Chief-Leader

August 1, 2016: 2:00 p.m.


NYPD Supplying Upgraded Vests And Helmets, but PBA Wants Long Rifles

Added Protection Against Assault Weapons

By MARK TOOR

AN EXTRA LAYER OF PROTECTION: Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, left, and Mayor de Blasio inspect the new bullet-resistant vests with which the NYPD plans to equip its patrol force. The vests are worn over the shirt, reinforcing the protection offered by the standard vest, which is worn under the shirt. The vests are capable of stopping bullets fired by rifles like the ones used to kill eight police officers in Dallas and in Baton Rouge, La.

With an eye on the increasing threat of terrorism, Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton last week unveiled new equip­­ment for patrol officers, including military-grade helmets and bulletproof vests.

But the Patrolmen’s Be­n­e­volent Association said something was missing: long guns with which officers might successfully stop attackers.

‘Smart Investments’

“We need to make smart investments to keep our officers safe…” said Mayor de Blasio, standing in the ba­king heat July 25 outside the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn. “Every NYPD officer will be equipped with a new helmet and heavy armored vests so that they are better prepared, and better able to protect themselves and others, in a dangerous situation.”

“You name it, we’re buying it,” said Mr. Bratton, standing near a table on which samples of the new equipment were laid out.

They included ballistic vests that are heavier than the standard ones worn by officers, capable, Mr. Bratton said, of stopping rounds fired from the rifles in Baton Rouge and Dallas that killed eight police officers. Tactical escape hoods to protect officers during nuclear and other attacks. Ballistic helmets like the one that saved an officer’s life when it stopped a bullet fired by a man who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Belt-worn trauma kits that contain tourniquets and other equipment that could help an officer stop severe bleeding.

TO PROTECT THOSE SERVING: New defensive equipment for patrol officers is displayed July 25 at the de Blasio-Bratton press conference outside the 84th Precinct stationhouse in Brooklyn. It includes stronger bullet-resistant vests, helmets, tactical escape hoods and shields to strengthen patrol-car doors and windows against an attack.

‘Significant Coverage’

“The vests that we’re acquiring, we believe, based on what we’ve looked at in the events in Paris, the events in our own country, most recently in Baton Rouge, as well as Dallas, that these vests would provide significant additional front and rear coverage for our officers,” Mr. Bratton said. “Understand that these vests are [worn] on top of the vests they already wear under their uniform shirts. Similarly for the helmets—the helmets are very similar to those worn by U.S. soldiers in combat.”

He noted that the equipment was meant “for active-shooter threats” rather than routine wear. “One, the weight of them on top of the other vest,” he said. “The helmet itself weights about seven pounds,” too heavy for long-term wear.

The NYPD has ordered 20,000 helmets and 6,000 vests with the aim of equipping every patrol officer with a helmet and every patrol car with two vests, the NYPD said. Distribution is expected to start at the end of the summer and last through January.

Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Bratton also hoisted a patrol-car door, demonstrating bullet-resistant panels in the solid part of the door and also in the window. Making patrol cars bullet-resistant was first proposed after the assassinations in December 2014 of Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were shot to death by a mentally-ill ex-con who sneaked up on their vehicle. The NYPD’s first reaction was that it would cost too much money and make the cars unwieldy.

Windows Up in Air

“We have made the decision to go forward with the ballistic doors,” Mr. Bratton said. “The windows are still under consideration.” Asked about the initial reluctance to add bullet-resistant windows, he said they still were impractical “and the cost would be phenomenal…What we are [now testing] is effectively a hybrid which we think will significantly increase the safety of our personnel.”

The vests and helmets will cost a total of $7.5 million, Mr. Bratton said. The cost of making patrol cars bullet-resistant has yet to be determined, he said.

The new equipment is defensive in nature, a fact pointed out by PBA President Patrick J. Lynch.

“The de Blasio administration is once again demonstrating their reactive approach to governing, which typically results in ineffective half-measures,” he said in a statement. “Sadly, it took the PBA’s complaint to the state and a tough story in the newspaper to get City Hall and the NYPD to provide a portion of what local patrol officers need to defend the public and themselves in active shooter events.”

‘Give Us Long Rifles’

“The ballistic vests and helmets in patrol cars can provide immediate protection for police officers, but without long rifles to counter the immediate threat of the shooter, the officers and the public they are sworn to protect will remain in great danger. Local patrol officers who will assuredly be the first to arrive at the scene need every tool available, as well as the proper training, if they are to have a chance at saving innocent lives.

“This would be a relatively small investment for the city, and so the Mayor and the NYPD need to explain to the public what they have calculated as the price for our safety.”

The complaint to the state was filed in April with the Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau of the Labor Department alleging that the NYPD had failed to provide officers with sufficient safety equipment. The agen­cy is investigating, a PBA official said.

Newspaper articles appear­ed in USA Today and other publications after the shootings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., discussing whether cops are adequately prepared for organized terror threats.

Equipped Special Units

Mr. Lynch first raised the issue last November, after the NYPD formed two special units, the Critical Response Command and the Strategic Response Group, whose briefs include hand­ling suspected terrorism incidents. These commands, as well as the Emergency Service Unit, are equipped with heavy weapons.

“It is likely that the first to arrive on the scene of a Paris-style attack will be regular local patrol officers who are neither trained nor equipped to engage the terrorists,” Mr. Lynch told the New York Post last fall. “In the event of multiple, simultaneous attacks, countless lives could be saved by equipping patrol officers with the appropriate weapons and giving them the training needed to engage terrorists immediately instead of waiting for specialized units to respond.

“Every patrol car should be a mini-counter­terrorism unit with heavy weapons, ballistic vests and helmets, and every officer should be fully trained to respond to a terrorist attack.”

The NYPD was cool to the proposal, saying it believed concentrating heavy weap­ons in the special squads was the way to go. It was after that response that the PBA filed its complaint with the state Labor Department.

SBA: 9-mm. Insufficient

The Sergeants Benevolent Association also expressed concerns. Its president, Edward D. Mullins, said last fall that an officer carrying only a 9-mm. service pistol could be easily overwhelmed if he or she responded to a terrorist attack.

Mr. Bratton said in a radio interview last month that “what we’ve attempted to do here in New York is have sufficient resources around the city with this equipment—long guns, tactical gear—that within five to seven min­utes, I can have a significant number of officers anywhere in the city to go in and confront the attacker.”

But the PBA official pointed to an FBI study in 2013 that said a third of active-shooter incidents last less than five minutes, meaning they’d be over before the special units could reach the scene. Further, he said, the NYPD has changed its rules to require patrol officers to engage active shooters, further putting cops in jeopardy.