The heartbreaking killing of NYPD Detective Jonathan Diller during a March 25 traffic stop in Queens reminds Americans of the dangers that our cops face daily. Unfortunately, the accused gunman fatally shot Diller, 31, just below his bullet-resistant vest.

Enough is enough! The time is now to give New York Police Department officers the trailblazing protective gear they desperately need and deserve.

Today’s standard-issue body shields leave officers exposed to perpetrators’ increasingly lethal weapons. But groundbreaking innovations like liquid armor and ultra-high-strength composites could revolutionize police protection, creating lightweight, flexible equipment that lets cops operate more securely.

AI-powered sensors and real-time data analysis could enhance authorities’ situational awareness and decision-making. On the horizon: lighter and more comfortable “smart long johns” that officers could slip beneath their uniforms.

Breakthroughs in smart helmets also could prevent deaths. Advanced composites of Kevlar, carbon fiber, and thermoplastics could help craft headgear that are more nimble, easier to wear, and far tougher on hostile fire. 

Much of this R&D is already underway, driven largely by the Pentagon’s quest for better military gear. These improvements often feature important law-enforcement applications. Predictably, the usual suspects—cop-haters, criminal apologists, and the “defund the police” crowd—complain about the “militarization” of local precincts.

But what kind of society deploys police officers without the best safeguards?

“Criminals will never stop trying to outgun the police,” says retired NYPD Capt. Ed Mamet, co-host of WABC radio’s “Cop Talk” podcast. “We owe it to our uniformed officers to keep up with the technology and give them the best protection as swiftly as possible.”

Better equipment could save civilians, too. Officers who feel invulnerable are less likely to resort to force while fearing for their own lives. Nobody wants to turn police into “robocops,” but supplying them with 21st-century armor makes common sense for them and those they shield from criminals.

Advanced defensive materials eventually will become more affordable. 3D printing already slashes costs in other industries. But critics of police will do everything they can to scuttle relevant R&D. Only relentless public pressure from law-abiding citizens will keep this initiative on track.

Politically, Americans who back the blue should derail the defunders. Indeed, Republicans should give those who rant against the cops the opportunity to vote on lifesaving paraphernalia.

Whatever they might think about police head count levels and patrol tactics, do the likes of Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; Jamal Bowman, D-N.Y.; and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; and their state and local comrades want America’s cops to be more or less likely to die under fire? If the haters want cops merely restrained, but not dead, they should vote accordingly on Capitol Hill and in U.S. statehouses and city halls.

However, if the cop-loathing Left really wants to make it easier for criminals to kill police officers, then these lawmakers should be honest about the deadly depths of their cop-hatred. Police supporters then should educate voters on such facts.

Government spending should flow from woke nonsense to high-tech police protection. President Joe Biden’s latest budget earmarks billions for nebulous “gender equity” projects. A second Trump administration should reallocate these funds to perfecting and deploying safer law-enforcement equipment.

And if the U.S. House’s notorious “Squad” opposes those defensive devices, it should lose the earmarks that, maddeningly, it scored in last month’s budget cliffhanger. If, for instance, Pressley opposes this gear, it should be curtains for her $400,000 PowerUp Latinx Business Initiative. Ditto Omar’s $1 million People Serving People Elevator and Bowman’s $1.65 million Mt. Vernon Green Tech Park. Those funds should underwrite police-safety R&D.

Diller made the ultimate sacrifice while upholding his oath. America should honor his memory by giving his uniformed brothers and sisters every possible advantage in their vital and dangerous work. It’s time to move heaven and earth to armor the NYPD and other police squads and make it much easier for them to stay alive when criminal bullets go flying.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.