DOJ sets aside $11 million from False Claims Act recoveries to buy bulletproof vests

by Ben Vernia | January 22nd, 2010

The Department of Justice announced January 22 that it was dedicated $11 million of its recoveries in its ongoing bulletproof vest False Claims Act cases to the Department’s Bulletproof Vest Partnership program. Speaking at the National Sheriff’s Association Winter Conference in Colorado:

“There is nothing more basic, or more important, to our work than keeping our law enforcement officers safe,” Attorney General Holder said. “We are dedicating millions of dollars to the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program because it’s vital that we protect the people protecting us every day.”

Since 2007, the body armor industry has paid the United States more than $54 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly manufacturing and selling defective Zylon bulletproof vests. Of this amount, $11 million will be returned to the BVP Program to help purchase approximately 26,000 additional bullet-resistant vests, based on an average price of $800 per vest.

The BVP Program, administered by the Office of Justice Programs’ (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), protects the lives of law enforcement officers by helping state, local, and tribal governments equip their law enforcement officers with bullet-resistant vests. Since 1999, over 13,100 jurisdictions have participated in the BVP Program, with more than $277.6 million in federal funds used to support the purchase of more than 805,000 vests.

BVP funding covers 50 percent of total vest costs for rural law enforcement agencies with community populations of fewer than 100,000 residents. For larger jurisdictions, the program provides up to 50 percent of funding, depending on the annual appropriation from Congress and the amount of funds requested by the rural jurisdictions that apply.

BVP funds may be used to purchase only vests that meet the minimum performance standards established by OJP’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor Standard. The NIJ Standard, updated in July 2008, establishes minimum performance requirements and test methods for the ballistic resistance of personal body armor designed to protect the torso against gunfire.

The most recent settlement was December 7, 2009, with Itochu Corp., for $6.75 million.

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