Fort Worth Police officers will be outfitted with heavy-duty ballistic vests, thanks to a gift from Fort Worth’s Mallick family.
The Mallick Group, represented by the Fort Worth developer Michael Mallick and his wife, Valerie, gave $355,000 to the nonprofit Ft. Worth S.W.A.T. Support Group Thursday.
The money will outfit the city’s 900 patrol, school resource, and neighborhood police officers, and the incoming recruit class, with the $400 vests. At the same time, the Mallicks and Fort Worth police supporters launched a campaign Thursday to raise money for ballistic helmets at $279 apiece for all officers, as well as the complete set of body armor and helmet for future officers. Officers will use the equipment in volatile situations.
Mallick, whose company presented the check to Ft. Worth S.W.A.T. in a ceremony Thursday at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex in south Fort Worth, first raised the possibility of a gift to the city a few years ago, and then raised it again after the July 7 shooting In downtown Dallas that killed five officers and injured several others.
“We just got tired of watching everything and tried to make a difference, tried to make a statement,” Mallick said in an interview after the ceremony.
The vests can stop rifle fire, compared to the ones Fort Worth officers use today, which can't. Organizers set up the web site protectthefort.com to take gifts for helmets. Thursday’s ceremony was attended by Fort Worth officers recently injured in duty, including officer Matt Pearce, shot several times earlier this year.
Pearce, who spoke to reporters Thursday, was thanked afterwards by Gary Randle, who, as a spokesman for Mallick and a representative of the H.O.P.E. Farm charity for troubled youth, presented the check. “I love my job, so it makes it easier,” Pearce told Randle.
Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, who was on a vacation in Europe with his wife, thanked the Mallicks in a videotaped address shown during the ceremony.
“Although we’ll never solicit donations of this magnitude, we’re certainly not turning it down,” Fitzgerald said.
Ed Kraus, a Fort Worth assistant chief, said the department was discussing purchasing the heavy equipment when the Mallick proposal surfaced. “The impact of officer deaths came home with the death of the officers in Dallas,” Kraus said.
Mayor Betsy Price called the Mallick gift the latest example of Fort Worth’s rich history of public-private partnerships. “Fort Worth is very blessed, and we’re very proud of that,” Price said. “We have a tremendous history in Fort Worth of public-private partnerships.”
Former Mayor Mike Moncrief and his wife Rosie also thanked the Mallicks. Police officers’ “families will sleep just a little bit sounder knowing that their loved ones will be coming home that night,” the mayor said.