CHARLESTON, W.Va. – For the very first time the sheriff of Wirt County and his two deputies will have bullet-resistant vests to put on when they start their shifts.
The West Virginia Sheriff’s Association handed out brand new vests to deputies from three counties Tuesday: Wirt, Monroe and Mineral. They are the first recipients of the InVest program.
It started last year after two State Troopers were shot to death after pulling over a suspect. But the life of a Roane County deputy, searching for the suspect, was saved when he was shot because he was wearing a bullet-resistant vest provided by the Spencer Police Department where he worked part-time.
First the community came together to raise funds for the vests and then the legislature got involved by passing a bill earlier this year requiring counties to issue bullet-resistant vests to each deputy.
Keith Wilson, the Wirt County sheriff, said he’s thankful to those generous donors, both individuals and businesses, who made this possible.
“That’s one of the reasons why I love West Virginia. West Virginians takes care of themselves,” Wilson said.
His counterpart, Monroe County Sheriff Mike Gravely, received a vest for his department on Tuesday. He was able to outfit his deputies through a federal program but they were one vest short.
“If it hadn’t been for the grant money and this program here, we would not have these vests,” explained Gravely.
At about $850 a pop vests are made to order for each deputy. Thanks to a partnership with a company that makes bullet-resistant products, the program got the 18 vests they’ve purchased so far at well below cost.
Gravely said there’s no doubt about it the vests are critical to the job his deputies do.
“[These vests] will save your life! That’s how important they are,” according to Wilson.
Wilson said with more than 300 miles of county to cover and sometimes help an hour away, the vests will be indispensable.
“Just knowing it’s more than a layer of shirt that’s between you and that bullet, it helps!”
Sheriffs in Cabell, Kanawha and Monongalia counties said they will not be applying for InVest funds. That’s because their counties have the tax base to purchase vests for their deputies. They said the money should be spent on small counties where the money just isn’t available.