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NYPD will test armoring of patrol cars, Bratton says

Commissioner William Bratton delivers his "State of the

Commissioner William Bratton delivers his "State of the NYPD" during the annual breakfast sponsored by the New York City Police Foundation at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Manhattan on Jan. 20, 2016. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

The NYPD will experiment with armoring some patrol cars with bullet resistant materials, Commissioner William Bratton said Wednesday.

The initial test would involve placing special panels on the exterior of about 50 vehicles, Bratton told reporters after he gave his annual state of the NYPD address to the nonprofit New York City Police Foundation. He said the panels would be used on both doors and window glass.

“My sense is we will definitely go forward with the ballistic panels. The glass will probably require more study,” Bratton said. The plates won’t be noticeable, he said. He did not offer any information on the cost or provide a start date for the test.

Bratton said the initiative comes after the department has had several officers over the years shot in their vehicles, notably the assassinations of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn in December 2014, as well as the killing last year in Queens of officer Brian Moore of Massapequa.

The NYPD also has braced for potential active shooter scenarios by Isis-inspired terrorists. The announcement came the same day the NYPD warned officers of a call mentioning ISIS and an officer being shot.

Bratton said unlike in Los Angeles where ballistic panels are contained within the doors of police cars, those being considered in New York would involve a covering over the exterior of the doors and the glass. Bratton was the Los Angeles police chief for about seven years, ending in 2009.

A police spokesman said the panel would cover half the window, protecting officers as they sat in their cars from drive by shooters. Test cars would be selected randomly and could number as many as 60, the spokesman said.

Bratton said the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association was notified about the experiment last week. The PBA declined to comment Wednesday.

The company that will supply the panels is Hardwire Armor based in Maryland. Officials there couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

The New York experiment follows the department’s recent study of the technology at law enforcement conferences. An NYPD official, who watched a film of a test on the material that took place at the police firing range in the Bronx, said it withstood the close range firing of a handgun and a shotgun blast.

After the killings of Liu and Ramos, some city council members called for armoring police vehicles or installing bulletproof glass. But Bratton publicly stated that the use of such glass inside the vehicle doors would be expensive and was cool to the idea.

During his annual report to the foundation, which provides monetary support and other assistance to the NYPD, Bratton said by March all cops would be equipped with smartphones with a language translation app to help officers deal with people who don’t speak English.

Bratton extolled the continuing two decades-long decrease in serious crime in the city, noting that the drop comes as the NYPD has been relying less on stop, question and frisk, as well as arrests and summonses. Bratton called the trend of fewer police legal actions as the “peace dividend” that is allowing his cops to interact more with the people in neighborhoods as problem solvers.

Bratton also said the city will be spending millions of dollars to refurbish police precinct and other buildings to modernize them so they don’t look like something out of “Dante’s Inferno.”

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