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Union Says Indy Cops Wear Expired Body Armor

INDIANAPOLIS

The Fraternal Order of Police has accused the Indianapolis Metro Police Department of not doing enough to protect officers.

The FOP said 909 Metro officers, nearly 60 percent of the department, are wearing body armor that has passed the manufacturer's expiration date, which they said is not only unsafe, but also violates state law.

"Someone made the decision, in my mind, purposely made that decision to not outfit our officers in the proper safety equipment, and to send them out there in vests that were falling apart, or soon will be," Sgt. Bill Owensby, FOP president, told RTV6's Jack Rinehart.

Body armor has saved the lives of numerous Metro police officers, including that of Officer Jason Fishburn in July of 2008. Although he was shot in the head, Fishburn's vest stopped a potentially fatal round.

Metro police refused to comment on the record, but off camera, officials said that the vests technically haven't expired, because they got an extension on the warranty from the manufacturer.

But Indiana state law makes no provision for obtaining extensions or waivers. It mandates that the city must replace the vests based on recommendations by the manufacturer. In the case of IMPD, that's every five years.

"It's now like they're putting a price on the equipment that keeps us safe and helps us do our jobs, because they're spending the money on something else," Owensby said. "To me, that's unconscionable."

Metro police officials said that they've ordered body armor for as many as 457 officers, which would cover roughly half who are wearing expired vests.

It's a safety issue that the FOP said the department had five years to plan for.

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