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New body armor to boost officer safety

The Moon police department is replacing almost all of its protective vests, after the manufacturer said the vests may wear out faster than expected.

Police Capt. Leo McCarthy said he placed the order for 22 new vests Friday from Second Chance Body Armor Inc.

The company, based in Michigan, recently acknowledged that its lightweight Ultimax and Ultima protective vests may break down under high heat and moisture, and has offered upgrades to existing vests for free or replacement vests at discount.

“Officers have been in jeopardy,” McCarthy said. “Almost weekly, one of our guys is taking a loaded gun off someone. It may be a traffic stop or a domestic call, but luckily none of us have gotten hurt. We want to get these vests as fast as possible.”

Forest Hills police Officer Ed Limbacher was wearing a Second Chance Ultima on June 23 when a .40-caliber bullet pierced the vest during a drug arrest. The vest, purchased in January, is being tested by the Allegheny County crime lab and the National Institute of Justice.

McCarthy said all departments that use the vests were offered either free inserts to upgrade the current vests, or discounts on Monarch vests with higher anti-ballistic capabilities.

The Monarch normally costs $1,100, but the Moon department will pay $350, which includes the discounted vest priced at $309 and additional inserts costing $41.

Moon police will order the 22 new Monarch vests, and two sets of the free insert upgrades for two officers who are retiring at the end of the year. The department has 30 full-time officers but the remaining six officers are either on disability leave or use a vest by a different manufacturer.

The vests will be paid for through each officer’s $250 yearly clothing allowance.

McCarthy said the department asked Moon supervisors to allow police to use this year’s clothing allowances, and to withdraw $100 from the 2004 allowances to make up the difference. Supervisors agreed.

McCarthy said he does not know when the vests will arrive.


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