Girard PD strengthening vest rules in wake of cop killing


GIRARD

Girard officials are strengthening safety procedures, including the policy for officers wearing bulletproof vests, now that the facts of Officer Justin Leo’s death are known.

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins’ report revealed that Leo wasn’t wearing his bulletproof vest Oct. 21, 2017, when shot point-blank by an “unhinged,” gun-obsessed Jason Marble at 408 Indiana Ave.

Police Chief John Norman said he was shocked to hear that, because Leo was normally seen wearing his vest.

The city’s policy states officers are provided a bulletproof vest and “any employee not wearing or having said vest readily available while on duty shall be subject to disciplinary action.”

Shortly after the shooting, Norman made it mandatory for all officers to wear their vest, even for side jobs, and he said officers have complied with no complaints.

“We understand the consequences of him not wearing a vest that night,” Mayor James Melfi said.

The mandatory order is not in writing, however.

With upcoming police contract negotiations, the language on the vest policy could change, Melfi said. He maintains the policy never came up before the fatal shooting because officers, including Leo, tended to wear their vests on duty.

“Times change. We have to change with it,” Norman said.

A survey of Mahoning Valley police departments showed varied policies for wearing a vest.

Read more about the matter in Thursday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.

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