Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 17, 2004

City's deputy sheriffs getting Kevlar vests

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

Honolulu deputy sheriffs have received the first of 240 new bullet-resistant vests and the remainder are expected to arrive in January.

Working with a local distributor, the state Department of Public Safety ordered the Kevlar vests in September from Second Chance Body Armor, of Grand Rapids, Mich., and paid for them with $163,000 in federal funds that DPS received to bolster homeland security.

Second Chance filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October.

Seven state attorneys general have filed lawsuits against Second Chance over body armor containing Zylon, a lightweight material alleged to be defective in some vests worn by officers.

The vests ordered by the state are made of Kevlar, not Zylon. State officials say they knew about Second Chance's woes before placing the order.

"We knew their company was having some problems but we've used the company in the past and we've had very good luck with service with them," said James Propotnick, deputy director of law enforcement for DPS. "We're pretty sure of the science which is why we went with the 100 percent Kevlar."

Randy Kusaka, spokesman for the Hawai'i Government Employees Association, the union representing the deputies, said HGEA was not involved in the purchase and would "talk to our members (the deputy sheriffs) and find out their concerns."

Jerrold Guben, a lawyer with Rheinwald O'Connor & Playdon, said the bankruptcy issue should not automatically eliminate the company as a vendor. He said companies that file Chapter 11 are under federal and state oversight and are scrutinized.

Second Chance made public its concerns about Zylon in September 2003. As of Dec. 16, Second Chance company spokesman Greg Smith said they have replaced more than 90,000 Zylon vests with Kevlar products.

He said the cost of replacing the vests, coupled with attorney fees to defend lawsuits, forced the company into bankruptcy.

"With the exception of American Body Armor, we're the only company that has gone public with the Zylon issue and, frankly, we're the only ones doing anything about it," Smith said.

Smith said Second Chance has settled several claims with individuals, but none of the lawsuits levied by state attorneys general have been settled.