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Cordray-Aligned Sheriffs Slam DeWine Over Expired Bulletproof Vests

Ohio Attorney General and Republican governor candidate Mike DeWine addresses supporters after winning the primary election, Tuesday, May 8, 2018, in Columbus.
Bryan Woolston

Ohio Sheriffs are criticizing Attorney General and Republican candidate for Governor Mike DeWine over expired body armor. 

A Bureau of Criminal Investigation officer has filed a labor grievance alleging more than 50 agents are using expired bulletproof vests. Companies back the ballistic panels woven into the vests for five years, and the complaint alleges 20-plus vests have expired in each of the last two years.

As attorney general, DeWine oversees the BCI.

Speaking on a call organized by Democrat Richard Cordray’s campaign, Ottawa County Sheriff Stephen Levorchick says providing adequate safety gear is a fundamental responsibility.

“Asking these men and women to go out and do the job they do every single day, and not providing them the equipment to do it safely so that they can return home to their office is an asinine request—by any executive in law enforcement,” Levorchick says.

He’s particularly frustrated because his department gets a 50 percent break on vests through a federal cost-sharing program.

"And it would've been the same way also for the state of Ohio had that bullet proof vest partnership been utilized properly,” Levorchick says. “And it seems like from what I’ve heard it wasn't used at all."

The agency has applied for funding through the program in the past, but the partnership is aimed at smaller departments.  The last two times BCI applied, in 2013 and 2015, their applications didn't receive awards because all the available funding had already beeen distributed.

Sheriff John Lenhart from Shelby County says the expirations raise questions about DeWine's leadership.

"I think that's an example in my opinion of the management of attorney general DeWine—very short-sighted,” Lenhart says. “I use this as an example, if you can't manage 1,500 people in the AG's office how are you going to manage 25,000 in the governor's office?"

A Dewine spokesman says the agency has spent $137,000 on vests since he took office with bulk orders in 2011, 2012 and 2014. Their most recent order was for 18 vests in May, and they plan for every agent to have a new vest or a vest fitting by the end of June.

This story has been updated to reflect BCI's applications to the Bulletproof Vest Partnership.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.