The New York City Police Department has acquired US$7 million in military-style protective equipment for patrol officers in response to recent shooting attacks on police in Baton Rouge and Dallas, officials said Monday.
“You name it, we’re buying it,” Police Commissioner William Bratton told a news conference. “There’s not a police department in America that is spending as much money, as much thought and interest on this issue of officer safety.”
Bratton said the NYPD has purchased 20,000 military-style helmets, 6,000 heavy duty bullet-proof vests, trauma kits and ballistic doors and windows for patrol cars.
“It’s so important to recognize the threats our officers face and to act on them immediately,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will not be the police department that brings a knife to the gunfight.”
Special units are already equipped with upgraded protective gear, but now patrol officers will begin carrying the new equipment starting in September, according to police officials.
In recent weeks, major police departments across the country have been implementing new patrol tactics for officers in the wake of mounting protests against police brutality.
Nearly half of the police departments in the 30 biggest U.S. cities issued directives after the Dallas attack requiring patrol officers to pair up while on duty.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the largest labor union representing New York police, complained to the Labor Department that they do not have enough protective gear. Black Lives Matter protesters chained themselves to the union’s New York headquarters last week, demanding it be defunded for protecting “killer cops.”
Reuters reported Thursday that the U.S. government will revisit a 2015 ban on police forces getting riot gear, armored vehicles and other military-grade equipment from the U.S. armed forces.
The use of military gear by police agencies was criticized by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and other critics of police impunity as being part of a broader militarization of police, which is seen as a major factor in police violence against demonstrators and unarmed Black people.
In response to the public outcry, the White House issued a ban in May 2015 on the transfer of some equipment from the military to police.