Fort Thomas Police to Order Viper Shields For All Officers
|Chad Martin, Southgate Police. Photo: Local 12.|
That's when police are called to a scene with shots fired. It's happened at schools, movie theaters, churches and office buildings. The problem is police officers don't have the tools with them in cruisers to move through a building looking for the shooter. That's usually done by the SWAT team with their high powered weapons and big shields kept in a truck.
That scenario is why a Southgate Kentucky police officer invented the Viper Shield. When Chad Martin worked in Lexington, firefighters got to an active shooting scene before police. The gunman stood outside and shot at the unarmed paramedics. Police didn't really have a safe way to move in and help them. That's when Martin said he started thinking about what he would want if he were in that situation.
What Officer Martin invented is a nine pound shield, just a T-handle pull and an open door away from the officer. It is light enough for an officer to carry one-handed and run with it. It also has a large viewport.
Officer Martin said it's not just about an active shooter situation, "Many officers are injured serving warrants. There are suspects with a gun runs, and robberies in progress, or someone mentally ill or unstable."
The Viper Shield is secured on the backside of the prisoner partition. A T-handle pull in the front of the cruiser releases it in seconds. Officer Martin says it protects officers from gunfire, but it's also about citizens, "When officers realize the bullet proof vest leaves the head exposed, and the ballistic shield covers the head and the front of the body, it may give that officer a little more time, the confidence, to assess a situation and decide whether or not to use deadly force."
The first Viper was installed in a cruiser at Southgate Police Department, of course, but Pro-Gard, a vehicle equipment supplier, now has the shield in demo cruisers nationwide. One department that wants one in every cruiser is Fort Thomas, Kentucky. Police have seen it in action. Two years ago they were called to an active shooter in a medical building . One woman was shot inside, but they didn't know where the shooter was or if there were more than one. People in the building were so afraid some were ready to jump from windows. Police officers didn't have time to go back to the station and get their shields.
Fort Thomas Lt. Richard Whitford said, "When I saw Chad come through the door with the shield I was thinking, thank God he's here. Whitford was able to stay with the victim. I said you guys have to clear the building. Chad [Officer Martin] led them with the shield. To have it in the vehicle and available in seconds is genius."
Martin says he often thinks about how great it's going to be, the first time he gets a call that says this invention saved someone's life.
Story by Deb Dixon, Local 12 WKRC