Brownsville ISD police get new ballistic shields

Only have a minute? Listen instead
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
BISD training officer Sonny Pedraza holds one of the new Vanguard ballistic shields on which officers in the BISD Police Department are being trained. (Gary Long/The Brownsville Herald)

The BISD Police Department is completing training on top-of-the-line, rifle-resistant Vanguard ballistic shields secured through a grant from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.

The shields are part of the Brownsville Independent School District’s ongoing response to school safety concerns in the aftermath of the Uvalde school shooting in May 2022.

So far the department has taken delivery on 20 shields, with 45 more on the way. All 67 BISD police officers are to receive training to deploy the shields in the event of an active shooter incident.

While such incidents have happened with maddening regularity in the rest of the U.S., the closest BISD has ever come to an actual school shooting was the 2012 incident at Cummings Middle School when officers shot and killed a student who aimed a pellet pistol at them that resembled a Glock semi-automatic handgun.

In the years since, the BISD Police and Security Services Department has made school safety an ongoing if behind-the-scenes priority as officers work to keep students, staff, parents and the community safe.

The shields the officers are being trained to use are rated to stop high-powered rifle rounds. They are a lightweight sturdier version of police shields of old, equipped with LED lighting that can temporarily blind a suspect, ergonomically balanced and with cut-outs on either side to allow the officer to deploy the shield and accurately aim a weapon at the same time.

“These are safer, faster, when we get to the scene of an active shooter situation, not only for our officers but for the students and staff and the parents that are out there. If we need to conduct some type of operations, these shields will provide us that protection that is needed,” said Officer Sonny Pedraza, the instructor training other officers so they can be certified to use the shields.

The shields come in two sizes because “not all of our officers are 6-foot-5, some of them are 4-foot-11, but they are really lightweight for the protection they provide,” Pedraza said. They weigh from 15-17 pounds compared to 34 t0 36 pounds for the older rifle-resistant shields. The new shields will also stop 30-caliber and above hunting rounds, he said.

“In a worst-case scenario, you might have one shield to protect five officers, but that one shield will protect those five officers,” Pedraza said.