OAKLAND — Local police officers facing violent situations now have heavy armored vests and helmets to give them more protection, thanks to a donation from some town residents.

At the Oakland police station Tuesday morning, officer Tanya Allen tried on one of the heavy black ballistic vests, emblazoned with “POLICE” in white lettering across the front. The vests are made with Kevlar fiber and reinforced with steel plates to provide protection from a gunshot or knife attack. The matching black helmet provides protection for an officer’s head.

“They are a couple of steps above the vests we wear every day,” said Capt. Rick Stubbert.

Four sets of vests and helmets were bought for the department by local businessmen Kevin Joseph and E.J. Fabian, who are co-owners of Joseph’s Fireside Steakhouse, while Fabian owns Fabian Oil. Resident Dave Libby also contributed toward the costs.

The sets cost $2,800 total — $700 each — according to police Chief Mike Tracy.

The department has wanted to buy the equipment but hasn’t been able to because of budget constraints, he said.

Fortunately for the department, Libby, Fabian and Joseph were looking to help out. In the aftermath of a fatal shooting in November that left four people dead at a Belgrade Road apartment, the men wanted to do something to assist the department. No officers were injured in the shooting.

“They were asking us, ‘What can we do to keep the Oakland officers safer?'” Tracy said.

The department ordered the equipment and the three men paid for it.

“We just wanted to do something for the Oakland police,” Libby said. “It’s sort of a pay-it-forward thing.”

Everyday policing has become more dangerous, and Oakland officers are being confronted with situations that could result in violence or an armed confrontation, Tracy said.

Oakland officers were the first responders at the scene at a November shooting that involved four deaths, and officers are being sent to help execute search warrants in drug cases with armed suspects. If a dangerous situation develops, local Oakland officers probably will be dealing with it before backup forces, such as members of the Maine State Police tactical team, get to the scene. That makes additional bodily protection that much more important, Tracy said.

“It’s more common now for a patrol officer on the street to run into that situation,” he said.

The four sets of vests and helmets will be stored in Oakland police cruisers so officers can get to them quickly.

After trying on one of the heavy-duty vests Tuesday, Libby said he respected the officers for dealing with dangerous situations all the time, made worse by the prevalence of drugs and other problems.

“There is so much going on. I don’t know how you guys do this,” he said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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