Rogers County Deputies Get Much Needed Vests

Friday, December 10th 2010, 5:30 pm
By: News On 6

Lori Fullbright, News On 6

CLAREMORE, Oklahoma -- A bullet proof vest can be a life saver for police officers and deputies. But, tight budgets often push those types of purchases to the bottom of the list.

That's what happened in Rogers County, where many of the vests are ratty and out of date, until now. A generous donation by a citizen will now help protect the protectors.

The vests are designed to stop bullets and knife attacks and the metal plate over the heart, gives added protection where you need it most. Imagine wearing one that's so old, you can't be sure it's even going to work.

Rogers County deputies have been wearing a mish-mash of bullet proof vests, some were bought by the department, some were donated, some, the deputies bought themselves. But, most of them now are seriously out of date.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) says vests have a life of five years, but News On 6 found one dated 1996. Another one was made by the company Second Chance, The NIJ declared their vests defective back in 2005. Both are still currently in use.

"A lot of that attitude of better than nothing, maybe," said Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton.

The Sheriff says his budget barely covers day to day operations in these lean times, so replacing vests just isn't an option. That's where Reed and EJ Oppenheimer come in.

Reed lives in Rogers County and when he heard about the situation, he donated $5,000 for new vests.

"We are in the business of protecting our war fighters, so we thought we should be protecting our guys at home, too," said Reed Oppenheimer of GWACS Defense.

He says the people risking their lives for us, should at least have reliable protection. Plus, the new vests are higher-tech and lighter weight.

Considering Rogers County Deputies work in rural areas where their cell phones sometimes don't work or their police radios and backup isn't right there, A vest may be all they have.

The Sheriff says he's very thankful for the citizen support and that this donation will make a difference to his deputies and their families who count on them to come home each night.

"It is a life saving gift for these officers who are out there every day, day in and day out," Walton said.

The money will purchase 13 new vests through Oklahoma Police Supply in Tulsa, which covers all but seven of the deputies. They'll keep using the newest ones they have until more replacements can be purchased.