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Ruling Allowing Felons To Wear Body Armor Should Be Appealed, Officials Say

The union representing rank-and-file Los Angeles police and the chief of the San Francisco Police Department are urging Attorney General Jerry Brown to appeal a state appellate judge's ruling that overturns a state ban on body armor for violent ex-convicts. They want to see the case taken before the California Supreme Court.

The state 2nd District appellate court ruling last week involved a case in which convicted-murderer Ethan Saleem had been stopped by Los Angeles police officers in 2007 as he was free on parole. He was wearing what the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the officers' union, described as a "military style armored vest that had a label reading 'body armor, fragmentation protection.'" The man served 10 years for the violation -- being a felon convicted in a violent crime in possession of body armor. But the court said the law was too vague for people to understand exactly what constitutes body armor.

"That decision wrongly invalidated the ban of those convicted of violent felonies from possessing or wearing body armor," writes LAPPL president Paul M. Weber. He says the union agrees with one dissenting judge, Richard Aldrich, who wrote that "if a violent felon chooses to possess an item that appears to be body armor ... and the garment is actually body armor ... then there is no reason the conviction should not stand."

San Francisco police Chief George Gascon, a former Los Angeles Police Department assistant chief and onetime candidate for the top-cop job here, writes in a letter to Brown that "the court ruled the law unconstitutional because supposedly the average person wouldn't be able to decipher which types of bulletproof vests are prohibited."

"Many of us recall, first-hand, the infamous North Hollywood shootout that saw eleven LAPD officers and six civilians wounded during a prolonged exchange of gunfire with two bank robbers wearing head-to-toe, homemade body armor," Gascon writes. "... Even more disturbing is the reality that criminals increasingly are choosing high-powered firearms as their weapons of choice."

Gascon goes on to cite research that says 40 percent of police departments across the nation report coming across more assault weapons and 50 percent report seeing higher calliber handguns and other weapons used in crimes.

Gascon asks Brown to "take all necessary" steps to appeal the ruling.


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