COLUMBUS, (AP) – Records show Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents and supervisors raised concerns about expired body armor for more than a year before a union grievance was filed this May.
Emails released by Republican Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine’s office show behind-the-scenes anxiety surrounding more than 50 bulletproof vests that had passed their five-year expiration dates.
All vests are now on order.
One employee said he was “afraid to ask” how old one officer’s vest was. A supervisor said he wouldn’t allow agents to go through “a single door” until their vests were replaced. An agent started submitting monthly photos of his vest “in case of any misfortune!”
Meanwhile, DeWine was scheduled to receive a personal vest. His spokesman says DeWine didn’t ask for or receive the body armor.
The issue has taken on political overtones with DeWine in a close race against Democrat Richard Cordray for the governor’s office.
The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, which has endorsed Cordray, held a news conference in front of its state headquarters Tuesday. “There is absolutely no reason for an agent with the state of Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to not have basic safety equipment and its a colossal failure of the DeWine administration for our agents to be in this situation,” said FOP Vice President Jason Pappas.
Dan Tierney, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said that “while there are efforts attempting to use this grievance as a political issue, this issue has largely been resolved.” “The vests in question have been purchased and are being manufactured. We are awaiting a delivery date from the vendor,” Tierney said in an statement.
Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said providing new bulletproof vests every five years should be routine. “There’s a point where they start to fall apart,” Baldwin said. “This isn’t a new thing- the five year time limit for vests has been around for many years.”
Pappas said it shouldn’t have to take a union grievance to resolve an issue of safety. “The fact that an issue such as a bulletproof vest protecting an officers life was brought to the administrations attention and it wasn’t immediately remedied, its just disheartening,” Pappas said. “There’s just no reason for it.”