Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, January, 25, 2010


Page 3


Cooley Backs Bill to Reinstate Ban on Body Armor


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and California State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, yesterday urged the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to pass and sign urgency legislation reinstating a ban on the possession of body armor by violent felons.

This district’s Court of Appeal struck down the ban last month in People v. Saleem 180 Cal.App.4th 254, holding that Penal Code Sec. 12370 was unconstitutionally vague.

Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, joined by Justice H. Walter Croskey, concluded that Penal Code Sec. 12370 incorporated the technical definition of body armor contained in the Code of Regulations, which entailed a rigorous testing regimen requiring the use of sophisticated testing facilities to establish that a particular vest will protect against specified ammunition.

Klein reasoned that a person of ordinary intelligence would have no reasonable way of knowing if a particular vest met the stringent requirements necessary to qualify as body armor under the regulations. This failure to provide fair notice “in terms that are meaningful to people of ordinary intelligence,” she said, offended due process.

In response, Cooley said yesterday he is supporting Senate Bill 408, authored by Padilla, which defines body armor as “any bullet-resistant material intended to provide ballistic and trauma protection for the person wearing body armor.” The bill would also make it possible to charge any person convicted of a violent offense who is later found in possession of body armor with a felony.

The Senate Public Safety Committee approved SB408 last week and referred it to the Senate Appropriations committee.

 Cooley said that “possession of body armor by violent felons is not just a law enforcement issue,” but also a “serious public safety concern for our communities,” citing the 1997 North Hollywood shootout between police and two heavily armed and armored bank robbers.

The robbers engaged 350 Los Angeles Police Department officers for an hour, and first responders were unable to stop them until a SWAT team arrived with higher caliber weapons that were able to piece the robbers’ armor. Both robbers were killed, and 10 police officers and at least five other people were injured.

Cooley said the nationally-televised incident proved that “criminals protected by body armor have no regard for the public when they exchange gunfire with police.”

Others on hand to show their support for the measure included executives and representatives from the LAPD, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, the California Police Chiefs Association, the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, the Los Angeles School Police Association and the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association.


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