Austin police will equip with higher level vests by end of year

Austin police ballistic vest (KXAN Photo)
Austin police ballistic vest (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Police shootings are up more than 60 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The state with the deadliest numbers is Texas, with 18 so far this year.

Now the Austin Police Department says they want to do everything in their power to make sure officers can get home safe. The department expects to have officers outfitted with the new vests by the end of the year.

“We’re starting to see more ambush style attacks occur, especially after Baton Rouge and Dallas, we wanted to give our officers the most protection,” Assistant Police Chief Frank Dixon says.

The most pressing issue at hand are the level 4 ballistic vest for officers. “Right now we have 958 vests that are ordered. That order was placed at the beginning of September,” Dixon says. “These are rated to stop rifle rounds, so they’re going to be considerable heavier than our light body armor that we wear on a daily basis.”

Officers would have the freedom to choose when they feel it’s necessary to wear them. Funds for the vests did not come from taxpayer money, rather it came from department property seizures.

The other thing the department is looking at are the patrol cars officers drive. “Our current fleet of cars, we have 365 marked patrol cars, throughout the city of Austin, none of them are equipped with ballistic panels,” Dixon says.

The challenge with getting cars outfitted is the money. “If we’re looking at two different levels of protection, level 3A and level 4A. Level 3A protection would cost us right around $2.1-$2.2 million, to outfit our fleet,” Dixon said. “Level 4A would push that price up to about $3.3 million, and we simply don’t have the funding to do it this year.”

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