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Massachusetts police to get refund from vest material maker

Boston, Mass.--About 65 police departments around Massachusetts will receive a share of refunds totaling more than $1 million from a Japanese company that sold potentially defective bulletproof vests.

A two-year study by the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Zylon, the synthetic material used in the vests, could be penetrated by bullets. The money is part of a $29 million class-action settlement between Toyboyo, the makers of Zylon, and American users of Second Chance vests that contain Zylon.

"Our hard-working police officers simply cannot be on the streets with defective bullet proof vests," said Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly.

Reilly was the first state attorney general to file suit against the vest's manufacturer, Second Chance Armor Inc. and Toyobo, the makers of Zylon, in 2003.

The vests, manufactured solely by Second Chance between 1998 and 2001, were initially popular because of their light weight. About 5,000 vests were sold to Massachusetts police departments, Rosemary Connolly, chief of the trial division at the Attorney General's Office, told The Boston Globe.

Under the settlement, police departments will receive either $730 for each vest they bought, or an $803 voucher for a new vest.

Vests typically cost between $650 and $1,000,  and the federal government usually subsidizes half the cost of each vest.

Questions about the vests' safety arose in 2003, after a California officer was killed and a Pennsylvania officer was seriously wounded when bullets penetrated their Second Chance vests. Second Chance recalled vests made primarily of Zylon that fall, saying they "may wear out faster than expected."

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