Hank Investigates: State Police bulletproof vests - WHDH-TV 7News Boston

Hank Investigates: State Police bulletproof vests

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It's half an inch of Kevlar in a canvas vest, and for Mass state troopers their body armor can be the difference between life and death.

Rick Brown, President, State Police Association of Massachusetts

"You're relying on that piece of equipment to protect you and save your life."

When a piece of equipment is that important - it's important to make sure it gets replaced before it starts to weaken. But our exclusive investigation found hundreds of Mass state troopers are doing their high-risk jobs, wearing department-issued vests that are expired and should be replaced.

Look at this one currently in use by a trooper. The date of manufacture is stamped on the label: 2005 - more than five years ago. That means the manufacturers five year warranty has expired. The president of the troopers union was astonished.

Hank                             

"Should I have had to tell you this?"

Rick Brown, President, State Police Association of Massachusetts

"Absolutely not".

When the union investigated they discovered this vest isn't the only one.

Hank  

"So you're confirming now there are state troopers that are wearing vests that have expired."

Rick Brown, President, State Police Association of Massachusetts

"Yes."

Hank

"How many?"

Rick Brown, President, State Police Association of Massachusetts

"Over three hundred that I know of."

Troopers I talked to were concerned. One told me:

"This is a sensitive issue, and a lot of our guys are probably unaware of it. When it hits, it's gonna be a storm. And rightfully so."

Another said:

"It's only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured or killed."

Rick Brown, President, State Police Association of Massachusetts

"Someone dropped the ball here. These vests should have been replaced. To make sure that our people that are going out there know that the vests will protect them god forbid if something happens.

State Police officials would not talk to me on camera, but issued a statement saying:

"Unfortunately, due to an administrative oversight, the vests in question that have reached the five-year mark were not replaced last year."  

They admit they've found:

Approximately 185 expired vests and are reviewing records to identify the owners.

They insist the department will begin issuing short-term replacement vests this week and the purchase of new vests is already underway and should be completed later this year.

Rick Brown, President, State Police Association of Massachusetts

"I worry every time I go to bed an my phone rings at 2 or 3 in the morning that something happened to one of my members, and I don't want to get that phone call because one of my members was wearing a piece of equipment issued by the department that didn't do what it was supposed to do."

The US Justice Department told me they do have some advice for troopers - keep wearing the vests until you get a new one. They say even an expired vest is better than none at all. 

(Copyright (c) 2010 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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