LIMA — “Unacceptable and inexcusable” were the words Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Betty Sutton used to describe reports that Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations agents were using expired bulletproof vests while under the watch of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
Sutton visited Lima to speak to a group assembled at United Auto Workers Hall on Thursday afternoon.
“Our law enforcement officers represent the best in us. They keep us safe, they maintain the peace, and they do it all at a tremendous personal cost. We need to keep our law enforcement officers protected and safe,” Sutton said.
Dan Tierney, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said Cordray’s campaign has been rehashing the issue for political purposes.
“The most recent purchasing process begin in late 2017, during which a grievance was filed. Once Attorney General DeWine learned of the grievance, he asked BCI administration to immediately schedule fittings for the remaining affected agents. All vests for affected agents not on leave have been delivered and are in the process of being distributed to agents,” Tierney said in a statement.
Sutton countered, “These are 50 law enforcement officers who could have been any of our law enforcement officers. This is an extraordinarily important issue. It’s a value statement about how we value law enforcement, who we see as our priorities in this state, what we see as priorities in this state. It should not take a grievance and years of asking for basic equipment from law enforcement to make this happen.”
Local Desert Storm veteran Courtney Gaiter briefly took the stage beside Sutton during the press event with an example of a piece of shrapnel he collected during his time overseas to point out the importance of protective vests.
“(Body armor) means a lot. When you don’t have it on, you don’t feel right,” Gaiter said. “(Officers) need all the protection they can get. I know the vests are needed. The upgrades are needed.”
Sutton also called on DeWine to clear the redactions made to a series of emails released earlier this month that give light to some of the concerns from agents about the expired body armor. The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police and Franklin County Sheriff made similar demands Tuesday.
“Examples of information covered by these specific redactions would be employees requesting medical leave or personal leave, as well as mobile phone numbers for undercover agents. The fact that they are demanding the release of such sensitive information is just another political gimmick,” Tierney said in an email.
Sutton said, “It is unacceptable and inexcusable to send agents into dangerous situations … on our behalf without the safety equipment that they deserve and should have. And that is what we’re saying and we want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.