Over the years, Point Blank Enterprises, a Pompano Beach body armor manufacturer that makes bulletproof vests and body cameras, has bounced back from its controversies with a zombie-like resistance.
In 2010, former CEO David H. Brooks, who illicitly used company funds to buy himself a $100,000 jeweled belt buckle and to hire A-listers 50 Cent and Tom Petty to play his daughter's bat mitzvah, was sentenced to 17 years for insider trading and fraud. A year after he was shipped off to prison, the company was slapped with $1 million in federal fines for knowingly selling defective bulletproof vests to the military.
But Point Blank emerged from those scandals — and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy — with the ease of a Walking Dead character. Now the company faces its next big challenge in the form of a class-action lawsuit from police unions in Florida and Ohio. The case, filed last week in federal court, claims officers across the nation are being sent out on patrol in faulty bulletproof vests that cost $700 a pop.
"The SSBS vests pose a life-threatening safety issue and cannot be reasonably relied upon for their intended use," the suit alleges. "[Point Blank]... concealed that these vests contain a manufacturing defect, which has created an imminent and substantial danger and risk of injury and death."
Point Blank issued a statement Monday denying the accusations. The company says despite the fact that millions of its vests have been sold, "no officer has been injured" as a result of the alleged design defect.
"Our reputation has proven with more than 40 years of experience and expertise saving and protecting lives of law enforcement officers, soldiers, sailors, and Marines of the United States of America that Point Blank provides a high-performance, quality body armor product," CEO Daniel Gaston says.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday by the Ohio State Troopers Association and the International Union of Police Association, a Sarasota organization that represents officers in Florida and across the nation. According to the complaint, the vests don't adhere to the design standards used by other manufacturers, causing the shoulder straps to disconnect from the ballistic panels — which stop bullets — on the front and back of the vests. When the straps come loose, officers are forced to stop what they're doing and find a safe space where they can duct-tape or safety-pin the vest together, the police unions say.
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The complaint names three troopers in Ohio who say they purchased the vests only to have them unfasten in the field. Trooper Trevor Koontz says he was on foot patrol for the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland when his vest came loose, causing a major safety issue. But Koontz says that when he confronted Point Blank about the problem, the company refused to honor its five-year warranty.
The unions say they also discovered the company is selling vests that appear to be new but actually contain old ballistic panels, which can break down and become less effective over time. One vest purchased in April 2017 was apparently sewn with ballistic panels manufactured in September 2012, according to the lawsuit.
"[Point Blank] has concealed the defects in the SSBS vests, has refused to notify any purchasers or users of the defects in the SSBS vests, and has refused to recall them," the suit says.
Attorneys for the police officers did not respond to a request for comment from New Times Monday. U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro has given Point Blank until November 8 to respond to the allegations.