CARY, N.C. — The Cary Police Department is getting what the police chief says is a much-needed layer of defense in many of its patrol cars.
Within the next two years, most of the department's 75 marked cars will get plastic and steel barriers, called cages, which serve as a barrier between the front and back seats.
Currently, in about 85 percent of the marked police cars, there is no barrier, which means many officers transport handcuffed suspects next to them in the front seat because they have better control.
"It's not a good situation, and unfortunately, it does happen a lot in this country," said Cary Police Chief Scott Cunningham.
Cunningham knows what happens when officers lose control. While working in Tampa, Fla., two of his detectives had a suspect handcuffed in the back seat.
"(The) guy was able to get out of his handcuffs and seat belt, and overpower the officers and kill them both," Cunningham said.
He does not want that to happen in Cary.
Right now, just 10 patrol cars have cages. About $3,500 in seized drug money will pay for 10 more cars to get them.
"We think it's a good use," Cunningham said. "Criminal money is used to help save officers' lives -- keep them safe and citizens safe."
The rest of the cages will come in the new cars, which will replace most of the fleet within the next 18 months.
For the chief, it is a small investment for a major safety improvement.
"(There are) too many risks with not having the cages," Cunningham said.