White House Body-Camera Grant Modeled on Lapsed DOJ Program

The White House proposal for new grants to help police buy body-worn cameras is modeled on an existing bulletproof-vest grant program, a senior administration official said when the community-policing plan was unveiled in December.

But that model program is, itself, in need of a renewal from Congress.

Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy — the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee — recently introduced such a reauthorization, along with South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

The Justice Department’s Bulletproof Vest Partnership program helps law enforcement agencies buy vests for police officers. According to Leahy’s office, the program has issued more than 1 million vests to 13,000 state and local law enforcement agencies since it was established in 1999. But the program’s authorization lapsed in 2012.

During the 113th Congress, the Judiciary panel advanced then-Chairman Leahy’s proposal. But the legislation stalled on the floor over Republican objections to federal involvement in state and local police matters.

An aide to newly minted Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, did not respond when asked whether the committee would take up Leahy’s bill this year.

Across Capitol Hill, Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, R-N.J., is the sponsor of a similar House bill. His 2013 proposal was never taken up by the House Judiciary Committee.