Detroit EMTs, firefighters to get body armor

George Hunter

Detroit firefighters and emergency technicians may soon be equipped with body armor.

Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said he has secured funding to outfit his employees with the protective gear, which he said is sorely needed to protect them, especially given the recent spate of police officers shot in the city.

“We just had an EMT shot in Dallas,” he said. “The way things are going here in Detroit lately, I’m surprised no (fire department employees) have been shot. But it’s the law of averages. My guys have to be safe out there.”

A Dallas paramedic Monday was shot while treating a gunshot victim. The suspect was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The paramedic is expected to live.

In Detroit, through the years there have been several attacks on firefighters and EMTs. In March 2016, a medical technician was injured by irate family members of a man who was having trouble breathing, police said. The man’s relatives broke the window of the rig, shattering the glass and cutting the EMT, requiring a hospital visit.

Six months earlier, a Detroit EMS paramedic and her partner were slashed with a box cutter outside a Cass Corridor homeless shelter. Michael Montgomery was charged, pleaded guilty to several crimes, including assault, and was sentenced to up to 10 years. Montgomery also was convicted in a 2005 rape and homicide, and was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to up to 80 years for those crimes.

“You can’t prevent everything, but I can take some reasonable, prudent steps to take care of these guys,” said Jones, a longtime Detroit police official. “They’re on the same scenes as the police officers, and they face the same dangers. Many times when you arrive at a (crime) scene, and you think the suspect has left, but they haven’t. So our people need to be protected.”

Jones said he submitted a budget that included a $500,000 outlay for body armor, which was approved by the City Council and Mayor Mike Duggan.

“The question now is: Do we put out bids, or use the same company as DPD?” Jones said. “I’ll probably start the bidding and contract negotiation process, and then start scheduling people to come in and get fitted.”

Jones said there are a few other cities, including Miami, which provide body armor for firefighters and EMTs.

“Chicago doesn’t issue them to their people, but it’s allowed if they want to buy them,” he said. “There are other private ambulance companies across the nation that provide them. Some other jurisdictions provide them, but not too many.”

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN