City gets grant to replace officers’ bulletproof vests

Amsterdam police officers will be getting some upgraded safety gear with the help of a federal grant

Amsterdam police officers will be getting some upgraded safety gear with the help of a federal grant announced last week.

The department won a matching grant of $11,375 to purchase new bulletproof vests under a U.S. Department of Justice program.

Amsterdam Deputy Police Chief Vic Hugo said the department has purchased seven or eight new vests over the last few years, mainly with drug seizure money.

The vests themselves are upgraded periodically as new technology becomes available, and Hugo said the department tries to upgrade them within the replacement time period recommended by manufacturers.

The vests run about $875 each, and there’s no discount for the lack of comfort.

“I wore one for many, many years and you sweat. But it’s the lesser of two evils,” Hugo said.

Amsterdam, like any department that wants to take part in the program, has a “mandatory wear” policy — meaning that 40 officers in the department are required to put on the armor before heading out into the streets.

Gunplay isn’t common in Amsterdam, but it is in neighboring counties, and gun violence has spilled into the city in the past.

Police found 20 shell casings following the August 2009 drive-by shooting outside Slick’s Tavern, though nobody was injured in that incident.

There were two shootings in neighboring Fulton County this summer and gunfire is regularly reported in Schenectady.

“There’s always the risk. We’re 20 minutes from Schenectady and we often deal with people outside the city, from Albany and out-of-state. You don’t know who you’re running across,” Hugo said.

Amsterdam Police Department news releases indicate officers are quick on the draw when it comes to pepper spray; not so much with their guns.

Some officers are also equipped with electroshock weapons, called Tasers, which they’ve used numerous times, Hugo said. They’re familiar with the pain involved in their use: They’ve all taken jolts themselves during training, he said.

There are different types of vests available, and Hugo said he’s just started to research them. One type is stab-resistant, another is strictly for ballistics, or flying bullets. He said he’s leaning toward the ballistics version.

The department will be able to make use of money seized during drug raids to make up its match of the grant, Hugo said, so it’s conceivable it could acquire 26 vests.

Nowadays, getting any kind of grant is a major bonus in struggling upstate cities because grant programs are “dwindling,” Hugo said. And as their numbers shrink, grants grow more and more competitive, so applying for them takes some detailed reading.

Categories: Schenectady County

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