Wayne County, Detroit police send used bulletproof vests to Ukraine

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit police and Wayne County Sheriff's Office officials announced Monday they're donating used bulletproof vests to help Ukraine in its war with Russia, joining similar efforts by law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian troops of committing war crimes against thousands of civilians during the conflict, which entered its 47th day Monday. Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington and Detroit Police Chief James White said the reports of atrocities prompted them to try to help.

From left, Detroit police Chief James White, Wayne County Undersheriff Mike Jaafar and Sheriff Raphael Washington discuss the donation of about 160 expired bulletproof vests to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia at a press conference at the Wayne County Sheriff's Office in Detroit on Monday, April 8, 2022.

"We sit here in the United States, and we’re watching the mass killings that are going on," Washington said during a press conference at his office's Detroit headquarters. "So we came up with an idea to try to get the vests we're no longer using over to the Ukrainian people to help save lives while they defend their area."

The two agencies are sending about 160 vests to Ukraine, with hopes to send more, White said.

"That's what we signed up for in this business — to save lives," White said. "Any opportunity we can take to save someone's life, whether it's in the city streets, the county streets or anywhere, that's what we do."

The donated vests from both agencies were "just laying around," Washington said, and were past their expiration dates. Normally, expired vests are recycled and sold back to other agencies, he said.

White said the vests' expiration date means the manufacturer won't guarantee they will stop the types of rounds they were made to withstand, but he also insisted they provide protection beyond the listed dates.

"There's a date stamp on (the vests), but by all means, something is better than nothing," said Wayne County Sheriff's Lt. Matthew Gloster.

Washington added: "The vests still work. It's not like they stop working after the expiration date."

Washington and White declined to list the monetary value of the donation, although new vests used by most officers in both agencies cost between $400 and $600 each, while vests with more protection, used by special response teams, cost $1,000 to $1,200 each, White said.

The agencies sent both types of vests to Ukraine, officials said.

Detroit police Chief James White and Wayne County Sheriff  Raphael Washington discuss the donation of 165 expired bulletproof vests to support Ukrainian forces fighting Russia's invasion after a press conference at Wayne county Sheriff's Office in Detroit, Michigan on April 8, 2022.

"We hope to send more vests in the future," White said.

In recent weeks, law enforcement and elected officials across the United States have announced similar donations. Last week, the governors of Ohio, Nebraska and Iowa announced they're sending military-grade helmets and vests to Ukraine. 

ghunter@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2134

Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN

The Associated Press contributed.