- Associated Press - Monday, May 18, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Little Rock police chief wants to equip more of his officers with riot gear as a pre-emptive step following recent unrest in Baltimore.

Chief Kenton Buckner said it’s important that the city’s officers are able to protect themselves if they need to respond to large demonstrations that could turn violent. Twenty-five-year-old Freddie Gray died after suffering a spinal injury while in Baltimore police custody. His death led to riots and looting in the Maryland city.

“We can’t protect life and property until we are able to protect ourselves,” Buckner said. “This is a proactive measure.”

The police department wants to spend more than $340,000 to outfit about 500 of the agency’s estimated 550 officers with helmets, gas, masks and shields. Around 44 Little Rock officers, who are members of a special response unit, already are equipped with the protective gear.

Buckner said the ultimate goal is to outfit every officer in the department. The city’s Board of Directors is set to vote Tuesday on the purchase, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1ESNVO6 ) reported.

City Manager Bruce Moore said the equipment is standard issue in other police departments around the nation and that he was surprised to find that most Little Rock officers didn’t have it.

“It’s really like an insurance policy. I pray that we never have to use it,” Moore said.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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