New York City law enforcement organizations recently raised around $750,000 to purchase lightweight bulletproof vests to protect NYPD detectives amid the nationwide increase in violent crime.
The New York City Police Foundation nonprofit and the Detectives’ Endowment Association — a union for city detectives — raised the funds to purchase 1,100 bulletproof vests following the success of an earlier pilot program that gave vests to various detective squads.
NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said the department got “very positive feedback” about the vests during the program and decided to equip all of their 4,600 detectives with them.
The pilot program came in 2019 after the fatal shooting of Queens Detective Brian Simonsen, who died while responding to a robbery at a T-Mobile store. Simonsen was not protected with a bulletproof vest when he was hit by friendly fire.
NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Edward Caban hopes the vests will keep detectives safe while working in the field. “Today, we are continuing the expansion of a project that was born out of tragedy. More than three years ago, following the death of Det. Brian Simonsen … the goal was [to] design a new ballistic vest that was easier and quicker for detectives to wear with their business attire … They are thinner and lighter while still providing life-saving protection. And most importantly, our detectives like them and are wearing them out in the field consistently.”
The vests weigh less than three pounds, compared to traditional vests that can weigh up to five pounds. They are designed to be thin enough to wear under business attire, but they offer the same protection as traditional, heavier vests against different types of gunfire.
“You see our detectives wearing these vests out at crime scenes doing interviews,” Essig said.
The new vests “offer protection traditional vests provide,” Detectives’ Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo said. “They will help protect our members while they are saving the citizens of New York City.”
So far, 3,500 detectives have received the new vests.
“This new vest program is saving detectives’ lives,” DiGiacamo said. “With the rising crime rate and the increase in illegal firearms, these new vests have been crucial.”
According to the National Fraternal Order of Police, 234 officers have been shot so far this year, and 45 were killed. That represents a 6% increase from the same time last year.