IOL Online
October 19, 2005

NY police offer gardaí anti-stab vests

October 19, 2005—Police officers in New York shocked by the lack of protection for gardaí are offering to send over their spare anti-stab vests.

The issue came to the forefront in July after two young gardaí were stabbed, one critically, when they entered a house in Raheny in Dublin.

The offer of anti-stab vests has been made by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), which represents 27,000 officers in the New York Police Department (NYPD).

In a letter to the Garda Representative Association (GRA), its president Patrick Lynch said he had been saddened to learn of the stabbing of the two gardaí.

“I was shocked to learn that your members, who do not carry sidearms like their counterparts in the States, are not equipped with safety vests, an item of equipment that has been provided to our NYPD officers for more than 25 years,” he said.

Mr Lynch, who has relatives in County Mayo, said his association had given anti-stab vests to police officers in Puerto Rico in the past because their government could not afford to supply them.

“While clearly your great government has the resources to provide your members with such a critical item of safety equipment, until such time as it accepts that responsibility I am prepared to ask our members to supply every vest that is not presently being used by PBA, so that we can make them available to our brothers and sisters in Ireland.”

The GRA, which has campaigned for the introduction of anti-stab vests, said it was very grateful for the offer.

“I certainly would be slow to say we won’t take them but I’d be hoping against hope we wouldn’t have to,” said president Dermot O’Donnell.

He said he had spoken personally to one of gardaí stabbed in Raheny, David Comer, aged 30, from Galway city, who sustained near-fatal injuries.

“He said to do whatever we could to get anti-stab vests brought in. It’s certainly only a question of time before someone is stabbed again because it’s an increasingly violent society we’re living in.”

The Gardaí carried out trials on anti-stab vests in 2002 but they were underbody garments worn on top of the skin which members found to be uncomfortable to wear.

The GRA wants the type of stab vests used by the NYPD and the London Metropolitan Police, which are worn on top of the uniform, to be introduced as soon as possible.

“I would like to see (Justice) Minister McDowell treat with the same level of urgency the provision of anti-stab vests as he was able to shoehorn through the Garda Siochana Act and the way he was able to fast-track the building at the training college in Templemore,” said Mr O’Donnell.

A spokesman for Mr McDowell said the purchase of anti-stab vests was a matter for Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy.

“The Commissioner would decide what equipment he feels is necessary for the force and if he so decides on what he needs, he then goes to the Minster with requests and the funding would be provided for it,” he said.

The spokesman said the Commissioner had an unprecedented budget of more than €1 billion which has doubled since 1997.