The widow of a police officer killed on one of the worst days in St. Petersburg's history has made a poignant, generous donation that will keep the city's officers safer. The protective gear that Lorraine Yaslowitz-Marino purchased for the St. Petersburg Police SWAT team cannot save her husband. But it could save others.
On Jan. 24, 2011, a Monday, Yaslowitz-Marino experienced the nightmare every police spouse fears: rushed to a hospital to be next to her dying husband; hearing a doctor say he'd done all he could. Sgt. Jeffrey Yaslowitz, 39, and Sgt. Thomas Baitinger, 48, were killed in a confrontation with a fugitive holed up in an attic. It was a shocking tragedy, followed, unthinkably, by the murder of St. Petersburg police Officer David S. Crawford 28 days later.
Yaslowitz-Marino had to tell her three small children that their father was gone. She had to plan a funeral and grieve in front of thousands. Then she had to go on. She has since remarried and started a foundation in Yaslowitz's memory called Partners for Life. She used those funds — some $20,000 — to purchase 40 sets of strong, lightweight plates to be worn inside bullet-resistant vests. The plates are important, because they can stop rounds from powerful rifles as well as handguns, and because they weigh less than 2 pounds each. St. Petersburg police are not required to wear body armor on routine duty. The old, 20-pound ceramic plates were not an incentive. The new, less cumbersome vests could encourage officers to wear them all the time.
This year, killings of police officers have gripped the nation's attention and drawn an uneasy focus to issues of race and criminal justice. Yaslowitz-Marino's donation bypasses that controversy. Keeping police officers safe is a public priority, and her generous donation is a wonderful tribute to a husband who gave his life to keep others safe.