Weeks after two police officers were gunned down in Brooklyn, the City Council is proposing to spend $7.3 million on new bulletproof vests for the NYPD.
“We must ensure that the brave men and women of the NYPD have all the resources they need to stay safe when they are out protecting New Yorkers,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement.
The money will ensure the department has the most up-to-date vests available and would fund up to 13,000 vests, according to the city.
The plan for the funding comes as some critics, particularly police union leaders, have argued that the city government is not supporting police. Some in the council, including Ms. Mark-Viverito, actively protested a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner, increasing a growing divide between City Hall and cops.
In recent weeks the council has been more vocal in support of cops, and many members have pointed to efforts to help police—boosting the department’s funding and proposing in the last budget money to hire 1,000 new cops, something shot down by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
“This City Council committed to supporting our police officers and that starts by ensuring they have the most up-to-date and advanced technology at their disposal,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said. “Modern, reliable bulletproof vests will help ensure that police officers throughout the city are safe and the City Council is proud to support funding for this critical initiative which will help save lives.”
The plan for the funding is being led by the speaker along with Councilman Vincent Gentile, Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras, and Public Safety Chair Vanessa Gibson. The money would be allocated into the fiscal year 2016 budget, which would be approved in June.
Mr. de Blasio’s office said the mayor would include the money in his budget plan.
“Ensuring the safety of NYPD officers is paramount. The Mayor looks forward to working with the City Council and including this proposal in his preliminary budget next month,” spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said.
The NYPD will also undertake a complete review of the length of time vests should be kept in service, according to the city. The vests have saved 87 lives dating back to 1978, according to the NYPD.
The safety of the vests officers are currently wearing was apparently raised at a raucous meeting of the Police Benevolent Association this week, with cops reportedly frustrated that President Patrick Lynch hadn’t secured more up-to-date vests. At a press conference yesterday, Mr. de Blasio said issues of safety for police were one area where everyone in the city might be able to find common ground.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that more and more officers would offer different views of what needs to be done,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I think where there is an emerging consensus is that we have to focus on officer safety, as part of the package of reforms that we are making in this city, to make everyone safer.”
Mr. Lynch praised the funding in a statement—but said there was more to do to ensure the vests always remain current and safe.
“Bullet resistant vests are essential to protecting the men and women who have dedicated their lives to keeping this city safe and we are grateful to the City Council for the funding. The PBA has continuously worked over the years with the department and in cooperation with the Council to upgrade vests to the highest level of protection available for our members,” Mr. Lynch said. “But the work is not done with the purchase of these vests. The PBA is still pushing the department and city to establish a permanent funding source to support a regular replacement program for vests as their warranty dates expire. It is essential to our member’s safety.”