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July 05, 2003
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Drug seizure money will fund protection

Mo. Sheriff's Department Will Use The $100,000 For Bulletproof Vests

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST.CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. - Nearly $100,000 seized in federal drug busts in St. Charles County will be used to buy the latest in bulletproof vests for sheriff's deputies. "We're putting this money back into the department, and we're going to save lives with it - police officers' lives," Sheriff Tim Swope said.

Swope said the money had involved several large-scale drug operations, including $80,000 from a Weldon Spring case that he had worked on as an agent for the Internal Revenue Service. Money from the seizures is used for items not currently in the department's budget.

"When you're able to take money from a doper and let them know they're paying for police vests, I think it sends a great statement," he said. Recent technology in the materials used to make the protective vests have cut their weight in half without losing protection, Swope said.

Todd Burke of Protective Apparel Corp. of America Armor, said vests made of Kevlar had been replaced by Zylon and Twaron, synthetic-based fibers. The change has reduced the weight of the vests to between two and three pounds, on average. The new fibers also make the vests flexible, allowing officers more mobility.

Swope said the money would allow the department to buy 150 vests, enough to outfit every deputy in the department. Standard vests normally cost about $800 each, but Swope expects to get a volume discount.

Deputies currently are not required to wear the vests, but Swope estimated that 95 percent do, thanks to a push by training officers.

"I would like to see it go up to 100 percent compliance, and I think these new technology vests can do that," he said.

Swope said the department buys only a few vests a year now to replace ones that have worn out. His own vest is 15 years old.

He said he hopes the county will be able to donate or pass on the old vests at a reduced rate to other police departments that cannot afford the protective gear.

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