Union complaint filed over expired bulletproof vests

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - We've uncovered a serious complaint from the officers' union that charges that more than 50 Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents are wearing expired vests.

The problem has become somewhat of a campaign issue in the governor's race, but that aside there are some serious questions.

The one of most importance is simple, are BCI agents safe?

Manufacturers won't warranty them after 5 years as their effectiveness lessens.

The complaint says 53 of 99 vests are more than 5 years old.

And that "the situation is placing these agents at great risk to their safety."

According to the breakdown, 8 vests expired between 2011 and 2015.

But there was a spike in the numbers with 24 in 2016 and 21 in 2017.

Middleburg Heights Police Chief Ed Tomba says he wouldn't send an officer out without an up-to-date vest.

When he began his career in Cleveland, vests were not mandatory and officers paid for them themselves.

These days vests are checked at daily roll call, he keeps a spreadsheet of all the vests' ages and budgets an $1100 stipend for each officer to get a new fitting and a new vest every 5 years.

The issue has become a strong campaign issue.

Richard Cordray has criticized opponent Attorney General Michael DeWine for the lapse and DeWine's office noting that vest fittings were held in November for the 18 vests on order.  Fittings for the other 35 vests are set for later this month.

It also must be noted that the vests in question are ones assigned to officers who investigate crime scenes after the crime, shooting or violence is over.

Still, they are a mandatory piece of equipment.

Tomba summed it up this way, pointing to his own vest "You can see the name of it Second Chance, so that's what it does it gives the guys and gals of law enforcement a second chance to keep working and live their lives."

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