HOUSTON, Texas — For the first time, front-line Houston police officers are being issued ballistic vests capable of protecting them from rounds fired from high-velocity rifles.
The Houston Police Department received a gift of 200 ballistic vests from the Houston Police Foundation and the 100 Club of Houston. An additional 400 vests will be donated from the organizations, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The vests, described as super-tough exoskeletons, are designed to protect the line officers from ambush attacks like those that claimed the lives of 5 Dallas-area officers and officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this summer.
“These vests will stop just about anything,” Tillman J Fertitta, Houston Police Foundation chairman and chairman and CEO of Landry’s Inc., told the Houston newspaper. “Remember, 95 percent of the budget of the Houston Police Department is labor. Only 5 percent is what they need to protect them in safety. … We’re able to give these police officers the right tools to do their job.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner joined members of the Houston Police Officers Union on Friday to announce the donation of the first shipment of the vests.
“I am just delighted for what has been done by the foundation, and I cannot thank the foundation enough,” Mayor Turner said. “These Level IV heavy vests definitely make our police officers a lot safer in doing the dangerous jobs that they do every single day … and I want to thank those who have given money to the foundation to help make this gift, especially, possible for our police officers.”
Unlike the lighter vests that are issued to a particular officer and are designed to be worn under the uniform shirt, the 25-pound vests can be shared by officers from shift to shift. The new ballistic vests are designed to be worn over the top of the uniform, much like a sandwich board, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Charlene Floyd, executive director of the Houston Police Foundation said the vests cost about $300 each. The foundation and the 100 Club plan to spend about $180,000 to provide the officers the extra protection the city cannot afford to buy.
The police foundation is providing 400 vests while the 100 Club is providing an additional 200.
The vests are stored in a backpack and can be rapidly deployed in the event of an active shooter situation or if the officer comes under fire.
Donors wishing to help provide additional vests for law enforcement officers are encouraged by HPOU Vice President Joe Gamaldi to contact the Houston Police Foundation.