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WV House bill mandates bullet-proof vests for sheriff's deputies

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A bill passed by the House of Delegates would mandate bullet-proof vests for all sheriff's deputies, effective in July.

House Bill 2717 was introduced by Delegate Bob Ashley, R-Roane, whose constituent was injured in a roadside shootout that left two West Virginia State Troopers dead. Roane County Sheriff's Deputy John Westfall was wearing body armor, which prevented a bullet from penetrating his torso. He did sustain other injuries in the shooting.

House Bill 2717 calls for the sheriff of each county to provide personal body armor, or ballistic resistant vests, to each certified deputy on or within a reasonable time after July 1. Deputies who are not yet certified but meet the requirements for certification also must be issued a vest on or within a reasonable amount of time after he or she is issued certification.

According to language in the bill, the vest must meet the minimum performance standards for the ballistic resistance of personal body armor as established by Standards and Testing Program under the U.S. Department of Justice.

The vests would be paid for by the counties, but the bill encourages county commissions and sheriff's departments to seek federal funds where applicable.

The bill passed the House unanimously, and it will now go to the Senate.