DeWine announces plan to purchase safety vests for all Ohio officers

COLUMBUS — Citing the danger Ohio law enforcement officers face every day as they work to keep Ohioans safe, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced earlier this week, if he takes office as Governor, he will ask the Bureau of Workers Compensation to purchase safety vests for every Ohio peace officer subject to shooting risk.

“Workplace safety is part of the mission of our workers compensation system,” DeWine said. “We owe to our first responders to do all we can to see that they have the best possible protection when facing the dangers that come with the job of keeping Ohio communities safe.”

DeWine said the program is estimated to cost $5.75 million.

“Many police departments and sheriff’s offices across the state are suffering a financial pinch from the opioid crisis,” DeWine said. “As Ohio’s chief law officer, we need to ensure that the officers of these departments have state-of-the-art protection.”

DeWine compared the program to a similar one already in effect at BWC in which fire departments can seek grants to purchase protective clothing for firefighters that insulates them against cancer risk from chemicals at fire scenes. The program would include replacement of older vests now in service.

“We first became aware of this at our own Bureau of Criminal Investigation. We learned that some vests had been in service longer than the manufacturers recommended replacement cycle and we are in the process of replacing those now. My view is that if this is right for my office’s people, it’s right for officers across the state,” DeWine said. “We already are in discussions with BWC about this program, and if a way to implement it before I take office in January can be found, I support that. But if it must wait, I will ask BWC to begin the program my first day in office.”

“Historically in Ohio, this kind of protection has been focused on major cities where shootings were a significant issue,” said Dave Johnson. “The cost of vests is especially difficult for smaller departments to buy. I’m glad to see Mike DeWine put forth a plan to pay for this as Governor. It’s the right thing to do for our law enforcement.”

BWC funds are restricted by the Ohio Constitution to use for worker injury purposes. One of those purposes is workplace safety, and BWC currently is in a strong financial position that will be unaffected by this expenditure.