McDonald County sheriff’s deputies are safer after receipt of a Local Law Enforcement Block Grant through the U.S. Department of Justice.
“We got ballistic body armor for the guys,” Sheriff Mike Hall said. “The grant is right at $10,000, so we were able to get eight vests and also got some cages for the patrol cars and some other safety equipment. They’re called window bars to keep people from busting out the windows and stuff in the patrol cars.”
The new vests almost cover all deputies with updated safety equipment, as some of in the inventory is expiring this year.
“The manufacturer recommends on ballistic vests to replace after five years,” Hall said of replacing all officers who had vests older six or seven years. “We got their vests replaced this year, and we are going to work on the rest next year through a grant. As we hire deputies, I’ve been trying to get them fitted with new vests when they get hired and try to reuse vests when someone leaves or whatever.”
If someone cannot be properly fitted into an existing vest, the department tries to trade with another department, such as Anderson or Pineville, Hall said.
Hall hopes to get eight more vests next year, which would leave only a couple out of 18 in the department, including him, that do not have new vests. He has tried to purchase one or two each year so that those starting with the office can be outfitted with a new vest.
In other cases, he said, family members will purchase a vest when an officer graduates from law enforcement academy “because some smaller departments like us here can’t afford vests all the time. I’ve been trying to get it in the budget so that when we get a new person, we get them a newer vest or a new vest.”
Getting a vest that fits properly is key, Hall said, because if it’s comfortable, it’s more likely to be worn all time.
This is the third consecutive year the office has received the grant, previously used for light bars and cages for vehicles.
“We’ve been building the cages up for our fleet,” Hall said. “The first couple of years I got the cages. We try to get at least one every shift in case we have a violent person or someone who is drugged out. We can call that car to transport them to wherever we need to go with them. Now we almost have a cage in every car.”
The cages keep deputies safe while transporting prisoners to jail or for those who are being taken to a mental examination and may get violent.
“That way,” he said, “the deputies can concentrate on their driving and not having to worry about the person reaching over and getting out of the cuffs or grabbing the steering wheel or something like that.”
When the Neosho Police Department received new cars, it donated older cages that fit in McDonald County cars, Hall said. “They helped us out a lot on that, so I appreciate it from them.”