The Coffee County Sheriff’s Department will be receiving new bulletproof vests thanks to a new grant.

The Coffee County Commission passed a motion for the Sheriff’s Department to receive the grant which will help pay for new bulletproof vests.

Once a year, the grant is offered by the Department of Justice to help offset the cost of bulletproof vests needed for law enforcement.

“We didn’t put in for them last year because we didn’t have a lot that were at the end of service life so we just bought them outright,” said Coffee County Sheriff Chad Partin. “The majority of the vests this year have come due to their five-year life and so that was going to be a large expense that was going to be made and so we put in for this to help offset that cost.”

The grant is a 50% match grant which helps with offsetting the cost by covering half of the total of all the vests.  In this case, the grant will cover $25,015.15 out of the total amount of $57,639.

The number of vests needed, 44, represent not only the vests that have reached the end of their service life but the number also represents the numbers of officer turnover, rehires, new hires and so on.  Since each vest is fitted for the individual officers, new ones are needed to fit each officer.

“We picked a newer, lighter, thinner vest that’s a whole lot more comfortable and breathable than some our old ones,” Partin said. “I literally thought the gentleman who came and showed us the vests was giving me a cardboard cutout of a template when he said, ‘Here, this is what the vest looks like.’  I was like, ‘Oh okay, when can you have one for me here to look at.’ He said, ‘That is one.’ ”

The DOJ says the guarantee or warranty for a vest can last five years.  The DOJ recommends after five years, vests should be disposed of and the department get new ones. The vests are shredded and destroyed so they don’t go back into circulation.

“Once the five years is up and we take them out of circulation, we take them completely out of circulation and get rid of them,” said Partin.

If it’s defective or gets damaged, the company who provided the vest collects the shirt and vest after the investigation is complete, for research purposes and will give the officer a new shirt and vest fitted for them. 

The vests are certified by the National Institute of Justice as the DOJ only allows certified vests to be covered in the grant.

“If I’m a manufacturer of a vest and I submit to NIJ, I have to tell them my blend and I have to tell them how it’s made and everything that’s in it.  And a lot of companies don’t want to do that,” said Partin, “They do not want to give up their proprietary secret.”

 The vests will arrive by the beginning of 2020 when the uniforms will change as well.

“We haven’t had a uniform change in over 20 years so we’re changing our look for our uniforms and going to more of a Class A-type uniform which will require an undershirt vest,” said Partin. “A lot of departments are going down to the khakis with over vests, kind of looking more tactical than they are professional. We’re willing to put that professional look back into law enforcement.”

The majority of the vests will be an undershirt vest. The only ones who will have the over shirt vest will be members of the administration and investigators. They will have an undershirt carrier as well as uniforms just in case they need to go help out patrol.

“Even our administration, such as myself and the detectives, we’re all going to have new uniforms, that way if we need to go out and help patrol and get any uniform, we will also wear our vests under our shirts and be like the regular patrol guys.”

Partin said the department focused on being good stewards with the county’s money as they were able to find good quality vests while getting the best bang for their buck.

“So we think we picked a good vest that’ll perform really well and do good for us and last as long as they’re there. And, heaven forbid something were ever to happen, they would stand up and save someone’s life,” said Partin. “We hope it never comes to that but I’m willing to have the ability to have the equipment necessary that if they get into something and somebody decides to try to shoot at one of our officers that they got the protection to save them.”

Kyle Murphy may be reached at kmurphy@tullahomanews.com.

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