Bulletproof vests now mandatory for police departments; nothing new to Jacksonville

By Beth Anderson on July 22, 2014 at 7:10am

New legislation signed last week has made it mandatory for Illinois police departments to provide bulletproof vests to officers, but the concept is nothing new to officers in our area.

The law requires that the state and federal governments assist police departments in paying for the vests, with the state picking up half the cost for each vest.

Jacksonville Deputy Police Chief Tim Shea says that this is exactly what the Jacksonville Police Department has been doing for years.

“Well I do know there are department and officers that don’t wear them, I’m guessing because of how much they cost. You know, an average vest is probably going to run you $700 to $800. It does get quite expensive and generally they last about 5 years. There’s a lot of costs involved, and it looks as if the state and federal government have built some things in here to help defray some of that cost,” says Shea.

“One incident is one too many, so you just can’t take anything for granted and you need to take all the precautionary measures you can.”

South Jacksonville Police Chief Richard Evans, who has been the Chief of Police for over 30 years, has never had one of his officers shot before. However, he fully supports having a vest for every one of his officers as an added layer of safety equipment.

“We’ve believed in bulletproof vests program for years. They have funded it 50 percent; we received grants from the Justice Department for the additional 50 percent. And it’s an ongoing program that we’ve been involved in, because when you get a new officer a lot of times you are buying a new vest because these vests are fitted for each individual officer,” says Evans.

“I think it’s utmost to provide as much safety equipment for our officers out there on the first line, because you never know when tragedy may strike.”

The law requires a vest for every new recruit unless federal or state funds aren’t available, or if departments provide allowances for officers to buy their own vests.