California cops protest body armor ruling

January 6, 2010 3:38:26 PM PST
Police officials and elected representatives from the Bay Area and Los Angeles Wednesday urged the California Supreme Court to overturn a recent Los Angeles appellate court ruling which ruled as unconstitutional a law banning violent felons from possessing body armor.

The 2nd District Court of Appeals overturned the ban last month, saying the definition of body armor in the law was too vague.

The law was enacted by the California legislature in 1998 after a nationally televised shootout in North Hollywood between police and two heavily armed bank robbers who were wearing full body armor. The February 1997 gun battle left the robbers dead and 10 officers and five other people injured.

Wednesday's news conference was held at Pine and Franklin streets, the site of another shootout on Nov. 13, 1994 between Vic Lee Boutwell and about 120 San Francisco police officers. Boutwell was wearing full body armor and although he was shot numerous times, the officers rounds failed to penetrate the armor. He was finally shot and killed by a police sharpshooter on a roof, whose bullet struck him in the shoulder between his bulletproof vest and Kevlar helmet.

"If a criminal wears body armor, he's using an offensive weapon," San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon said.

Gascon and others at the news conference said they would lobby for new tougher legislation and also work with State Attorney General Jerry Brown, who will file an appeal between Jan. 17 and Jan 26.

San Francisco District Atttorney Kamala Harris told reporters she will help draft legislation that would make it illegal for not only violent felons, but all felons, to possess body armor.

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