NYPD upgrades to military-style protective equipment after Texas, Louisiana shootings

The NYPD has acquired $7 million in military-style protective equipment for patrol officers, which includes new ballistic helmets.
The NYPD has acquired $7 million in military-style protective equipment for patrol officers, which includes new ballistic helmets. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

The NYPD ordered about $7.5 million worth of new bulletproof vests and helmets, an effort that follows two high-profile shootings targeting officers in Texas and Louisiana, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Monday. 

The department ordered 20,000 helmets and 6,000 vests, which will be worn in an active-shooter situation on top of the bulletproof vests officers already wear under their uniforms. 

“These vests would provide significant additional front and rear coverage for our officers,” Bratton said, speaking in front of the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn — the same precinct where Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were based. Both officers were shot and killed while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn in 2014 by a gunman who apparently wanted revenge on cops for the deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

“The helmets are very similar to those that are worn by U.S. soldiers in combat.”

Bratton said the need to order the new equipment came after a police-involved shooting in East Williamsburg July 17 where cops shot and killed a 42-year-old man in an exchange of gunfire after the man threatened several people with a handgun. 

Shortly after, Bratton said he put together the costs and called Mayor Bill de Blasio. A day later the department placed the order.

“That reinforced based on what we had already been looking at in terms of what had happened in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the decision to move forward with the quick acquisition,” Bratton said, adding: “We’ll probably be making additional purchases farther down the line for the rest of our police officers. But the manufacturer can only make so many.”

Bratton said the Critical Response Command, Emergency Services Unit, and Strategic Response Group already have these vests as well as similar helmets. 

The department expects to start receiving the new equipment by September, about $5 million of which is covered by the NYPD’s budget and another $2.5 million from the Office of Management and Budget.

The use of the new equipment will be worked into the active shooter training and refresher training the department runs, Bratton said.

The department has also focused on updating its technology — like rolling out smartphones to all officers — as well as focusing on officer safety by expanding bullet-resistant doors to department vehicles, and updating the masks that protect officers from a contaminated environment, including carbon monoxide. 

“All of these are part of the equation of keeping communities safe and officers safe,” de Blasio said. “It all adds up to a capacity that’s unsurpassed in this nation. We will keep making those investments, and my message to all the members of the NYPD and especially to their families: that we value the safety of our officers and we will put the resources in play to keep our officers safe.”