COLUMBUS — More than 50 Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents are wearing bulletproof vests that have expired — despite pleas to management to get them replaced, according to a recently filed union complaint.
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.
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine, said 95 special agents, two evidence security transport officers and two other BCI investigators are among 115 sworn attorney general employees assigned protective vests.
He said fittings for new vests were held in November and January and 18 replacement vests were already on order when the complaint was filed. Fittings for the remainder of the vests are scheduled for this month, he said. One previous fitting had to be canceled because of inclement weather.
“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.
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 have not yet 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 not expired;
— 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.