Rio Grande County organizations purchase protective gear

DEL NORTE- Local organizations throughout Rio Grande County have pulled together to help protect law enforcement officials this year. Kevlar Vests are very expensive and hard to purchase in rural communities like Del Norte due to small budgets, so many law enforcement officials go without proper protection while serving the communities they love.

Seven deputies in the Rio Grande County Sheriff’s office will be receiving vests with the help of the South Fork Kiwanis Branch, Monte Vista Eastern Stars, the Monte Vista Rotary Club, Calvary Baptist Church of Monte Vista and the Gateway Church of Del Norte.

The vests are being purchased through a program known as Shield 616. The program is based on serving law enforcement officials in rural communities; donations make expensive equipment like the Kevlar Vests affordable for small budgets. Each vest costs about $1,200 to purchase through the program and is equipped with everything a field officer needs to remain safe. According to the program description, Shield616 was formed with the street cop in mind. 

The goal of the program is to not only provide the safety equipment needed, but to also offer a resource of support for those that need it after an incident occurs. The program was formed by an officer who was involved in an active shooter situation back in 2007 in Colorado Springs. It was after this incident that the officer began to look to community organizations for support and donations in order to provide this equipment to rural communities that may not have the budgets necessary to afford the expensive equipment.

The vision of the program is to rally the community together to show support for local law enforcement and to help sponsor officers who are in need of active shooter gear. A lot of the equipment used in smaller communities is known as soft armor and cannot protect the officers from several types of artillery used today. The Shield 616 program was created to help those communities provide for their local law enforcement in 2015.

The vests that will be provided to the seven deputies in Rio Grande County will be designed with class four plating that can withstand the force of high velocity rounds and that can be placed over their required uniforms within 19 seconds. The kits include ballistic helmets that protect the officer’s head, safety glasses, Vortex binoculars and a gunshot wound trauma kit that will help in an incident where an active shooter may be a threat.

A community presentation ceremony will be held by the donating organizations sometime in January when the vests are due to arrive. According to participating Gateway Church Pastor Greg Schaffer, Sheriff Brian Norton is pleased with the news of the program and donations for his officers. A date and time for the ceremony will be announced soon.

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