Austin police receive new armor to handle high power rifles

APD receives heavy vests for protection

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Austin Police Department started distributing new body armor to officers on Monday.

The heavy vests are supposed to stop ammunition from some high power rifles, like AR 15's. Senior Patrol Officer, Robert Furbush, was glad to get his.

"You know everybody carrying assault rifles, assault rifles nowadays," said Officer Furbush. "I got two layers of protection for my body. Hopefully, I never have to worry about it being utilized as far as someone shooting me. "

Officers started asking for new body armor after an extra deadly year for law enforcement in 2016.

Nationwide, 135 officers died in the line of duty. That's a 10 percent increase from 2015. Nearly half of the 135 officers died from gunfire.

"The most alarming statistic out of all of this is that 21 of these brave individuals were ambushed," said Interim Chief Brian Manley. "They were killed in ambush-style attacks and that is the highest number in two decades."

In the month of July alone, several officers were gunned down in Dallas, Baton Rouge, Kansas City and San Diego.

Last August, KVUE discovered the type of body armor Austin police and most officers across the country wear. They come with the warning, "this garment...is not intended to protect against rifle fire."

At one point, the Austin Police Association and the Greater Austin Crime Commission lobbied city leaders to come up with the money for the heavy vests.

"You know what a great day...A lot of other big cities, like Dallas and Houston, are slowly starting to get them but they've had to do it with money that the citizens have donated," said Ken Casaday, the President of the Austin Police Association.

The heavy vests aren't meant to be worn all the time. Officers will keep them in their cars and put them on when responding to incidents involving weapons.

SWAT team members already have heavy vests.   

Soon, nearly 960 additional officers will also have a better chance of surviving high power fire.

The 958 vests cost taxpayers around $336 each or $321,888 in total.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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