Fort Worth

Fort Worth to get $355,000 gift to buy body armor for police

Fort Worth is receiving a $355,000 gift to buy 900 advanced ballistic vests, shown here by Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald.
Fort Worth is receiving a $355,000 gift to buy 900 advanced ballistic vests, shown here by Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald. Fort Worth Police Department

A local real estate developer is giving $355,000 to the Fort Worth Police Department to buy advanced ballistic vests that offer better protection from rifle shots for 900 front-line officers.

It is believed to be the largest, single private donation to Fort Worth police, and it could grow to more than $600,000. A group calling itself Protect the Fort will join that with a commitment to raise $250,000 to buy 900 advanced ballistic helmets. The group has already raised money for the effort, but would not disclose the amount. It will ask the community to raise the remainder and has set up a website for that.

An announcement is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex at 505 W. Felix St.

The larger donation is being made by Fort Worth real estate investor and developer Michael Mallick and his wife, Valerie, principals of Fort Worth-based Mallick Group, in the wake of the July 7 police ambush in Dallas that killed five officers. The hours-long siege ended when Dallas officers killed the assailant with a bomb carried by a robot.

The Mallicks said they are making the donation in appreciation of what police officers do to protect Fort Worth. They said they hope their contribution inspires others to do the same.

“It was hard to sit idle and watch law enforcement around our country get ambushed,” Michael Mallick said. “In some of these unfortunate instances, lives might have been saved by advanced ballistic protection. Additional contributions will provide funding for the purchase of other types of equipment for front-line officers to better protect themselves while they selflessly protect the fort.”

Former Fort Worth mayor and state Sen. Mike Moncrief, who is co-chairing Protect the Fort, said the Mallicks “wanted to have an impact and they thought the quickest way to be able to do that was to make sure our front-line defenders have the best equipment. The first part of that was the protective vests.”

‘Protect our protectors’

Joining Moncrief as chairs of Protect the Fort are his wife, Rosie, and Gary and Marilyn Randle. Gary Randle is a co-founder of the Fort Worth nonprofit Hope Farm Inc., a leadership program for at-risk boys who are fatherless. He retired from the Fort Worth police department in 1997 after serving 15 years as an officer.

“We all know we live in some troubling uncertain times,” Rosie Moncrief said. “It’s a time I never dreamed I’d live to see. It’s a time where there’s mindless rioting with no consideration of the consequences and who actually gets hurt, and who is damaged by those actions.”

“Those of us in the community want and need to protect you,” she said. “The most repugnant thing out there to me is the targeting of our men and women that have taken an oath to serve and protect us, our families and our communities. I think what resonates with me is who does protect our protectors.”

Randle said the donation shows the police department the community’s commitment and “heartfelt appreciation” to the officers. “Can you imagine what this world would be like without police officers?” he said.

The city has earmarked money in the fiscal 2017 budget to buy vests and helmets and will still make those purchases, said Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald. The police department has about 1,600 officers and the goal is for every officer to have the equipment, he said. The vests cost about $400 each.

“There’s a challenge to be made,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s a challenge to other cities to have groups step forward to be able to provide their police officers this type of critical equipment.”

In another donation, on Tuesday, the council “with appreciation” approved accepting four 2016 Chevrolet Tahoes valued at $188,000 from the Dallas Fort Worth Metropolitan New Car Dealers Association. The group wanted to make the donation in response to the Dallas shootings, the city said.

Nonprofit support

The Mallick Group has been involved in numerous real estate deals in Tarrant County, including buying the former Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas in 2006 after the Masons voted to close the Fort Worth campus. They donated 20 acres of the 200-acre site, the core of the historic building on the campus, to ACH Child and Family Services. They have since sold the remaining land which has become the Renaissance mixed-use development that is bringing much-needed services, housing and a grocery store to southeast Fort Worth.

Mallick is also involved in Sierra Vista, which has brought single-family homes to an under-served southeast Fort Worth area. Mallick started in real estate in 1983.

The company has real estate and energy-related investments in Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Mallick bought the AstroWorld theme park in Houston and once owned the office building behind the Ridglea Theater on Camp Bowie Boulevard.

The donation will be made to the S.W.A.T. Support Group, a nonprofit set up to support the officers, in order for city to start buying the vests, which could take about two months to get. The City Council is scheduled to vote Dec. 13 to approve the donation.

The 26 members of the department’s SWAT team already have the ballistic vests and helmets.

“S.W.A.T. is honored to be a part of this,” said Julie Swearingin, captain of the department’s tactical operations division. “When the initiative was first introduced to us, when they asked us to do research, we all wanted to be a part of it.”