HOUSTON -- In the two most recent police shootings, in Dallas and in Baton Rouge, both gunman used rifles to kill officers. Representatives with the Houston Police Officers Union say both attacks identified a different kind of threat that’s highlighting a need for tougher equipment than what they currently have.
“It’s definitely dangerous out there and our guys are feeling it,” said Joe Gamaldi, second vice president with the HPOU.
Gamaldi says the police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge not only upped the fear factor for officers, but he says the rifles used to carry out both attacks pose a new threat to police out on patrol.
“I think it’s just that now these rifles are being used in conjunction with attacking police officers. We’ve had two now subsequent incidents with multiple casualties where they’ve used these high-power rifles and our vests are just not equipped to stop these rounds,” said Gamaldi.
Gamaldi says the current body armor that Houston police officers wear is only resistant to certain bullets, not including those from rifles, and, he says, Dallas and Baton Rouge highlighted the need for safer and stronger equipment.
Houston attorney Josh Verde was thinking the same thing after the two attacks, and felt compelled to offer some assistance.
“I reached out to see if there was a need to equip the police with protective gear only that could handle rifle rounds, and the answer I got was yes,” said Verde.
So, Verde offered to lead a fundraising effort to buy higher-level body armor for HPD. Gamaldi says Houston officers currently wear a level 2 protective vest, and they’re looking to secure officers with level 4 vests that are similar to what the SWAT team wears.
The plan is to raise $250,000, enough for 600 level 4 vests, enough for each officer on a shift to have one to take out on patrol.
HPOU says the city recently purchased new standard body armor for all HPD officers. Verde’s offer to coordinate a private donation could make it easier to get the equipment faster than going through the city, and they want to get these vests on the officers as soon as possible.
“This is such a new threat, and we’re trying so quickly to get this funding put together and get these vests purchased. And so when private citizens come forward and say they’d like to fund these types of things, we’re going to try every avenue to get these things purchased as quickly as possible,” said Gamaldi.
“I think this is a pressing and urgent need, and if we could have everything in place tomorrow, to give these officers these advanced vests, that would be the best option,” said Verde.
Verde says the response from donors has been enthusiastic and he hopes to have all the money raised in the next couple weeks. If you would like to donate, you can do so through the Houston Police Foundation. Just call 713-651-3122 or you can visit them online at houstonpolicefoundation.org.