The Cedar Grove Police department has garnered numerous distinctions over the years, and now thanks to a councilman's donation, its officers will be on the cutting edge of body armor technology.
The Ballistic Under Garment Gear, or B.U.G.G., resembles a beefed-up pair of bicycle shorts outfitted with bullet-resistant padding on the inner thighs designed to protect the wearer's femoral artery. It's an added layer of protection that could mean the difference between life and death.
"If an officer is shot in that area it could be very fatal very quickly," said Councilman Joseph Chiusolo, who donated the 24 B.U.G.G.s to the department, enough to outfit every officer on the force, making Cedar Grove one of the first municipal police departments in the nation fully-equipped with below-the-waist protection.
Sgt. Bill Fearon, a Cedar Grove resident and a 17-year veteran of the New Jersey State Police, invented the B.U.G.G. in 2010 when he noticed a large number of gunshots suffered by police officers were below the waist.
Fearon pointed to the near-fatal shooting of a Fairfield Police officer in 2010 as a real-life example of how the B.U.G.G. could have helped.
Officer Gerald Veneziano nearly bled to death when a suspect shot him below the waist Jan. 30 of last year, striking his femoral artery. If not for an emergency services crew that happened to be nearby, Fearon said Veneziano may not have survived.
Fearon said when he demonstrated the B.U.G.G for Veneziano, he said, "That would have saved me a lot of pain."
The ballistic padding of the B.U.G.G. is rated at Level IIIA; the same level of protection of most police departments' bullet-proof vests. It has been tested effective against .38, .40, .44, .45, and 9mm caliber bullets, even at point blank range, and is designed to provide full mobility when worn in the field. They retail for $239 for two pair of shorts and a set of ballistic pads.
Chiusolo noted that tough economic times means more crime and more potential danger for officers, especially during late-night vehicle stops on Route 23.
"Having Route 23 come through our town puts our police officers into much more danger than in certain segments of town. At 2 a.m., when pulling someone over on Route 23, it's as dangerous as being on the [New Jersey] Turnpike or [Garden State] Parkway where the state police are patrolling," he said.
Chiusolo, whose Totowa- and Jersey City-based Turn Out Uniforms company provides uniforms and protective gear for police, fire and other emergency personnel, said he hoped the garments would protect an officer in the event of a shooting.
"I thought it would be a good opportunity to provide a donation to the police department so the officers here are completely protected," he said.
"Lets hope they're not in a situation where they're attacked, but if it does happen, we want to make sure they're properly outfitted."
Cedar Grove Police Captain Richard Vanderstreet said B.U.G.G.s have been provided to each of the department's 24 officers, and will be offered to new hires down the road.
"I think its wonderful. I think it provides another layer of protection of our officers, and I think it's a great product," he said. "I'm grateful to Bill for inventing it and to Councilman Chiusolo for donating them to our officers."
To view a video demonstration of the B.U.G.G. in action, click here.