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Marble Falls tactical team to replace aging body armor

Marble Falls Police Lt. Steve Eckstein examines outdated body armor scheduled to be replaced with $12,000 in new vests and gear for the department's special operations tactical team. The city pitched in $4,000 for the purchase of the gear, which was primarily funded with an $8,000 Burnet County Friends of NRA grant. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF

MARBLE FALLS — Officers in special-operations tactical units train to adapt to body armor and gear weighing about 50 pounds “fully loaded” with ammunition compartments, emergency tools and other crime-fighting and rescue equipment.

“It’s on your shoulders, so it’s not like carrying it on a handle or out in front of you,” said Lt. Steve Eckstein of the Marble Falls Emergency Services Unit Tactical Team. “The team is at a higher fitness level than most. They have better endurance (due to extra training.)”

A substantial part of the weight derives from added protected of combination ceramic and kevlar plates, which weigh about 8 pounds each.

Despite the life-saving and tactical value of the gear, the ballistic material in the vests have a limited shelf life.

“The vests degrade after five years,” he said. “It’s definitely necessary to update them. They are a very expensive item.”

The department recently purchased eight new vests and accompanying gear totaling $12,000 for the tactical team.

The bulk of the funding awarded to the department came from an $8,000 grant from Burnet County Friends of NRA.

About $4,000 in city funding made up the difference.

Personnel for the team, which responds to incidents across the region, consists of current officers at the Marble Falls Police Department, who undergo additional tactical training.

Because of a limited department budget, the effectiveness of the unit relies on support from organizations such as the NRA group and Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) to supplement a limited department budget.

The new vests are expected to arrive in six to eight weeks, Eckstein said.

“(The team provides) assistance in emergency situations, active shooters, barricaded subjects, hostage situations … and a negotiation team,” he said. “Basically, the tactical team is called out in life-and-death situations, so these vests are vital in providing an extra level of protection.”

connie@thepicayune.com