Miami Beach

Bal Harbour OKs purchase of six ballistic resistant shields for police

The village council of Bal Harbour unanimously approved the purchase of ballistic resistant shields to aid police officers in case of a response to an “active shooter incident.”

Officers have been trained in rapid-action tactics and need the equipment when responding to an active shooter incident, which Chief Mark Nathan Overton described as when an armed person has the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible on the population.

The six lightweight, polyethylene fiber ballistic resistance shields will be purchased for $11,371.50 with money from the state law enforcement trust funds.

The police department has been implementing such safety practices in response to shooting sprees that have occurred nationwide, Overton said. Since 2000, there have been more than 84 active shooter incidents in the country, including Sandy Hook and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shootings, he said.

“They will have a tactical advantage if they receive fire,” said Overton said of the 15-pound, 30-inch shields.

There will be a shield in each police vehicle of supervisory personnel, including lieutenants and sergeants.

Assistant Mayor Patricia Cohen expressed interest in purchasing body and surveillance cameras with forfeiture funds.

Village Manager Jorge Gonzalez said there was “a lot more functionality” with surveillance, more so than body cameras, which can become expensive with the storage of data that has to be retained for legal reasons if needed.

Overton is looking into license plate readers (LPR), which he said are effective as a crime prevention tool. LPRs would continuously read license plates of vehicles passing through the village and would be less expensive than body cameras.

When asked by Cohen about the use of dashboard cameras in police vehicles, Overton noted that the equipment is mainly used for traffic stops and DUI enforcement. The dash cameras would be unable to view an incident that occurred away from a police vehicle. Bal Harbour officers often are away from their vehicle while responding to incidents in stores or homes.

Overton also noted the village just received 26 new patrol vehicles that would be hitting the streets within 30 days after they are branded and marked. The police department is replacing its entire fleet of vehicles. Each comes with a five-year vehicle lease, costing $170,000 annually. The city will own the vehicles at the end of the lease.