Originally created 03/08/06

Sheriff's office gets some reimbursement for vests



Aiken County Sheriff's Office is being partially reimbursed for bulletproof vests it purchased to replace body armor that was recalled by a financially troubled company.

Aiken County Council approved the reimbursement through the Bulletproof Vest Partnership, said Lt. Michael Frank, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.

Operated by the federal government, the program reimburses law enforcement agencies for up to half the cost of new vests.

The sheriff's office was approved for the reimbursement of 36 vests, Lt. Frank said, so it was reimbursed for $10,034 it had spent on the body armor.

All told, however, the sheriff's office purchased 91 bulletproof vests in 2005 at a cost of $67,000.

The office originally had body armor supplied by Michigan-based Second Chance Body Armor Inc., which was hit with a lawsuit in 2004 by Pennsylvania officials who said the company didn't disclose that the vests were prone to failing under certain heat and humidity conditions.

They also lose strength when exposed to fluorescent light for long intervals, the lawsuit contended.

More lawsuits have been filed against the company.

The sheriff's office had been using 79 Second Chance vests from the company's Tri-Flex brand name; it purchased them in 2002 for $37,500.

The company was the low bidder for the vests, which were obtained with a grant from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, Lt. Frank said.

At the time, the lieutenant said, the office hadn't had any problems with body armor from Second Chance. Last year, he said, the sheriff's office decided, out of an "abundance of caution," to replace the vests.

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.