They put their lives on the line to protect ours, yet deputies at the Marshall County Sheriff's Office wear outdated, sometimes expired bulletproof vests. Now, the sheriff has a plan to make an upgrade.
"We've learned a lot of the vests have already expired. Some of them are near the expiration date," Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims said.
Sims said he has applied for a bulletproof vest grant through the Alabama Department of Justice. If approved, the department and the Marshall County Sheriff's Office would pay roughly $25,000 each. These 2019 vests would be lighter, more comfortable and protect against gunshots more effectively than the older vests.
"After a certain amount of time, the fibers break down in the vest. Five years is what they tell us. Can they last longer? Sure, any protection is better than none," Sims said.
The sheriff's office is looking to add 40 new bulletproof vests that come with metal inserts to cover the chest of deputies. If shot, the metal plate protects the vital organs.
Mike Hardin lives in Guntersville and says he constantly hears of law enforcement officers being attacked.
"You only have to watch the news daily to see what's going on out there and to learn that we may need a little upgrade in that area," Hardin said.
Three officers in Auburn were shot Sunday night while responding to a domestic violence call. One officer died and two were injured when a man dressed in bulletproof gear opened fire. Sims said the tragedy highlights how dangerous this job is. He says even if they do not receive the grant, they'll do whatever it takes to upgrade their safety equipment.
"If we get it, great. If we don't, we'll still find a way to get those vests."
Sims says his team really has one mission.
"Their goal is to do their job and to go home to their families safely," he said.
The sheriff's office says these new vests would stop most sidearms, certain shotguns and other firearms. Right now, there is no timetable for when a decision will be made.
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