More than half of U.S. Marshals will be wearing expired body armor by the end of this year, putting them at risk because 13 percent of the expired armor failed to stop bullets during testing.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sent two letters to the U.S. Marshals Service that put some of the blame on agency officials.
"It is troubling that the agency was ready to expend the funds to promote 60 people with no competition, while ignoring the pleas to replace body armor with a 13 percent failure rate currently worn by thousands of operational employees across the agency whose daily job it is to apprehend violent fugitives," Grassley wrote.
Grassley pointed out that the Marshals Service appointed several officers to be instructors in its High Risk Fugitive Apprehension Training Program, but certain criteria was not followed. That, Grassley argued, led to inconsistencies in how the Marshals in that program operate.
"All of these warnings to agency leadership about the breakdown of the program reportedly were given both before and after the Louisiana operation," Grassley wrote, referencing 2015 USMS operation during which an officer was shot and killed by a double-murder suspect.
"For the safety of other deputies and law enforcement officers involved in high risk fugitive operations, this event should be examined — in a transparent manner — in the larger context of the agency's own policies, practices, and reports."
Regarding the body armor issue, the agency is self-required to replace agents' and officers' body armor kits every five years. However, Grassley wrote that more than 2,000 USMS employees will be forced to wear expired armor by the end of 2017.
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