HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Harrisburg City Council took no action on a proposal to upgrade police tactical gear Wednesday evening.
After tabling the issue last week, the council invited police and members of the public to offer comments. Police Chief Thomas Carter emphasized the need for new gear, describing it as a modern upgrade to current shields, helmets and batons in use for more than 20 years. The cost of the new equipment would be approximately $65,000.
“If officers cannot protect themselves, then we cannot protect the general public,” Carter said. “With the proper protective gear on, it de-escalates the force the officers use. Without the proper gear, then the force would be escalated more because the officers are in fear for their life.”
As Carter and two other senior police staff members made their case, they were suddenly forced to leave council chambers.
“Excuse us, council members,” Carter said.
Minutes later, council president Gloria Martin-Roberts announced that the officers had been dispatched to a rowdy protest of an appearance of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who was holding a televised town hall meeting at the ABC27 studios in uptown Harrisburg.
Following the police departure, more than a dozen city residents offered opinions on what they called “riot gear.” Most shared concerns that the modern gear is a step towards “militarizing” the local police force.
“The trend towards militarization and crackdowns of protesters is prevalent across the nation and other cities,” city resident Randall Hayes said. “I think this is a turning point or an opportunity for our city to put that trend in check.”
The council agreed to postpone a possible vote on the measure until another round of public comment can occur with police leaders present.