By Mike Dougherty

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A huge health insurance company based in Philadelphia is taking a big step to ensure the ongoing health of the city’s men and women in blue.

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Independence Blue Cross is giving the Philadelphia Police Department $100,000 to buy bulletproof vests.

The donation is the beginning of a commitment to help keep all 6,500 Philadelphia police officers safe.

“We’ll figure out, working with the Police Foundation, how we can endow and make sure that the police force doesn’t have to worry about where they’ll get the money to buy these new vests,” Independence Blue Cross CEO Dan Hilferty (center of photo) said today.

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Donations to police are funneled through the Philadelphia Police Foundation, a nonprofit group that ensures the money goes where donors intended.  Foundation president Maureen Rush (at left in photo) says that before the foundation was created, donations would wind up in the city’s general fund with no guarantee that the police department would see a dime.

Police commissioner Charles Ramsey (at right in photo) noted that every year they need to buy about 1,300 new vests — at about $1,000 each.

“We have to replace these vests every five years because of the fact that the material does degrade over time,” he explained.

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Ramsey was thankful, and said the police department would not be able to continue important programs without corporate support like this.