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Letter: Op-ed on Safariland misleading

To the Editor:

In response to the op-ed regarding the company I chair, The Safariland Group, and my role on the advisory council of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, I have to say this is the first time I have been so directly attacked and insulted without the author(s) of a piece, whether news- or opinion-based, reaching out for some comment prior to publication. While this is obviously not the forum for correcting every inaccuracy in this column, which I find inconsistent with the quality of the institution from whence the authors graduated, I should note that had they given me the courtesy to provide my perspective before publishing, I would have spoken openly about why I am proud of the company I worked so hard to create. I should also note that I have always gone out of my way to be accessible to fellow Brunonians — and in fact, as I write this, I am traveling to the Brown campus.

Safariland is the largest manufacturer of body armor for law enforcement and other public safety professionals in the United States, and there are countless anecdotes of our products saving the lives of these brave men and women. Just two weeks ago, I had the privilege of having dinner with a paramedic from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Eight months ago, while on a call for an opioid overdose, she was caught in gun crossfire. Fortunately, she was wearing a bulletproof vest manufactured by Safariland. At the time, she was also 32 weeks pregnant and the vest saved both her and her unborn child. It was exceptionally moving to meet her, her husband and her now six-month-old baby — and for me, serves as a poignant reminder of how our first responders deserve the very best protection we can provide as they put their lives at risk every day.

Many police officers in the United States who are shot and killed are shot using their own weapons. To counter this, Safariland manufactures holsters with sophisticated retention systems that keep the gun in the holster unless one knows how to operate the holster. Had the authors reached out, we could also have discussed this — as well as an incident in 2014, when a mentally-ill suspect in West Virginia tried to take a firearm from the holster of Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Atha. In this instance, the deputy’s gun stayed in place due to the Safariland design, and although the weapon discharged and wounded Deputy Atha’s leg, it was not able to be used to cause greater harm or take his life.

We could have also discussed Safariland’s Med-Eng business, which is the largest manufacturer worldwide of bomb suits worn by explosive ordinance disposal technicians — individuals who risk their lives daily to diffuse bombs in all sorts of environments, domestic and foreign. Anyone who has seen the film “The Hurt Locker” will understand the risks these brave individuals choose to take every day. I am proud that our company provides the equipment that helps keep them safe.

Addressing the op-ed, Safariland as a corporation does not opine on most political issues. As a company, we employ more than 2,000 people representing diverse views on politics, the environment, social issues and sexual orientation, to name a few. As an individual, I respect peaceful public protest but I do not respect riots. Our less lethal products are designed to give law enforcement crowd control options in dangerous situations, for which we work closely with first responders and provide extensive training. As with any product, ultimate responsibility for its use falls on the individuals involved in their use. Your inferences assigning blame to me or Safariland are baseless and inappropriate.

I have been a supporter and member of the Brown University community for a very long time. Traveling to Brown for the event with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, I was pleased to know I will be returning to a community comprising curious people who are interested in a deeper understanding of the world around them. Although I find it personally offensive that the authors of this op-ed chose to attack someone they never met and never contacted for comment, I hope this experience will serve as a reminder that courtesy and honesty do not have to be mutually exclusive in journalism, or in life, after graduating from our distinguished alma mater.

Warren Kanders '79


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