Police have requested cash from the town’s Sandy Hook Fund to cover the purchase. Newtown’s Police Department is hoping to add a new tool to protect them in the line of duty, to be paid for out of funds raised after the Dec. 14 shooting.
Police have requested stronger body armor that will shield against “long rifles” — including assault rifles like AR-15s and M4s, strong enough to threaten officers wearing even standard bulletproof vests.
“What we typically wear is soft body armor,” Police Chief Michael Kehoe told Patch. “In our agency, we have a ‘mandatory wear policy’ — that’s equivalent to helping stop a bullet that would come out of a .45 caliber. What we’re looking for are additional protections for a patrol rifle — a long rifle. It’s a much heavier vest with probably some lead in it. If the officers come into a dangerous situation where they think a long rifle is involved, they can put on the stronger body armor in the car.”
A national discussion over police response to long guns began after the shooting, but Kehoe says the request has been in the works for a long time.
“It actually started before 12/14,” Kehoe told Patch. “I had asked around to other chiefs, recognizing in today’s day and age officers are sometimes confronted with long rifles. I was asking what they do, and they said this is one of the best ways to handle that.”
After Dec. 14, Kehoe was vocal in national media speaking about the dangers officers face from long guns. In January, he told NBC News the kinds of weapons used in the Dec. 14 shooting put officers at a disadvantage, advocating for a ban on assault rifles and a restriction on magazines.
We never like to think we’re outgunned in any situation we’re dealing with,
In response to calls from advocates, as well as findings from the state’s bipartisan task force on Dec. 14-related issues, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed an extensive bill in May restricting access to a variety of high-powered rifles and banning the sale of high-capacity magazines.
In January, Tait set up the town’s general Sandy Hook Fund from donations sent in from around the world in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 shooting. The town allocated more than $256,000 to various departments, allowing police, first responders, schools and parks officials to request sums according to their discretion.
The fund has grown since its inception, but several departments have already withdrawn to cover various projects and needs across town. Kehoe said his department considered their share in depth before making a decision on the body armor request.”
We have budgetary issues, and we’re trying to be very conservative,” he said. “But we [think] it’s a good time to do that.
“Tait made the request at last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting. Selectmen approved the request, as did the town’s Board of Finance. It will continue to the Legislative Council, next scheduled to meet Sept. 4, Tait said.