Ohio GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Pledges State Will Buy Safety Vests for All Officers

Mike DeWine (R) and his wife, Frances Struewing (L), with Clark County Sherriff Deborah K. Burchett / @MikeDewine Twitter

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R.) has pledged that if he is elected governor, the state will buy safety vests for all law enforcement officers in Ohio.

DeWine said in a Monday press release he would have the Bureau of Workers Compensation purchase the vests, given a function of the agency is workplace safety.

"Workplace safety is part of the mission of our workers compensation system," DeWine said. "We owe to our first responders to do all we can to see that they have the best possible protection when facing the dangers that come with the job of keeping Ohio communities safe."

In many cash-strapped jurisdictions, safety vests are not regularly issued or are used beyond their recommended life cycle, as the materials in the vests degrade over time. To equip all officers with vests, it would cost Ohio an estimated $5.75 million.

"Many police departments and sheriff’s offices across the state are suffering a financial pinch from the opioid crisis," DeWine said. "As Ohio’s chief law officer, we need to ensure that the officers of these departments have state-of-the-art protection."

Four police officers in Ohio have died so far in 2018, two of them resulting from gunfire. Ohio ranks in the top 10 states for number of officers killed in the line of duty.

DeWine said he learned about the problem from the state's main investigative agency.

"We first became aware of this at our own Bureau of Criminal Investigation," DeWine said. "We learned that some vests had been in service longer than the manufacturers recommended replacement cycle and we are in the process of replacing those now."

"My view is that if this is right for my office’s people, it’s right for officers across the state," DeWine said. "We already are in discussions with BWC about this program, and if a way to implement it before I take office in January can be found, I support that. But if it must wait, I will ask BWC to begin the program my first day in office."

DeWine faces Democrat Richard Cordray, the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in the race to succeed Gov. John Kasich (R.). Kasich is ineligible to run for re-election as a result of term limits.