January 12, 2014

Murray sheriff’s office awarded replacements for expired vests

Rachel Brown

— CHATSWORTH — Murray County Sheriff’s Office deputies received some potentially life-saving protection last week as they accepted seven new ballistic vests from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).

FOP state president Carlton Stallings said the organization donated the vests to the sheriff’s office through its “Operation Protect Our Protectors” program after reviewing the application. They replaced several expired vests, some of which were several years out of date. Each vest costs about $550.

“Officer safety is a critical issue in law enforcement, and every ballistic vest has been proven to not only reduce injuries but also save lives,” Stallings said. “Every officer should wear a ballistic vest every day. The FOP is working to ensure that more officers within our state have access to equipment that can provide protection to them as they protect fellow Georgians.”

Sheriff Gary Langford said the donation is very appreciated since most of the department’s vests were expired or close to expiration. The vests protect officers from gunshots for about five years, but they break down through wear and over time, eventually offering less and less protection.

“We were in dire need,” Langford said.

Chief Deputy Greg Fowler said the office received a federal grant recently to replace the rest of the vests later this year. It’ll take about $22,000 to replace them, and the grant will reimburse the department for about half the cost, he said. Fowler said the local money will come from funds obtained through forfeitures and seizures.

The office’s policy is to have everyone who deals with or who might deal with violators wear the vests while on the job. Last year, Fowler said, there were two officer-involved shootings in the county. In both instances, no officers were hurt.

The FOP’s vest program targets law enforcement agencies that, due to financial constraints, have difficulty purchasing vests on their own. The program began in 2002, and the Georgia FOP has since donated vests to 132 departments in the state, according to a news release.

Langford said his office will donate some of its old vests to the law enforcement academy offered at Georgia Northwestern Technical College.