Chicago Police Memorial Fund aims to raise $4M to help replace bulletproof vests

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The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation is launching a new campaign to buy bullet-proof vests for Chicago Police officers. (WLS)

The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation is launching a new campaign to buy bullet-proof vests for Chicago Police officers.

Each officer gets one vest from the department, but after that they must purchase replacements. The campaign is called "Get Behind the Vest."

Bullet proof vests deteriorate over time. So, manufacturers recommend replacing vests every five years. Chicago Police officers rarely do because the vests can cost hundreds of dollars.

Tuesday night at its annual candlelight vigil, the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation kicks off a new campaign to raise money for new vests.

The bullet proof vest. When on the streets, every on duty Chicago Police officer must wear one.

"It's an absolute necessity, especially with the violence we face day-to-day and the gunfire that is out here in Chicago daily," said Officer John Wrigley, Chicago Police Department.

Officer Wrigley knows about the violence first hand, Nine years ago, he was a victim. Wrigley was shot in the chest during a gun battle with a suspect on the West Side. Wrigley got lucky. Had he not been wearing a bullet proof vest, he would have joined the hundreds of other fallen officers whose names are on this wall.

"It appeared the bullet proof vest caught the bullet just above my heart and saved my life, everything was going to be ok," Wrigley said.

The vest that saved Wrigley's life was only three years old. Every new officer is issued one after graduating from the police academy, but vests wear out after a few years. Officers are responsible for the cost of a replacement, which is expensive. Bullet proof vests run between $500-$1,000 and many officers put off the expense.

"Yes there are a lot of old vests," Officer Wrigley said. "I know a few officers who have 20-25 years on the job and they have and they have the exact same vest they started with."

To help officers buy replacement vests, the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation is launching the "Get Behind the Vest Campaign."

The goal is to raise $4 million to buy new 8,000 new vests.

"Unfortunately, we have 571 officers on the wall and 70 percent of them were killed by gunfire, so this is a very important piece of equipment to have," said executive director Philip Cline.

Cline says since 1980, 40 officers lives have been saved after being shot in the vest. He also says shootings of police officers have increased dramatically here in Chicago and nationwide.

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