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Why Gainesville police are getting more powerful bulletproof vests
09192018 RIFLE 4
Gainesville Police is requesting funding for 42 rifle vests to be worn in high-risk situations. The plate carrier vest attaches over the top of the officer’s uniform and covers the officers, front and rear torso area. These plates and carriers are capable of stopping firearms rounds from large caliber weapons," according to Gainesville Police. - photo by Scott Rogers

Citing an increase in violence against law enforcement in recent years, Gainesville Police officials are looking to up protection for officers with new vests capable of stopping certain rifle rounds.

“Officers are put into harm’s way each and every day, but as they go into harm’s way, we want to ensure that they have everything that they can that we can give them to protect them so that they can protect others,” Sgt. Kevin Holbrook said.

The Gainesville City Council approved the department’s application and acceptance of the 2018 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant for up to $12,675. That will translate into 42 carrier vests outfitted with rifle plates capable of defeating a .300 Winchester Magnum round, a high-powered type of rifle ammunition.

09192018 RIFLE 3
Gainesville Police officer Montana Thrasher wears tactical rifle plate body armor over his normal protective vest Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, at the Gainesville Police Department. Gainesville Police is requesting funding for 42 of the rifle vests so officers can wear them in high-risk situations. - photo by Scott Rogers

Wearing a model similar to what the Gainesville Police are looking to order, Officer Montana Thrasher said the 45-pound vest still allowed for full mobility.

“You’re not going to see, say Officer Thrasher, walking around the mall wearing this. This is for those high-stress, high-level situations in which obviously the adversary has large-capacity firearms,” Holbrook said.

The department will pick up the rest of the bill so that every sworn officer will have one fitted for them, though Holbrook did not specify what funding and for how much.

Within each officer’s car is a “bailout bag,” loaded with a tourniquet, first-aid needs and extra magazines for the sidearm and rifle.

The contents of the bag can now be condensed and centered on the front of the vest.

Referencing national events such as the October 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Holbrook said this is in preparation “for the next situation” while “hoping that we don’t have to use it.”

“The officers’ everyday vest that they wear is what we consider soft body armor, because you have to be mindful that those officers wear those for 12-plus hours a day. There’s a huge difference in wearing that and wearing this. Obviously with the comfort comes, I guess, the sacrifice for not being able to withstand certain calibers,” he said.

In the grant paperwork, department officials said these vests will be used in “responding to active scenes that have escalated potential for violence against officers.” The soft body armor is only capable of stopping smaller caliber weapons like handguns.

Examples would include “barricaded subjects, active shooters (and) warrant service against subjects known to have (a) violent past,” according to the grant paperwork.

The department did not have an estimate on when the vests might arrive.

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