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South Pasadena : Purchase of Riot Gear OKd

March 21, 1993

Fearing a riot after a verdict in the Rodney G. King beating trial, the City Council last week approved the purchase of 30 helmets and riot gear for police officers and 10 bulletproof vests for firefighters at a cost of about $13,000.

"There is a feeling there might be trouble following the verdict. We are going to be prepared," Mayor Harry A. Knapp said after the meeting.

Three incidents occurred in the city during last year's riots: A table was thrown through a store, several looting suspects were arrested near Bristol Farms market and a man was arrested for carrying a gun.

"In the case of the Fire Department, the protection is even more needed. During last year's riots they spent 48 hours in Los Angeles and fought 34 fires while bullets were shot at them," Knapp said.

A Los Angeles firefighter was shot and injured by a sniper at 31st Street and Western Avenue. Dozens of other firefighters were shot at by snipers as they battled blazes during the riots.

Fire Department Battalion Chief James Parker said the department needs the bulletproof vests because the city would send engines to Los Angeles again as part of a mutual aid agreement.

"My firefighters would only wear them in situations where it is warranted," Fire Chief William Eisele said in an interview. He stressed that firefighters do play a law enforcement role.

City officials say money from city's drug forfeiture fund will be used to buy the equipment.

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