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Amid violence, N.Y. troopers to get better equipment

State Police get stronger body armor and handguns. mew equipment

The Newark Star-Ledger

ALBANY, N.Y. — Following a year when a half-dozen troopers were shot, two fatally, State Police are getting stronger body armor and handguns and other new equipment. Acting Superintendent Preston Felton has ordered officers on patrol to wear the bullet-resistant vests that previously were optional.

"A police officer's job has always been inherently dangerous," Felton said yesterday. With 21st-century changes in technology and troopers working more in urban settings, the danger has evolved, he said.

Felton said he didn't know how much all the new equipment will cost. He acknowledged some items are expensive, but noted the governor and lawmakers have been supportive and if one life is saved, it's important.

Other equipment changes, following ongoing internal safety reviews and meetings with troopers' and investigators' unions, include .45-caliber handguns that have replaced the 9 mm sidearms. "It has, as a layman would say, more stopping power without sacrificing accuracy," Felton said.

Also, troopers are getting collapsible batons, 1,400 defibrillators for all marked patrol cars, light bars atop cars that include blue lights easier to see in fog, bright yellow reflective vests for highway investigations and directing traffic, fire suppression systems similar to those in race cars in all new Crown Victorias, and two Bearcat armored vehicles. He said the defibrillators cost $1,200 to $1,400 apiece and the Bearcats cost $225,000 to $250,000 each.

Felton also acknowledged some of the 4,900 troopers, investigators and higher-ranking officers may choose not to follow the requirement he issued a few months ago that they wear body armor in the field, but new stronger vests are being issued to all of them. Members of the Mobile Response Team are getting heavier armor, with pieces that detach, making them more comfortable.

Two members of the MRT were fatally shot, one by friendly fire, in 2006 and 2007.

Following reviews of incidents where shots were fired, State Police have instituted some new policies and procedures, including how to approach a stopped vehicle, more command training for officers and changes in MRT operations, which Felton didn't specify.

Felton couldn't say whether any of the measures would have changed the way past incidents unfolded. Among the deaths was trooper David Brinkerhoff, who was killed April 25 after a shootout in a rural farmhouse in Delaware County that also killed gunman Travis Trim and wounded trooper Richard Mattson.

Copyright 2007 Newark Morning Ledger Co.
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