US police agencies are sending protective gear to Ukrainian civilians in what experts call an unprecedented move

A Ukrainian civil defender holding a vest that was provided by the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council after one of the shipments of donations arrived in Ukraine.

(CNN)The governors of Iowa and Nebraska announced last week interagency initiatives to donate police protective gear, including military-grade equipment such as helmets and vests, to Ukraine to help civilians defend themselves against Russia's invasion.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said his state will send 550 pieces of protective gear and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said her state's department of public safety and 18 law enforcement agencies will provide Ukraine with 860 pieces of gear.
    The agencies join a growing list of police departments -- from California to Ohio to Vermont -- that are donating non-lethal police gear to aid Ukrainian civilians, according to a CNN review of state-by-state efforts and interviews with some of those involved.
      Among the agencies contacted by CNN, and the non-government groups gathering supplies, none have said they're collecting weapons or ammunition.
      Many of the police departments involved in these efforts are working with charity organizations and former members of the US military. Some sources with direct knowledge of the varied efforts -- but who are not involved -- spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity due to concerns about potential legal questions the effort could raise.
      It's unprecedented, experts say, for US law enforcement agencies to donate police protective equipment and military-grade gear to a foreign country involved in an ongoing war. The effort also raises questions about the roles of police departments and whether, as domestic law enforcement agencies, they should send equipment to a foreign conflict outside of their jurisdiction.
        Because there's no central coordinating group, there's not an easy way to say what's being shipped or whether it's subject to export regulations.
        Donated protective vests after they arrived in Ukraine for distribution around the country.
        The Ukrainian American Coordinating Council (UACC), a non-profit organization, is at the center of one effort to send regulated, military-grade and police protective items to Ukraine, including ballistic helmets, hard plates, soft armor inserts and vests, the group says. 
        When Russia's invasion of Ukraine began, the UACC moved quickly to obtain a license from the Department of Commerce to export level III ballistic vests and helmets, as well as a special authorization from the State Department for level IV vests in a limited capacity, according to the organization.