When NYPD detective Brian Simonsen of Calverton was mortally wounded while responding to a report of a robbery in Queens on February 12, 2019, he wasn’t wearing a bulletproof vest.
Detectives like Simonsen sometimes didn’t wear the protective item on routine interview assignments, which Simonsen had been on earlier that fateful afternoon, because the vests were bulky and didn’t fit under a business suit.
On Wednesday, NYPD brass and officials with the New York City Police Foundation revealed during a news conference that new, thinner and lighter-weight vests were being distributed to members of the detective bureau. The vests offer the same protection as the standard vests which are being used by the 20,000 patrol officers but readily fit under a business suit jacket, said Chief of Detectives James Essig.
The new vests were developed in cooperation with the Detectives' Endowment Association.
The initial distribution of several hundred vests was funded by thePolice Foundation, a non-profit group which funds certain NYPD functions.
The Police Foundation first began giving cops vests in the 1970s, a time of fiscal crisis for New York City and a period when officers were being shot at, said foundation CEO Susan Birnbaum.
The foundation was funding the purchase of an additional 1,000 vests at a cost of about $750,000, said Dr. Philip O. Azuah, chair of the foundation and CEO of Montefiore Medical.
“It became clear there was a need for a new protective vest, designed that would fit comfortably under a business suit and offer protection the traditional vests provide,” said DEA president Paul DiGiacomo, who said the union provided the initial funding to design the new vests.
“This new vest program is saving detectives lives,” added DiGiacomo.
“The vests offer the same level of protection as the old vest,” Essig said. “What is different about this is the comfort, it is conducive to wearing a suit.”
A number of men and women detectives appeared at the news conference sporting the new vest, which appeared to fit comfortably with or without suit jackets. Some 3,500 of the older, bulkier vests had been distributed earlier to members of the detective bureau and will be replaced, explained Essig.
Officials said the older vests, which can weigh as much as 60 pounds, will continue to be standard for patrol officers on their beats.
Simonsen was responding to reports of a robbery at a T-Mobile store when he was fatally wounded in what police determined was a case of “friendly fire” from the gun of another officer who was outside the store.
Two men involved in the robbery didn’t fire any shots but were later convicted and sentenced to prison terms for their roles in the holdup.