NIJ's standard for effectiveness.
    The program was authorized by the Bulletproof Vest Grant Partnership Act
of 1998, which President Clinton signed into law at a Rose Garden Ceremony on
June 16, 1998.  The legislation was the result of a bipartisan effort in both
the House and Senate and authorizes $25 million for Fiscal Years 1999 through
    The following are Web sites 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/.
    Justice Technology Information Center:   http://www.justnet.org/Pages/home.aspx.
    For additional information about the bulletproof vest initiative, contact
Doug Johnson at 202-307-0703.

    * OJP and its component agencies' press releases are available for use
without restriction.

SOURCE  Bureau of Justice Assistance

CONTACT: BJA, 202-307-0703; After Hours Contact: Doug Johnson,
pager: 888-491-4487