NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Police Chief William Parenti does not expect that his department will be a major part of the settlement announced yesterday regarding faulty Second Chance bulletproof vests despite most of the vest being sold in North Plainfield.
"The state says they are still calling departments to discuss the settlement," said Parenti. "But we tend to use different brands so we don't expect much."
Under four governors, both Democrat and Republican, the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs sought recompense from bulletproof vest manufacturer Second Chance Body Armor for vests that deteriorated and failed quickly both before and after it entered bankruptcy in 2004. The issue sat in bankruptcy court until August 2013 when New Jersey obtained an Order to distribute over $173,778.90 to less than 100 affected New Jersey police departments.
More than 260 departments bought the vests, the majority of them from Ray's Sport Shop in North Plainfield. Ray's was simply a reseller, and had no culpability in the bankruptcy or civil cases. The popular hunting and outdoors business closed in 2008 for unrelated reasons.
"We bought most of our supplies from Rays," said Parenti. "But not that particular brand of vest."
North Plainfield didn't use the Second Chance vests due to the high costs of the product, which were more expensive due to their lightweight nature. However, they accomplished that advantage through the use of a polymer called Zylon which was both stronger and lighter than Kevlar but deteriorated much faster and put users at risk. One police officer in Oregon died because a vest failed to protect him.
“For years before it finally went bankrupt, this company’s so-called bulletproof vests had the potential to put police officers’ lives at risk,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “We have never lost sight of our commitment to reclaim the money that New Jersey police departments paid for this defective body armor.”
Parenti said that North Plainfield receives grants from the State of New Jersey that purchase new vests for a fifth of the department annually.
"These vests are scheduled to be replaced every five years," said Parenti. "So our property tax payers are getting these expensive items for free."
Parenti did allow that the deparment may have purchased a few of the vests more than a decade ago, but did not think that there was much in the way of compensation from either the civil suit or the bankruptcy settlement.