Friday, June 05, 2009

After 15 years, Haskell officer has a bullet-proof vest

TULSA — Jack Martin has been working in Haskell for 15 years as the department’s only reserve officer and the only officer without a bullet-proof vest.

That was until Monday when he received one as a donation.

"I’m tickled to death,” Martin told Tulsa police Capt. Travis Yates.

Yates presented Martin with a used vest donated by an Alabama police department in the "Vests for Life” program, sponsored by Ten-Four Ministries, a law enforcement spiritual organization. Haskell’s seven full-time police officers already have vests.

Martin’s wife, Joyce, was even more pleased. "I think it is fantastic,” she said, "he’s out there putting his life on the line.”

Jack Martin, an oil company maintenance electrician, has enjoyed working as a volunteer reserve officer on weekends for 15 years. The Muskogee County town of about 2,200 residents provides the uniform, but he had to buy his own 9 mm pistol.

Even though Haskell has mostly routine crime, such as traffic stops, domestic violence and drug busts, Joyce Martin said she feels better with her husband protected.

"I don’t ever want him to go out on a drug bust” without a vest,” she said.

Vests cost $500 to $1,000, weigh 4 to 7 pounds and have a manufacturer’s warranty of five years, Yates said. Vests are then retired, but can still do the job of saving a life.

The Tulsa Police Department retires a fifth of its vests each year. Not wanting them to fall into the wrong hands, Yates said some departments just store old vests, some burn them others put them in landfills.

Yates, who directs the program for Ten-Four Ministries, said it made its first shipment in August to the Philippines. Vests were given out one day, and the next day an officer’s life was saved in a shoot-out.

The organization since learned that many departments within the U.S. do not have vests for their officers, especially those in the smaller communities, which employ most of the nation’s lawmen.

The organization has distributed more than 400 vests, Yates said. Another 160 vests are being sent by the West Virginia state police and 150 from the Rochester, N.Y., police department.

Courtesy: The Daily Oklahoman
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