Bay Area law enforcement officials are gearing up to express concern about a recent court ruling on body armor and support for an appeal during a news conference in San Francisco Wednesday.

San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon, District Attorney Kamala Harris and California Police Chiefs Association Acting President Susan Manheimer will be among those participating to protest a ruling by the state Court of Appeal in Los Angeles last month.

The decision struck down a 1998 state law that makes it a crime for a person convicted of a violent felony to wear body armor such as a bulletproof vest.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown has said he plans to appeal that ruling to the California Supreme Court later this month.

Harris said today, “People wearing body armor are prepared to get shot. It also means they’re prepared to kill. The law must protect our officers on the street by keeping body armor out of the hands of all criminals.”

The news conference will be held 10 a.m. at Pine and Franklin streets, the site where a carjacking suspect wearing body armor fatally shot San Francisco Police Officer James Guelff in 1994.

The shooter, Victor Boutwell, was protected by a bulletproof vest, a flak jacket and an armored helmet and was able to fire 100 rounds before he was shot by a police sniper.
The law enacted by the state Legislature in 1998 was entitled the James Guelff Body Armor Act.

It was overturned by a 2-1 vote of a three-judge appeals panel on Dec. 17 on the ground that it was unconstitutionally vague and did not make clear which types of body armor are prohibited to violent felons.

Manheimer is police chief in San Mateo and became acting president of the state police chiefs’ association when the previous chief took a federal job.

Others scheduled to participate in the news conference include San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey, Police Officers’ Association President Gary Delagnes, Los Angeles Assistant Chief Michel Moore and Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul Weber.

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