officers will be getting top-of-the-line protection with brand new bullet proof vests the Village Board approved for purchase.
Police Chief Bruce Resnick said the new vests allow him to follow through on his hope to make body armor a mandatory part of the uniform for village police officers.
“I can say one thing with absolute certainty, wearing protective vests saves lives,” Resnick said. “A lot of it is the luck of the draw. The type of weapon used and what distance the shot comes from. We don’t have a lot of control over what happens. But anyone who wears a vest is better off.”
The Village Board agreed to buy 12 new vests that are considered the best available.
When wearing the vests was optional, the officers purchased the equipment themselves. With the help of a federal grant and a new policy requiring officers to wear the vests at all times they are on duty, the village has agreed to supply the equipment.
In the past, the village agreed to pay for the cost of a particular vest, usually not the most expensive, but not the least. If an officer wished to buy a more expensive, but ultimately safer vest, they could, but they paid the difference. At a meeting last week, the Village Board members agreed that there's no need to sacrifice safety, and so all officers are getting the safest vests without paying the difference.
Bayside Officer Eric Miller has been wearing a vest for several years now. He considers it part of the uniform.
“It takes some getting used to, it feels a little weird at first,” Miller said. “It can get hot in the summer, but it’s really not too bad.”
The vests are replaced in five-year cycles. Kevlar, which provides the bullet resistance, degrades after several years of regular use. The officers will get the opportunity to choose between vests that go inside their police uniform or one that goes over the uniform.
“Our primary goal is to provide protection for the officers,” Resnick said. “A secondary goal is to provide comfort. We want to give them a choice.”
The village will allow the purchase of two types of vests, Level 2 and Level 3A. Level 2 vests, which generally are 5 millimeters thick, will cost $832 and are the type of vests worn by most police departments. These vests are tested to withstand fire from a 9mm handgun. Level 3A vests, which are 8 to 10 millimeters thick, are tested under fire from a 9mm sub-machine-gun and a .44 magnum. Those vests will cost approximately $1,000.
The village also approved the purchase of will three tactical vests, which will be worn by officers who may confront heavy gunfire. Those vests will cost $1,191 each.
Resnick said the village last purchased tactical vests in April 2003. He said the department doesn’t keep track of how much the vests have been used, but those items are made available to other police departments in the North Shore in an effort to save money.