The NYPD’s planned bulk buy of top-of-the-line body armor won’t have those red crosses that spurred a few questions after a press conference with Commissioner Bill Bratton last week.
“It should be noted that the adhesive insignia is part of the manufacturer’s design, which is optional, and will not be included in the NYPD’s procurement contract,” a representative with the NYPD wrote to the Voice in an email on February 10. That “adhesive insignia” is this cross:
People started asking about the cross when Bratton removed and displayed the new vest’s protective plate. The ceramic layer, normally concealed within the fabric of the garment, is designed to protect against high-powered rifles and knife attacks, and was pitched as one of the vest’s more important features.
The image on the plate is instantly recognizable as a Christian cross overlaid on the outline of a shield. Several Twitter users and at least one blogger picked up on the image right away.
On Tuesday, Patrick Blanchfield, a writer and Ph.D. candidate in comparative literature at Emory University, as well as a former New Yorker, published a blog post describing the history of the style of cross depicted in the Paraclete logo. The red, flared design, he wrote, is reminiscent of the cross used by the Knights Templar, a group of “warrior-monks” active during the Crusades of the Middle Ages. Blanchfield said he thought the connotation was troubling:
I think it’s inadvisable and unacceptable if the department actually uses models that have the crosses on them, and I question the judgment of choosing this particular brand (all other alternatives being equal) in the first place.
The brand name, too, has religious significance: Paraclete is a Greek word meaning “protector” or guide and is also another name for the Holy Spirit. And judging by the history of Paraclete’s founder, Tim D’Annunzio, a sometime political candidate and Tea Party favorite in North Carolina, the image and brand name are no coincidence.
As Newsweek reported in 2010, D’Annunzio came to believe, at one point, that he was the Messiah, according to divorce filings, and once maintained a blog called Christ’s War. D’Annunzio has since sold Paraclete; the brand name is now owned by Point Blank Armor, which manufactures the vests the department has committed to purchase.
The NYPD confirmed today in an emailed statement that it was aware of the logo, which it describes as an adhesive and an optional component. The department says the vests it uses will not feature the image:
On Friday, February 6, 2015, during a press conference, Police Commissioner Bratton presented an Alpha Elite prototype bullet resistant vest manufactured by Point Blank. The metal plate displayed during the event is significant to officer safety, as it is resistant to bullets as well as knife thrusts. It should be noted that the adhesive insignia is part of the manufacture’s design, which is optional, and will not be included in the NYPD’s procurement contract.
In an unusually rapid procurement, the city announced that it would purchase 13,000 Alpha Elite vests made by Florida-based Point Blank Armor, at a cost of $7.3 million. It also plans to replace all of the more than 20,000 vests currently in service, many of which have, the department says, outlived their warranties.