Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani

Public/Private Partnership to Fund New Bulletproof Vests

Tuesday, March 10, 1998

Thank you, Commissioner Safir.

Thomas Mottola (President, Sony Music Entertainment), Hank Greenberg (CEO of American International Group), Pamela Delaney (Executive Director, New York City Police Foundation), distinguished guests, police officers, friends, and fellow New Yorkers...

Today we're here to talk about a very important new partnership for the city - a new initiative to upgrade the bulletproof vests of thousands of New York City's Finest.

As I've said in the past, the men and women of the NYPD shouldn't have to depend on their vests for protection - but the reality is that all too often, they do. Every officer who walks into dangerous situations every day not knowing who might be armed, or who might be out to hurt them, deserves state-of-the-art protection.

But a number of officers have not yet been issued state-of-the-art bullet resistant vests. Those who joined the force before July of 1989 have been using two-panel level one vests rather than level two vests, which the rest of the force is equipped with.

The city, and the private sector, decided together that it was time to do something about this. That's why we've joined in this partnership to equip thousands of officers with the protection they deserve.

The initial need for these 18,000 new vests will cost approximately $4 million - roughly half of which is being financed by the city, and half by the private sector. We know, and the private sector partners know, that this is just about the best money we could ever spend.

The initial campaign to meet this immediate need has reached the halfway point, with the help of many generous donors. But we need to go further now.

This is not only an investment in these officers and their families. It's really an investment in the future of the entire city.

When officers feel protected, they can do their job to the best of their ability. They can focus on keeping the peace and saving other people's lives without fearing excessively for their own. Of course, even in a vest an officer fears for his or her life - but every day we expect them, and depend on them, to overcome this fear to protect us. And they do.

Those of us who don't wear bulletproof vests every day should think about what it would mean to put one on every time we wake up and go to work, which is what most police officers do - because it very graphically illustrates the sacrifice police officers make. Most of us walk around every day with our chest, our lungs, stomach, and heart vulnerable to the world, and thank God we don't have to think twice about it. But for police officers, every day, just in the act of putting on the vest, the thought crosses their mind that today might be the day that the vest is used.

And a vest, no matter how good it is, is still not a guarantee. It's simply the adequate protection - the necessary equipment - that we owe every officer who is willing to risk his or her life.

During the holiday season last year - on December 29, in fact - Detective Wafky Salem was shot three times at point-blank range while attempting to apprehend a drug dealer, and survived thanks to his vest. Of course, the man who allegedly shot him shouldn't have been on the street in the first place because he was a parolee, but that's another story. Detective Salem's vest saved his life - making it the ninth time last year that a bulletproof vest saved the life of a city police officer.

I urge you to talk to the officers who are here today and ask them how grateful they are that they were wearing a vest the day they were shot - not only because it allowed them to return to their family and friends, but because it let them go back to work doing the job they love.

Not all officers have that opportunity. Five years ago today, Detective Luis Lopez of the Manhattan South Narcotics Division was shot and killed during a "buy and bust" operation on the Lower East Side.

Last year, we tragically lost one officer to gunfire in the line of duty.

To protect our officers further, we need this department to build on its strength as the most professional, well-equipped, and successful department in the country. Today, we're helping to ensure that the NYPD is better equipped, and better prepared, than ever.

Those interested in helping out should call the New York City Police Foundation at (212) 751-8170.

I want to thank Commissioner Safir, the New York City Police Foundation, and everyone whose hard work and financial support is making this initiative possible. We need more support to complete the job, but it has already been deeply gratifying to see the city come together answer such an important need with this very high degree of focus and efficiency.

Thank you.

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