GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s been just over a year since the killing of Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Ryan Proxmire.
During a pursuit last August, a suspect fired a bullet through his cruiser’s windshield. Proxmire was just 39 years old.
Now, there’s an effort at the Michigan State Capitol to prevent this from happening again and keep officers out of harm’s way. It began with an idea from Proxmire’s parents, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said.
“I had a conversation with his father within days of the situation and he’s like, ‘why aren’t these windshields bulletproof?’” Fuller said.
Not long after Proxmire’s killing, it almost happened again to another Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s deputy.
“We had another incident within a month and a half of that case where another deputy was fired upon with a rifle and two rounds went through that windshield,” Fuller said. “We were very fortunate that deputy escaped without being shot.”
Thinking back to his conversation with Proxmire’s father, Fuller brought the idea to state lawmakers, trying to make sure police cruisers across the state have bulletproof windshields and side windows.
It came to fruition on Thursday when State Rep. Christine Morse introduced the bill in the State House. House Bill 6407 would provide nearly $25 million to make the idea a reality.
“I talked to his family about it,” Morse said. “And it really has brought them to tears. It really is incredible how they have gone through this terrible tragedy, and they don’t want anybody else to have to deal with this and lose a loved one in such a terrible way.”
Proxmire’s family has been “very appreciative” of the effort, Fuller said.
Half of the $25 million would help Michigan State Police buy bulletproof windows and doors for their own cruisers. The other half would create a grant program to help law enforcement agencies across Michigan do the same.
Some departments already have bulletproof vehicles, like Ford Explorers, but far from all agencies.
“We have it in some areas but not on all vehicles,” Morse said.
Fuller said he believes the legislation could have “a tremendous impact.”
“More and more we’re seeing where police officers have become the target of bad players,” Fuller said. “And we want to do what we can to protect our team so they can go out and protect our citizens.”
The sheriff has seen a rise in violence targeting police officers.
“If anyone believes that a police officer putting on the gun and the badge and their armor every night to go and protect their community is not in harm’s way, then come ride with us,” Fuller added. “Go talk to your local police agency. Ride with them.”
Many police and sheriff’s departments in West Michigan continue to deal with a shortage of officers and deputies.
“We really have a very challenging situation where we don’t have enough coming into the field,” Morse said.
He said this legislation would show a commitment to keeping law enforcement safe.
“It’s a dangerous time for law enforcement and has been for some time,” Morse said. “If they can go to work knowing they’ll be safer because their vehicles have higher protection, I hope that can help us recruit more to the field.”
“We want to make it clear to people: if we make this investment in our team, our team will have a better opportunity to go out and help the public,” Fuller said.