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Blackhawks pledge $5K to replace cops’ bulletproof vests

Chicago Police Officer Alejandro Lagunas and Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford appear in an ad for Get Behind the Vest, a campaign by the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation to raise money for 8,000 replacement bulletproof vests. | Karl Productions/Vimeo

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford wears protective gear to block shots, and he’s trying to help cops block them too.

Crawford appears in a recent ad campaign for Get Behind the Vest, a renewed fundraising effort to provide replacement bulletproof vests for police officers.

Earlier this month, the Blackhawks announced plans to donate $5,000 to help the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation raise money to buy 8,000 replacement vests.

“We wanted to do something in the area of officers’ safety,” said Phil Cline, executive director of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. “We felt that the big thing would be to make sure the officers’ vests were new and at their best performance to keep our officers safe.”

The Chicago Police Department provides vests only for new police academy graduates. After that, officers have to pay for replacement vests themselves.

Manufacturers recommend replacing them every five years because the protective material breaks down over time, and new vests start at $500, according to Cline.

Get Behind the Vest has provided 6,113 vests so far. The foundation is “right on target” to reach $4 million in fundraising within the year, Cline said.

The initiative relieves some of the financial burden for officers, who might put off buying uniform replacements because they have other expenses and payments to make, Cline said.

“There’s a lot of officers that when they come on the job, their bill is somewhere around $6,000 to $7,000,” he said. “Years down the line, to come up with another $500 is a burden.”

The foundation supplies Level II vests, which offer protection against any kind of handgun and most rifles. If officers want protections beyond that — to stop bullets from assault rifles, for example — they can purchase enhancements on their own.

The Chicago Police Department provides vests for new recruits, but after that, officers have to pay for replacements. | Joshua Lott/Getty Images
The Chicago Police Department provides vests for new recruits, but after that, officers have to pay for replacements. | Joshua Lott/Getty Images

The CPD doesn’t provide vests for its thousands of officers because doing so would be too costly, said Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. But the department does offer replacements for cops who are shot in the line of duty, causing damaging to their vests.

Officers also have an annual “uniform allowance” designed to cover the cost of uniforms, which include vests, Guglielmi said. This method isn’t uncommon for large departments, he said.

Through the uniform allowance, officers each receive about $1,800 per year — three payments of $600 — separate from their paycheck, which is intended to go toward maintenance, upkeep and replacement of uniform items, said Dean Angelo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police.

The vests are just one of many expenses officers have to cover, Angelo said. They also have to purchase authorized apparel including shirts, slacks, raincoats and quality leather boots, on top of paying for firearm maintenance and other gear.

“The money the officers have to spend on uniforms on an annual basis . . . that money gets chewed up quite quickly,” Angelo said. “There’s a lot of expenses that go under the tag ‘uniform.’ ”

The partnership with the Blackhawks is a new fundraising push to kickstart the third year of the Get Behind the Vest initiative to offset those costs, Cline said.

“We thought that Corey Crawford would be a perfect person [for the campaign] because he wears a vest that stops him from being injured during the game,” Cline said.

In the ad campaign, which is expected to air on local television and radio stations in the upcoming weeks, Crawford says his protective hockey gear stops the shot and saves the game. Chicago Police Officer Alejandro Lagunas also appears in the video, speaking about his own vest.

“My vest stopped a shot from a drug dealer’s gun. My vest saved my life,” Lagunas says.

The campaign won’t be over when the initial goal is reached, Cline said. The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation will continue helping officers keep their uniforms up-to-date.

“When we finish the 8,000, we’re now going to have officers whose vests are starting to be outdated,” he said. “Our board has decided to continue to provide [for] these officers as their vests expire.”

Donations to the Get Behind The Vest campaign can be made at cpdmemorial.org or getbehindthevest.org.