Bulletproof: APD Secures Funding for Body Armor - TribPapers

Bulletproof: APD Secures Funding for Body Armor

APD Chief Mike Lamb receives National Police Week proclamation certificate from Vice Mayor Sandra Kilgore. Photo submitted.

Asheville – On April 23rd, Vice Mayor Sandra Kilgore, standing in for Mayor Manheimer, presented a proclamation to name May 12th through 18th, 2024, as National Police Week, and May 15th, 2024, as Peace Officers Memorial Day. Present to accept this proclamation were Asheville Police Department (APD) Chief Mike Lamb, Captain Sean Aardema, Captain Janice Hawkins, and Captain Jonathan Brown. Also in attendance were members of the Police Benevolent Association and the Fraternal Order of Police.

This proclamation is a huge honor bestowed on our law enforcement agencies and officers by Congress and the President of the United States, and voted for approval by the City Council, recognizing their essential role in safeguarding our rights and freedoms, protecting us against violence, and providing a vital public service. This is particularly poignant because six days later, four officers were killed and four injured while trying to serve a warrant in Charlotte.

After the presentation, Kilgore said, “We are grateful to have such a dedicated police force here in Asheville. Sometimes we don’t really thank them the way we should or understand the sacrifices they make. They need our support.”

Shortage Of Staff and Personal Protection

One of the biggest challenges the APD is facing is being severely shortstaffed, partially due to lower wages than other departments around the state offer, and they are in need of new protective equipment. Chief Lamb shared this about body armor: “I believe that bulletproof vests/body armor are an essential piece of life-saving equipment that every officer needs. Bullet-proof vests have saved over 3100 officers from death or serious injury (IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors Club reference). Every day that I am in my duty uniform, I wear my body armor. My armor has helped me over the last 26 years to feel protected as I approached dangerous situations involving firearms.”

Money For Bulletproof Vests On The Agenda

In an effort to support the police department during a time when many people were working to defund the police, prominent citizens in Asheville formed the Asheville Coalition for Public Safety. Honor Moor, a co-founder of the group, spoke to the city council in a plea for a 6% pay raise, which would still be lower than most municipalities, and funding for bulletproof vests. Moor said, “One of the reasons why I want to talk on the Consent is that the bulletproof vests are up for a vote, and one of our council members in the past has not supported the body armor that the police need.”

APD Ride-Along Program

In an effort to understand what officers actually do, Moor signed up for the Asheville Police Department’s ride-along program, a program to help community members understand the broad range of police duties and the vital role officers perform. Moor took her ride-along in East Asheville, an area where there had already been two murders. The first call that came in was for an armed robbery. One or two officers cannot respond to an armed robbery; they have to pull officers from other districts.

“I didn’t really understand what short staffing looks like until I went on a ride along,” said Moor. “I was very naive; I didn’t get it. I could see the call volume in the car on the screen—just an unbelievable amount of call volume. It’s a tough job, and it really is a dangerous job.”

Moor learned there are three types of body armor: everyday body armor, a type of body armor depending on the types of guns they think will be used on them, and a type of body armor that soldiers wear for something like an active shooter. Moor closed her comment by asking the city council to vote yes for a 6% pay raise and to fund the purchase of body armor.

Roney Votes No

Council member Kim Roney has voted against funding for bulletproof vests twice in the past and did so again. Roney instead had a list of personnel she would like to have for what she calls a “Holistic Empathic Assistance Response Team (HEART), which included mental health clinicians at the 911 call center, community response teams including uniquely qualified behavioral health clinicians, care navigators for extended followup, a co-responder unit, and violence interruptor programming. One has to wonder how this would help in an armed robbery.

Council member Antanette Mosely questioned Roney’s plan, pointing out that these “are all functions of the county government and, in fact, are statutorily mandated through Health and Human Services.” She voiced concern that this would step on the county’s toes.

The funding for the bulletproof vests was approved by the majority.