By: Kaitlin Durbin Jun 23, 2018
Accused shooter Robert Dear’s 2015 attack on Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs revealed a chink in the armor law enforcement relies on to help keep them safe.
During that firefight, police and sheriff’s officers had their standard-issue bulletproof vests, which can protect against a bullet fired from a handgun, but Dear had a rifle. Their vests were no match.
A University of Colorado at Colorado Springs officer would be killed in the shooting – along with two civilians – and five other officers were injured.
Today, every Colorado Springs police officer has a Shield 616 protective tactical vest to protect against high-velocity weapons, like that used by Dear. Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters are in the process of getting them.
The “life-saving” equipment was possible only through donations to the respective agencies’ foundations: The Police Foundation of Colorado Springs, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Foundation and the Fire Foundation of Colorado Springs Fire Department.
That support needs to continue, Meredith Vaughan, CEO of Vladimir Jones and wife of Colorado Springs Fire Capt. Brian Vaughan, said.
“We feel safe knowing that, if something goes wrong, first responders will be there to help. They provide our safety net. But, we rarely stop to consider the dangers they face in doing their jobs,” Meredith Vaughan said. “It’s time to step up and support the foundations that support our first responders.”
Vaughan and the team at Vladimir Jones launched this summer The Protect Effect campaign to highlight the important stopgap the foundations provide in keeping the area’s first responders safer on the job. Methods of donations can be found on their website, theprotecteffect.com.
The Gazette and Lamar Advertising have contributed to the campaign through a combined $500,000 in donated advertising space and creative services.
Ideally, agencies would be able to provide employees with everything they need on the job, but that’s not the reality of the city’s and county’s limited budgets.
In recent years, police and fire officials have been pushing for more money for raises to retain existing staff and to hire new. That plea was heard this year when the city approved $1.4 million to hire new police and fire staff, and Mayor John Suthers has pledged to add up to 120 more police officers in coming years.
But that means there’s less money in the budget for updating equipment, something agencies have stressed they also need as their fleets continue to age beyond the recommended replacement dates.
This is where the respective foundations can step in to “channel extra support to meet identified needs for our first responders to further enhance the safety of our force and the safety of the public overall,” Nicole Magic Soto, executive director of the Police Foundation, said.
In addition to the tactical vests, the police foundation has also supplied officers with trauma kits to treat injuries sooner. The fire foundation has spent roughly $30,000 on better extraction saws to cut through the toughened exteriors of modern automobiles.
“We provide a lifeline when the fire department needs more help,” Dave Munger, president of the fire foundation, said. “We want to continue to provide for whatever needs may arise in years to come.”
Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362
Facebook: Kaitlin Durbin