Update: The City of Miami approved Miami Police's request at today's City Commission meeting.
Earlier this year, Miami Police sent a bid request for 687 "active shooter kits," which contain multiple types of military-grade body armor, as well as two holsters apiece for AR-15 rifle ammunition. This past March 7, a
At today's city commission meeting, Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes will argue that, in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando a month ago, the department now needs to quickly purchase the military equipment to keep civilians safe.
"It troubles me," says Horacio Stuart Aguirre, president of the Civilian Investigative Panel, an independent city agency that investigates complaints about MPD. "I believe every man and woman has the right to go home alive. That includes police, but it also includes you and me, especially the not so wealthy, not so good-looking, or not so well-versed in social niceties.
On June 28, Llanes sent a letter to the city commission, claiming the upgrade was necessary to keep civilians safe in the event that an active-shooter scenario
"Due to the recent shooting in Orlando and those currently taking place internationally, the police department would like to take the proactive approach in getting the needed resources to provide critical protection to first responders in the aid and rescue of civilians threatened by an active shooter in a hot zone," Llanes wrote. He added later: "Should an officer respond to an active shooter incident, he will not only be
This, he says, should justify leapfrogging the city's typical bid process, effectively ordering the armor kits in a no-bid deal.
A police spokesperson declined to comment on the order.
But Aguirre says the request worries him. He says he sees it as another example of misplaced spending that will ultimately push Miami Police and the citizens they patrol farther apart.
"Maybe instead of spending $300,000 on body armament, maybe we should be spending $300,000 on psychological training for cops," he says.
Aguirre says the armor in question is similar to the armor used to crack down on protests in the wake of the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. He calls it "gladiator armor" and says it's reminiscent of the armor used in this now-famous photo from last week's protests.
"It's science-fiction body armor, gladiator armor," he says. "They were using it to arrest this 110-pound girl with the wind blowing through her silky, flowing dress."
He adds that the department already has a host of anti-terror equipment available, including two "bazooka-proof battle-wagons."
Muhammad Malik, a local community organizer who sat on a 13-person Amnesty International police-reform panel in the wake of the Ferguson riots, also criticizes the request.
"I would say, I'm disturbed by this," he says. "In the context of Orlando and the Dallas shootings, it seems like local and federal law enforcement is taking incidents of lone gunmen and manipulating them into mischaracterizing protesters and mass-movement activity as potential targets. My concern is the spillover effect of spending on these things."
He adds, "We saw it in Baton Rouge over the weekend with hundreds of protests; we saw the militarized police response. People were wearing heavy body armor, suppressing people like they were enemy combatants."
"I'm really worried about it, but it's a resigned worry," he says. "It's typical of the escalation of police tactics. In the wake of some kind of mass event, they respond by ratcheting up their procedures. I know that in a decade or less, those AR-15s they use may show up at a parade they're trying to patrol."
Update: The city sent out the following release after approving the emergency order today.
After the mass shooting in Orlando, City Manager Daniel J. Alfonso authorized an emergency bid waiver for the purchase of active shooter kits that include heavy duty fire armor for the Miami Police Department. Today the City of Miami Commission unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by Commissioner Francis Suarez which retroactively approved the emergency procurement and the selection of Federal Eastern International Inc. for the provision of these kits at an initial purchase price of $295,410.00. Rather than a soft body armor vest which only protects against handgun fire, the new bulky vest is worn over the uniform and includes metal plates that are rifle ready. The vest will be kept in the officer's car and can be quickly put on in 10 seconds. 687 units have been ordered and should be received in 4 to 6 weeks.
"Based on the increase in the number of active shooter incidents in this country, it's important for our officers to have all the safety equipment they need," said Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.