Body armor, bad guys and weapons: a deadly mix E-mail
Written by Paul M. Weber   

Criminals are packing more heat,” proclaimed a USA Today headline of December 16th, 2009. The story – based on a survey by the Police Executive Research Forum – confirmed the trend many law enforcement professions have witnessed in recent years:  criminals are increasingly choosing high-powered firearms as their weapons of choice. Little did we know when we read that story the added significance and urgency it would take on within the same week, when the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles overturned a 1998 California law that bans possession of body armor by anyone with a violent felony conviction.

Incredibly, the court ruled the law unconstitutional because supposedly the average person wouldn’t be able to decipher which types of bulletproof vests are prohibited. As articulated in our press release “Police officers in danger because of court ruling,” the LAPPL is dismayed and outraged by the court’s decision.

The origin of this completely common-sense law was a pair of high-profile cases in California in the 1990s – the killing of San Francisco Police Officer James Guelff, murdered by a robber wearing full body armor, and the infamous North Hollywood shootout that saw eleven LAPD officers and six civilians wounded during a prolonged exchange of gunfire with two bank robbers wearing head-to-toe assembled body armor.

Nearly 40 percent of police departments surveyed in the USA Today article reported an uptick in the use of assault weapons. In addition, half reported increases in the use of 9mm, .40-caliber and 10mm handguns in crimes. USA Today said the data offered one of the broadest indications of officers’ concerns about the armed threat from criminals involved in murder, assault and other weapons-related offenses.

Now factor in the pending early release of tens of thousands of inmates from state prisons, and we have the ingredients of a public safety crisis of unprecedented proportions. It is a somber and disturbing way to end 2009, and it heightens our concern over what police officers will face on the job in 2010.

What’s needed now is bold and swift action by public officials to ensure appropriate laws are in place and enforced, and criminals remain in prison to complete their sentences. We have requested that California Attorney General Brown immediately appeal the 2nd District Court’s decision, and will be carefully watching other cases that affect law enforcement job safety – in what is already a dangerous profession, we can’t hand criminals the tools they need to protect themselves while attacking our officers.

Paul M. Weber is the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL). Founded in 1923, the association represents the more than 9,900 dedicated and professional sworn members of the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPPL can be found on the web at www.LAPD.com.


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