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Cincinnati firefighters ask for bulletproof vests

Posted at 6:14 PM, Apr 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-10 21:15:27-04

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati firefighers are making a plea to the city council to get new bulletproof vests.

Firefighters in cities like Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles are already fitted for bulletproof vests. Now, some Cincinnati councilmembers want the same for firefighters here.

"It makes sense to me," Councilmember Christopher Smitherman said. "It's unfortunate that it's the new reality."

Last October, the city made the first step, buying more than 180 bullet vests for firefighters in anticipation of the Ray Tensing trial. But now, firefighters say they need about 670 more.

"We need to have everything possible to do our job, focus on treating the patient and getting them to the hospital," firefighter union president Matt Alter said.

Alter said he had already seen the need for bulletproof vests. Just last month, firefighters in Northside were shot at while making a welfare check.

"Nobody wants to be shot at," he said, "Nobody wants to be worried about, are they going to be assaulted when they're just carrying out their daily lives? Or in this case, just doing our work."

For now, most Cincinnati firefighters are wearing hand-me-downs from the police department, making the most of officers' expired bulletproof vests.

Smitherman said that's good, but not necessarily enough.

"We're all responding to the same chaos, and when bullets are flying, we want to make sure that, if one of our firefighters is shot, that our firefighters are as protected as our police officers," he said.

The estimated cost of the new bulletproof vests is about $250,000. They'll be bright red, clearly identifying the firefighter crews, and custom-fit.

"If it saves the life of one firefighter, it was worth it," Smitherman said.