February 13, 2013

They're Sweaty And Stinky But They Still Work

This story is really curious and stinks to high heaven. It is an 11 year old investigation that is suddenly getting media play. As in everything else, follow the money and who was getting what, why this was on the back burner for so long and why, all of a sudden, is this getting reported? IMHO, someone is angling for leverage, probably involved in another criminal investigation and is making like a canary.
Officials call for probe of sale of bulletproof vests
An L.A. County supervisor wants an audit into whether officials broke laws by shipping the equipment to Cambodia. And a Gardena official wants a probe into why the city was used as an intermediary.

Local officials Tuesday called for investigations into the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department funneling hundreds of bulletproof vests to Cambodia through the city of Gardena.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas requested an audit to determine whether officials violated the law in shipping the vests a decade ago to the Southeast Asian country. A Gardena official also said she would be asking for an investigation into her city being used as an intermediary for the unusual transaction.

The announcements Tuesday were prompted by a Times investigation published over the weekend that found that sheriff's ballistic vests were shipped to Cambodia and not declared to customs officials, as required by federal law. Instead, they were stuffed inside one of a number of patrol cars that the Sheriff's Department was shipping directly to Cambodia, avoiding the rigorous vetting process the U.S. government requires to prevent body armor from getting into the wrong hands abroad.

Sheriff's media representatives gave The Times differing accounts about the transaction, initially denying any sheriff's officials were involved in sending the vests to Cambodia, then offering explanations contradicted by records and interviews. The officials involved in the transaction refused to discuss it.
These might be old vests that were handed in by officers who left the force for whatever reason. I knew that my old PD had a problem storing hundreds of these things. They do deteriorate after a number of years from sweat and soiling and we couldn't figure out what to do with them. But they do still offer some protection from handgun and shotgun loads.
[...]It is not unusual for U.S. law enforcement agencies to donate used or obsolete equipment to other departments, including foreign ones. But in this case, the vests were shipped using an intermediary and were not declared on their way out of the country. The vests were ostensibly sold to Gardena, but were never claimed by the city before being shipped to Cambodia.

The U.S. Customs Service launched an investigation into the sale of the vests in 2002, and federal agents were told that the transactions were coordinated by Tanaka, according to records obtained by The Times. A sheriff's spokesman called Tanaka's role minimal, saying it was a former undersheriff who called the Gardena city manager to coordinate the sales.

Customs agents decided not to seek criminal charges, concluding that there wasn't enough evidence to show that anyone involved in the transactions knew the relevant export laws. One expert told The Times that that rationale was "curious" because authorities don't have to prove knowledge of the law to press charges.
With over 9100 cops, the LASD could have had literally a thousand used vests or more hanging around. Nowadays, new Threat Level II or IIA vests cost anywhere from $800 to $1300 apiece (I used to order body armor for new cops before I retired). But my PD never paid a penny for these vests as all new hires were covered under a NYS grant. Since 1998 there is also a federal grant that reimburses municipalities for the cost of providing vests for new cops.
Since 1999, the BVP program has reimbursed more than 13,000 jurisdictions, a total of $277 million in federal funds for the purchase of over one million vests (1,084,081 as of October 17, 2012).
I have a funny feeling that these vests never made it to Cambodia and were diverted somewhere else. Can anyone say "Mexico?" The ATF isn't involved, but maybe we can call this one "Fast and Stinky?"


They Say/We Say said...

I heard - after a fews years old the kevlar breaks down and will not stop anything.
Maybe you are right about only shot pellets.
So, are they dumb about it or sold to someone who would be sent into a situation with a false sense of protection?

sig94 said...

TSWS - we tested used vests and they still worked, even with 12 ga. slugs at close range.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance also tested vests but we did not agree with their methodology, The bullet's impact would shove the kevlar into the ballistic jelly and the BJA personnel would leave it like that for the following rounds. The kevlar layers were deformed and eventually were defeated. The human body is not like that. The kevlar does not get shoved into a pocket and stay there. We straightened the vest material out. But again, I have been retired for some time and I imagine the vests and the testing is more advanced now.

WoFat said...

We were told that after wearing it a "year or so" it's time to get another vest.

Woodsterman (Odie) said...

It kind of smells, huh.

sig94 said...

WoFat - that's just not right. We had to buy our own vests in the 70's and were issued new ones in the early '80's. We tested vests that were about 15 years old and they met performance expectations.

sig94 said...

Odie - some guys never washed their vests. They couldn't sneak up on any one unless they were down wind...

WoFat said...

We were issued the vests. Prior to that I bought my own. Never had occasion to see if they really worked. About which I'm very happy. According to one counting, 17 cops were killed in the line of duty - from our department - during the 27 years I was on the job.

LL said...

The military shifted from the traditional vests to plate carriers partly to keep the plates in service longer than the kevlar, which does break down.