Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck has joined the chorus of law enforcement officials urging California Attorney General Jerry Brown to appeal to the state Supreme Court a ruling that overturns a ban on body armor for violent ex-felons.
In a letter this week to Brown Beck brought up the 1997 North Hollywood shootout in which two bank robbers with automatic rifles and bulletproof vests traded bullets with police, wounding as many as 11 officers and six bystanders.
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"Besides carrying fully automatic rifles with ammunition capable of penetrating police body armor, they were also wearing military grade body armor," Beck wrote. "The carnage on the streets of North Hollywood that day was a wake-up call then and a reminder today of the dangers of allowing convicted violent felons to have access to body armor."
The law prohibiting most people convicted of violent felonies in the state from wearing body armor was passed the next year. A state appellate court last week overturned the law, however, stating that, in the case of a Los Angeles police stop in 2007 of an ex-con who was wearing body armor, the language of the law was too vague for the suspect to have known his fashion was illegal. The man served 10 years for the crime.
Meanwhile, Beck's letter makes it sound like it's really war out there for some cops, and sometimes it is. He noted that Los Angeles police officers have been shot at in "unprovoked" attacks 12 times since the beginning of 2008.
"The increasing number of assaults with deadly weapons against our front line public safety defenders," he writes, "is a clear indication that we cannot give violent felons the upper hand."