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L.A. Police Union Livid After Ban On Body Armor For Violent Felons Overturned; Law Was Inspired By North Hollywood Shootout

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Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 7:08 AM
click to enlarge Paul M. Weber - LAPPL
  • Paul M. Weber

The union representing rank-and-file Los Angeles police was livid over the weekend after a judge overturned California's prohibition on body armor for many of those convicted of violent felonies.

After a second district state appellate court judge overturned the 11-year-old state ban on body armor for many violent felons on the streets, Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul M. Weber issued a statement that called it a "ruling from on high with scant regard to the real world."

The law was inspired in part by the 1997 North Hollywood shootout in which 11 Los Angeles police officers and six bystanders were wounded during a shootout with bank robbers who donned body armor and fired military grade, automatic rifles.

But the case of convicted-murderer Ethan Saleem, stopped by Los Angeles police officers in 2007 as he was free on parole, challenged the law. The ex-con was wearing what the union describes as a "military style armored vest that had a label reading 'body armor, fragmentation protection.'"

The court ruled, however, that the California law "is unconstitutionally void for vagueness because it does not provide fair notice of which protective body vests constitute the body armor made illegal by the statute."

Saleem served eight years in state prison after he was found with the body armor.

"Certainly Saleem wasn't wearing body armor because he was going to a job interview or going on a date," writes union head Weber. "Like so many parolees before him and, if early prison releases begin, likely to come after him, he was again engaged in criminal activity."

It's not clear if the ruling will be appealed to a higher court.

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