Wednesday, February 15th, 2017
Celina police body armor, helmets cost less
By William Kincaid
CELINA - Police chief Tom Wale was able to buy supplemental body armor and helmets for each of his 16 officers at a cost of $13,535, much less than the original estimate of $24,000.
Wale said at Monday's city council meeting that he had received a good quote from Vance's Law Enforcement of Columbus under the state bidding process. Due to a national shortage of such body armor, though, the new protective gear won't arrive for at least three months, Wale said on Tuesday.
The new supplemental armor, which mayor Jeff Hazel has described as molded steel for the chest cavity, would be used during standoffs or emergencies during which officers are targeted.
"The plates are threat level 4, which are going to stop most of the rifle rounds, like hunting rounds you would see around here," Wale told councilors. "Obviously they aren't going to stop a military round, but we don't anticipate dealing with large-caliber armor-piercing rounds."
Savings will come by choosing a heavier armor, Wale said.
"We'll have as much protection as the more expensive (armor), but it's going to be a little heavier," Wale said. "But I think the officers can deal with that considering they're not wearing it for a whole shift."
Officers will carry the armor and helmets in their cruisers at all times, Hazel had said.
Councilman Fred LeJeune believes the armor is a practical investment in officer safety.
"This day and age, the safety of your personnel is a very high priority and certainly a big concern seeing what's going on nationwide," LeJeune said.
Wale then referred councilors to an incident in his written report. On Feb. 5, officers responded to a call of a man waving a gun around in the 600 block of North Walnut Street. Their arrival led to a standoff in which the man retreated into his residence and "threatened to shoot others and himself," the report states.
Neighboring homes were evacuated and a perimeter was secured with assistance from Mercer County Sheriff's deputies. The man surrendered after 45 minutes of negotiations, the report states.
"That particular person had a handgun, but the initial report was he also had an AK-47 in the house," Wale said. "If that would have been the case, this is the type of armor that would stop the AK-47 round."
Hazel then asked council members if they were OK with the body armor purchase.
"It's in his budget, right?" councilman Jeff Larmore asked.
"It's in his budget, but I did commit to making sure that you all had a look at this first," Hazel said.
Also approved within the 2017 budget was a drone with forward-looking infrared and video-recording capabilities, listed at $18,000. Wale on Tuesday told the newspaper that the drone should cost less than $18,000. It will be at least two months before it arrives, he added.
Hazel had told the newspaper the drone will be used mostly for search operations involving missing people or suspects at large. Though it might aid in investigations into drug activity, the drone will generally not be used for surveillance.
Wale this week also talked about funeral processions within the city. Councilman Myron Buxton said he was in a funeral procession over the weekend when his vehicle came inches from being T-boned at an intersection.
"I had the red light, he had the green light, but he didn't see the procession going through," Buxton said.
Wale briefly reviewed funeral procession procedures. Generally a funeral director will request police assistance for a procession, he said. A patrol car will lead the procession, he said.
"By state law everybody has to yield to a funeral," Wale said.
Purple flags are usually attached to each car in the procession. In the event of a large procession, purple flags are put on every other car, Wale said.
"When those purple flags are present you're part of that funeral procession. People in the funeral procession have the right of way during the entire procession (and) do not have to stop."
Wale said if Buxton's vehicle had been struck at the intersection, it would have been the other driver's fault.
"Should we put more police officers at those important intersections?" Buxton asked.
Wale replied that the department doesn't usually have enough officers on duty to cover all intersections.