Schenectady Police Sgt. Thomas Kelly was shot in the chest four years ago while executing a search warrant for a homicide that occurred at 935 Maple Ave.
Kelly survived the shotgun blast in February 2010 thanks to the bulletproof vest he was wearing on the scene.
“When that shot was fired, I didn’t see it but I felt the pressure and it pushed me against the wall,” Kelly said. “I quickly realized what it was and drew my weapon to try to see where it came from. The male who fired that round was later taken into custody.”
Kelly said there was a point in time when officers didn’t wear bulletproof vests very often. But now it is a requirement for Schenectady police officers to wear them, he said.
A new statewide program was launched on Monday to provide financial relief to agencies unable to afford bulletproof vests for police officers, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced.
The program, called inVEST Partnership, aims to restore federal spending cuts for police agencies to purchase bulletproof vests. Schneiderman’s office will take $3.5 million from criminal and civil forfeiture funds to pay for the vests.
“I’m glad that the state is stepping forward and doing this program,” Kelly said. “Officers are better educated now as to what the vests do and you hear stories of guys, like me, who survived with the vests. But you also hear stories of officers who did not survive.”
The new program also comes a day after two on-duty police officers in Las Vegas were shot and killed while they were having lunch at a pizza parlor. The shooters — a man and a woman — killed another person at a nearby Walmart, then killed themselves.
Since 1984, 71 officers in New York have been shot and killed in the line of duty, according to Schneiderman’s office.
In 1998, the federal government established a competitive grant program to provide up to 50 percent matching funds for bulletproof vests, but the grants have dropped over the past several years.
Federal grants in New York for bulletproof vests have decreased by 81 percent since 2010, or $3.27 million, Schneiderman said. The inVEST program would seek to restore those funding cuts.
“We have an obligation to do everything in our power to protect those who are sworn to protect us,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “We cannot allow political wrangling in Washington to compromise the safety of New York’s law enforcement community.”
The program will provide matching funds that will cover up to 50 percent for 6,000 to 10,000 bulletproof vests statewide. They will be given to newly hired officers or to replace expiring vests for veteran officers.
Kelly said Schenectady has received a decent amount of funding in federal grants for vests in the past. But he stressed that any additional funding for life-saving equipment is important.
“That was the first time I was shot, and I hope it was the last,” Kelly said. “The vest saved my life. This funding for vests is necessary. I know my family appreciates it, and a lot of officers appreciate it. You never know when you will need it. And when you do know, it’s too late.”