The U.S. Justice Department is threatening to withhold federal aid to local police departments unless they adopt policies that require uniformed officers to wear body armor, reports USA Today. The requirement, as local agencies apply for as much as $37 million in federal aid to purchase bullet-resistant vests, comes amid a surge in fatal shootings of police officers.
Jim Burch, acting director of the department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, said the new federal policy is in response to the spike in violence — a 44 percent jump in fatal police shootings over the same time last year — and research showing that 41 percent of police agencies do not require their officers to wear body armor. “What struck us is the number of agencies that don’t have a mandatory policy, [ ] a potential huge vulnerability,” Burch said. “If we’re investing federal dollars, we should require agencies to have policies.” Last year, the Justice Department distributed $37 million to reimburse 4,127 agencies large and small for the purchase of 193,259 vests.