The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

February 25, 2013

Protect them

Bill calls for protective gear for all law enforcement officers


— Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, is promoting a movement to make sure that all law enforcement officers across West Virginia have access to bulletproof vests.

One bill, aided by the support of the West Virginia Sheriffs Association, would have counties furnish their deputies with the body armor.

A second proposal would extend the same protection to others in the law enforcement profession — state and municipal.

Whether it’s a state trooper, a county deputy or a smaller town police officer, all deserve the protection that a bulletproof vest provides.

Funding has been a source of concern, as it is in many worthwhile initiatives that are brought up each year.

But as Laird stated, when it comes to human lives, “You can’t put a price tag on that.”

A funding mechanism must be developed, and state and federal governments need to help facilitate it.

Vests have become an essential piece of equipment for police officers.

In these days in which we live, criminals don’t hesitate to take the life of an officer, even when caught up in what are seemingly minor infractions.

An officer’s life isn’t considered by the transgressor.

Even in a state like West Virginia, a state mostly isolated from many of the trappings of much larger cities throughout the United States, it’s becoming a Wild West mentality on the streets.

Thugs, dope dealers and crooks arm themselves for a reason — to take out anyone who stands in their way, even if that obstacle is a person of authority, wearing a uniform and a badge.

What is worn underneath that uniform and badge is vital.

Without protection, officers are much more vulnerable to severe injury or death.

Providing vests is an investment in saving lives.

Laird pointed out that in Oak Hill, “We had two near misses, and those officers are here today because they had body armor.”

It’s time we enable all of our men and women of law enforcement to protect themselves as they work to serve and protect us, so an officer can go home to his family at the end of a tough day on the job instead of his family having to visit an emergency room, or worse, plan for his funeral.

It’s our duty to them.