Wednesday, June 24, 2009

West Virginia State Police Donate Vests

The West Virginia State Police has donated more than 150 used bulletproof vests to a missionary in Oklahoma that will ship the vests to police departments across the country and around the world that are in need of the life-saving equipment.

By Kathryn Gregory
Staff writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia State Police has donated more than 150 used bulletproof vests to a missionary in Oklahoma that will ship the vests to police departments across the country and around the world that are in need of the life-saving equipment.

The Armor for God Project, which is run by Ten-Four Ministries, collects donated vests with expired warranties, refurbishes them and sends them to police departments that need them.

The State Police sent the Armor for God project 165 vests, 40 of them almost brand new and barely used by the officers they were issued too.

"Many of our officers who get a vest are detectives or work in headquarters and may not need the vest every day," said State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous.

Even if the vests are not worn often, police still get rid of them when the warranty expires after five years.

"The way we look at it, even though the warranty is expired, having a vest versus not having one increases the likelihood of survival," Baylous said.

"For the companies' liability, they put a warranty on the vest, but chances are probably, yes, that they will still continue to function even after that first five years."

When a vest is donated to the Armor For God project, the sending department signs a release form removing any liability it might have if the vests do not function properly.

The Armor for God Project began in 2008 after Muscle Shoals, Ala., police Lt. Clint Reck did some work in the Philippines and realized that many of the officers there did not have bulletproof vests.

Reck teamed up with his home church and sent 24 used vests to the Philippine National Police. The day after the vests were shipped to the station in the Philippines, an officer wearing one was shot point blank in the chest.

"A vest from small-town Alabama saved his life," said Capt. Travis Yates, Ten-Four Ministries' director and a police officer in Tulsa, Okla.

After hearing about the project, the West Virginia State Police decided to donate its used vests instead of dumping them in a landfill or sending them to state surplus for re-sale, which they have done in the past.

"This option sounded like a fantastic idea," Baylous said. "There are officers out there who don't have vests and need them. This is an opportunity for them to get the level of protection they need to perform their duties."

The vests could end up in small-town America, or in another country. When the project originally started, officers were not considering sending the vests to officers in America because they didn't realize there was a need for the vests in this country.

"We're the wealthiest country in the world and we didn't think there were officers here who weren't getting the proper equipment," Yates said.

The basic premise of the project now is to outfit every police department in the United States with vests if they can't afford them, Yates said. The project sends about three or four vests out a week.

So far, the ministry has faced only one problem, and that is officers wondering what the catch is.

"We have people who will ask us if we are really donating vests that cost $500 to $1,000 each for free to other people," Yates said.

But that is exactly what the organization does. Any money that the group receives in donations goes to the shipping and refurbishment of the vests.

Since it's connected directly with the Yates' ministry, it's a nonprofit organization.

The fact that the West Virginia State Police got on board might help other departments see that the organization isn't after anything else, Yates said.

"The West Virginia State Police is such a large organization, and when other departments see how much they have helped us out, it will put more people at ease for donations," he said.

In addition to shipping the vests around the globe, Ten-Four Ministries serves as spiritual support for law enforcement, including counseling services and providing basic needs and equipment to officers around the world.

"Along with these vests, those receiving them will get something much more important. The key to everlasting life. As these vests are given to those that need them to stay alive, pastors and missionaries we partner with present The Gospel of Jesus Christ to those officers," it says on the Web site.

However, the State Police did not become involved with the group for its religious ties.

"Personally, and not as a police spokesman, I think it's great if they are spreading the good news, but that is not why the department became involved in this," Baylous said. "We became involved because we want to assist our law enforcement brothers and sisters."

Courtesy: The Charleston Gazette, Original Link

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