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Wednesday, 02 November 2016 14:33

Macon to spend $25,000 on bulletproof vests

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In the last five years Macon County Sheriff’s Office has responded to 627 calls where guns were involved, and 137 of those have occurred in just the last 10 months.

“And there’s even more calls where we don’t know they have a gun until we get there,” said Sheriff Robert Holland. 

Just hours before Holland came before the county commissioners Oct. 11 to request the purchase of 60 new bulletproof vests, deputies responded to a gun-related call where a father and adult son got into an altercation and the father shot his son. 

Last year deputies responded to a hostage situation where a man had 24 firearms, and 12 of them were sitting in windows aimed at law enforcement as they negotiated with the man. A few years ago, the department responded to a situation where a man shot at deputies more than 30 times with multiple weapons. 

“How we kept from being shot was hiding behind trees as we surrounded his house,” Holland said. “All of those bullets would have penetrated the vests if they’d hit an officer.”

The sheriff’s office had $14,000 allocated this year for bulletproof vests that officers wear underneath their uniforms while on duty. Holland asked for the commissioners’ permission to spend $25,000 more for heavy-duty bulletproof vests. Deputies would keep the vests in their patrol car and wear them over their uniforms if they are responding to a gun-related call.

Certain weapons that deputies can come into contact with on a regular basis, including a hunting rifle, can still penetrate the lightweight vests deputies wear every day. Holland said the heavy-duty vests he was requesting — weighing 68 pounds each and made of steel — would prevent any gun from penetrating the skin.

“I’ve made it a policy of ours not to ask for money midstride, but it’s not something we need to wait until July next year,” Holland said. 

With fuel costs coming in way under budget and an expected savings with a new food service contract in the works, Holland said he thought the $25,000 could come out of his existing budget.

Commission Chairman Kevin Corbin said he didn’t need the board’s approval if the money was coming out of his budget allocations for 2016-17. Worst-case scenario, he said Holland might have to come ask the board for additional funding if his budget won’t cover the entire $25,000. 

County Finance Director Lori Hall said she would feel more comfortable if commissioners took $25,000 out of the contingency fund to pay for the vests. If Holland is able to cover the expense out of his existing budget, the money can be put back into the contingency fund. 

Commissioners unanimously approved $25,000 to purchase 60 bulletproof vests to assign to his 58 officers.

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