Agent files complaint over expired bulletproof vests

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — More than 50 Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents are wearing expired bulletproof vests despite pleas to management to get the vests replaced, a recently filed union complaint says.

Body armor has become common in law enforcement, and special agent Larry McCoy told the Ohio Labor Council in a May 3 grievance that “the situation is placing these agents at great risk to their safety.”

His complaint lists 53 of 99 special agents, investigators and personnel transport workers whose assigned Kevlar vests have passed the five-year expiration date set by the National Institute of Justice.

Ballistic panels woven into the vests are designed to stop bullets for five years, even with heavy wear and tear. After that, though, manufacturers no longer guarantee their effectiveness in attacks.

A spokesman for Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine said 95 special agents, two evidence security transport officers and two other bureau investigators are among 115 sworn attorney general employees assigned protective vests.

Spokesman Dan Tierney said fittings for new vests were held in November and January and 18 replacement vests were on order when the complaint was filed. Fittings for the remainder of the vests are scheduled for this month, he said.

“This is not the first set of vest purchases in the DeWine administration,” Tierney said. “We do routinely replace this type of equipment, as well as other equipment around the office. It certainly would not be uncommon for staff members to inquire when they might have their equipment replaced.”

DeWine is the Republican nominee for governor. He faces Democrat Richard Cordray, the former federal consumer watchdog, in November.

A Cordray spokesman said DeWine let the state’s special investigators go into the line of duty “year after year after year” without the equipment they needed to keep them safe.

“It’s shameful that DeWine’s office let these women and men serve Ohio in expired bulletproof vests — and it’s obvious what he’s doing,” Cordray press secretary Mike Gwin said. “Now that it’s 2018 and he’s running for Governor, he has ordered a few vests to cover his tracks. Ohioans deserve better.”

McCoy is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police. In his complaint, he said, “It is understood that management has fitted some agents, but these new vests have not been received and not all agents who’s (sic) vests are expired were fitted.”

He said the issue had been discussed with management, “but the situation remains.” Tierney said the 18 new vests were ordered in March but haven’t arrived.

According to information from McCoy:

— Eight vests were purchased before DeWine took office in 2011 and expired between 2011 and 2015.

— 24 vests were purchased in 2011 and expired in 2016.

— 21 vests were purchased in 2012 and expired in 2017.

— One vest was purchased in 2017 and is unexpired.

— Two agents have no assigned vest.

Tierney said the office has spent $137,000 on vest purchases since 2011, including bulk purchases in 2011, 2012 and 2014. He said vests are paid for with criminal forfeiture funds.

Julie covers government and politics from Ohio.