Steamboat Springs Routt County Undersheriff Ray Birch will ask the county commissioners Tuesday to approve spending $6,300 to replace dated and ill-fitting bulletproof vests for his deputies.
Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said his department has a mandatory policy that requires patrol deputies to wear one of the vests under their uniform shirts while on duty. Jail deputies don’t typically wear a vest unless they leave the jail, for example, to transport a prisoner.
Wiggins said his department doesn’t have a vest for each deputy and those it does have are beyond warranty and apt to be less effective at stopping bullets because of extensive wear.
“We’ve got hand-me-downs, and swapping them is not a good idea,” Wiggins said Monday. “The warranty is for five years, and after that many years of constant wrinkling, it breaks the material down.”
Wiggins said it’s important that each vest be custom fitted to its user to avoid gaps that might allow a bullet to strike an unprotected part of the body. Manufacturers also make a separate line of vests to fit female officers.
Birch will ask the commissioners to purchase 18 vests. Those vests are not in the budget. The actual cost is $12,600 (they cost $700 each), but he has already received approval for reimbursement of half that amount through a federal Department of Justice program created by Congress in 1998.
Birch credited Cpl. Ryan Adrian with initiating the federal process and following through on the paperwork. The program is administered in Colorado by state government, and under that program, Burch also is asking the commissioners to waive their competitive bidding process that would typically apply.
A business called Neve’s Uniforms Inc. has a relationship with state government for the bulletproof vest program.
Specifically, the Sheriff’s Office is seeking to purchase the Survival Armor Phoenix6 IIIA vest. The letters IIIA indicate a threat level, or the ability of the vest to stop various types of ammunition, Wiggins said.
That particular model can stop some rifle bullets as well as some smaller-caliber rounds that have high rates of velocity, he added.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com