N.C. Lawmaker Makes Push to Keep Police Better Protected from Gunfire

May 23, 2024
A Charlotte City Council member has proposed spending roughly $750,000 for new bulletproof vests and other police gear less than a month after four law enforcement officers were fatally shot.

In conversations at public events since April 29, Charlotte City Council member Tariq Bokhari says multiple police officers have told him the same thing: They need better protection from people who shoot at them.

Four law enforcement officers died from bullet wounds and four more were shot but survived that day after officers attempted to serve an arrest warrant on Terry Clark Hughes Jr. at an east Charlotte home.

If Bokhari gets his way, local police officers would receive an array of new equipment designed to better protect them from gunfire. He has proposed that the city spend about $750,000 for new bullet-proof vests, ballistic shields and “active shooter kits”.


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The kits are bags of medical equipment designed for officers responding to such incidents. Other council members have expressed initial support for the idea.

The idea for the active shooter kits came from one of the officers who was shot and injured that day: Officer Jack Blowers, Bokhari said.

Before joining the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department last year, Blowers served as a member of special operations for the U.S. Army. CMPD declined to let The Observer interview Blowers.

Based on what Bokhari has heard, the gear he’s proposed probably would not have changed the outcome of the April 29 shooting, which killed CMPD officer Joshua Eyer, Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Weeks, and state Department of Adult Correction officers Sam Poloche and Alden Elliot. But it could make a difference in other cases, he said.

“This is a time to listen to the officers and listen to their wish lists on what they think will make them safe,” Bokhari said. ”If we don’t do this stuff now, we’ll never do it.”

Bullet-proof shields, vests and medical gear

At Monday’s city council budget workshop, Bokhari recommended that the city buy:

▪ 39 portable ballistic shields intended to protect officers from both handgun and high-powered rifle fire. That would be enough to provide three shields for each of CMPD’s 13 patrol divisions. The estimated cost: about $97,500.

▪ About 1,000 “outer-carrier” bullet-proof vests that officers would wear over their shirts. The vests would be cooler than the current bullet-proof vests that officers wear under their shirts, Bokhari said. They’d also minimize back strain by distributing the weight of gear. And they’d be equipped with harnesses that would allow officers to drag injured people out of harm’s way with one hand. Those vests would cost about $500,000.

Some CMPD leaders told him they are concerned that it might be too easy for assailants to grab hold of those vests, Bokhari noted. He said police and city officials are looking for ways to address those concerns.

▪ More than 1,200 active shooter kits. Among other things, those bags would include bandages, “trauma shears” for cutting through the clothing of injured people, and extra rifle and pistol magazines.

That equipment could help officers cope with situations akin to what they confronted on April 29, Bokhari said. On that day, some officers had to radio requests for more magazines after running out of ammunition, Bokhari said.

Each officer would be issued one of those kits and would be responsible for putting them in the same place in every squad car. The cost: about $150,000.

CMPD declined to discuss Bokhari’s budget request because the department can’t disclose “sensitive security information,” a department spokesperson said.

Protecting the protectors

During a budget workshop meeting on Monday, council members expressed initial support for buying the new equipment.

Council member Victoria Watlington, who chairs the council’s housing, safety and community committee, said she has asked city staff for information about what equipment CMPD currently has, but added:

“The priority is when we send people out to protect and serve that they themselves are protected sufficiently.”

City staff members will now investigate further in an effort to flesh out the spending requests. On May 30, council members will conduct a straw vote to determine whether they’ll add the proposed new police equipment to the budget. A final council vote on the budget is scheduled for June 10.

Speaking of the trauma caused by the April 29 shootings, Watlington said: “Now we’re trying to make sure we take that passion and that pain and turn it into action.

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