Six Fort Worth police officers received advanced ballistic vests Thursday, bought with funds from a $355,000 donation by Fort Worth-based Mallick Group to outfit 900 police officers with the rifle-resistant equipment.
One of those officers, Ben Wright, told Michael and Valerie Mallick, “It’s hard to say thank you enough.”
A formal presentation of the donation was made Thursday at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex. It was also the launch of the Protect the Fort campaign, which wants to raise $250,000 more from the community to buy 900 helmets. Information about making donations is online at www.protectthefort.com.
Mayor Betsy Price said the Mallicks’ gift is “an incredible donation” and one that “signifies an outpouring of support” for the Police Department. “It just goes to show how generous Fort Worth is and how much they think of each and every one of you,” she told the officers.
“I pray every day that no one will experience what these vests are meant to do,” Price said. “But, because we have them, you will be safer.”
Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald echoed Price, saying in video messages: “I hope we never put this type of equipment to the test. In a changing and increasingly challenging world, our officers face legitimate dangers. We’ve seen it here in Fort Worth.”
Assistant Chief Ed Kraus said deaths of police officers nationwide are up 70 percent this year over last year.
After the July 7 sniper shootings in Dallas, which killed five officers, so many Fort Worth officers asked what was going to be done to better protect them that the department was looking at other program cuts to be able to buy the vests, he said.
“It’s no secret the last two years have been pretty rough for the law enforcement profession,” Kraus said. “We decided to make this a priority.”