Violence has been increasing in large cities throughout the United States. In Portland, the violence has become so severe that the fire department is making ballistic vests part of their gear.
Terry Foster, Portland Fire and Rescue spokesperson, firefighters will be given access to bullet-resistant gear because of the "changing landscape" and how often firefighters are dealing with violent patients and bystanders.
“First responders, as they go in, we can become targets. Even if you look at the totality of the city, it’s definitely become a less safe place to work for their firefighters. There’s no way to mince any words.”Portland Fire Fighters’ Association (PFA) President Alan Ferschweiler
According to the union, PFR leaders also want the vests to be stab-resistant. According to the Oregonian, PFA Vice President Issac McLennan said, "We always will do anything and everything to keep firefighters safe because that's what keeps people in Portland safe."
Soon they will order 200 ballistic vests. The vests will be red and will be labeled "medic." So far, there is not a clear plan as to how the new vest will be used.
However, McLennan said the vests were necessary as firefighters are seeing more people attacking fellow first responders in Oregon and in the country as a whole. But, he said, "This is just another tool... to keep firefighters safe."
Fershwieler has been attacked while on duty twice. Unfortunately, he said, "It's just become more of a dangerous time for first responders throughout the country."
The violent crime numbers have climbed in Portland over the last year and hit a high of 837 shooting year to date by the end of August. In the North Precinct, shootings are up 100%.
Without the vests, firefighters' jobs would become increasingly difficult to do, putting the publics' lives in greater danger. Hopefully, with the vests, firefighters will be able to continue to do their jobs.