Sheriff goes for federal funds to buy body armor | PostIndependent.com

Sheriff goes for federal funds to buy body armor

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario this week won the county’s support in a bid for close to $50,000 in federal funds, which he says is needed to pay for body armor and other specialized equipment for his heavily armed and armored team of troubleshooters.

The Garfield County commissioners on Monday endorsed Vallario’s application for $48,433.88 from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, a funding mechanism administered by the U.S. Department of Justice and named after a New York City cop who was killed in the line of duty in 1988.

The gear is for the county’s All Hazards Response Team (AHRT), created in 2005 to provide what is in other cities termed a “special weapons and tactical” level of security and response to a variety of high-risk situations.

The AHRT was formed with the help of money from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Its equipment includes a $236,000 armored vehicle, purchased in 2008, that can withstand .50 caliber rounds.

Vallario said on Monday that the AHRT averages “about 22 call-outs a year,” and his memo reports that the team is trained for “high-risk warrant service, high-risk arrests, barricaded suspects, hazardous materials situations, sniper incidents, VIP security, major-case follow-up and crowd control.”

In a memo to the commissioners, Vallario outlined his request, which includes 18 BattleLab vests, yokes, collars, and “tactical groin protectors,” along with helmets, radio headsets and a dozen tactical masks, which the sheriff said are all needed to replace gear that he said has reached the end of its warranty period.

The costs of the items range from $70 apiece for the yokes to $835 apiece for the “tactical mask systems” and $975 each for the vests.

According to Vallario’s memo, the AHRT is made up of 22 officers from his office and from the police departments of Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute, as well as fire department officers from Glenwood Springs.

The commander of the team, Undersheriff Colt Cornelius, was not with Vallario in his talk with the commissioners, because he was away at the annual SWAT competition in Oklahoma City, Okla.

“With the economic hardship that is being faced by the participating small town agencies as well as the entire nation,” Vallario’s memo stated, “the team is faced with the need for outside funds to replace their armor which is imperative for the continued availability of the team.”

He noted that the participating agencies range in size from seven to 42 officers, and added that “without the appropriate equipment needed, AHRT is in risk of losing various active members whose agencies can no longer afford to have them participate.”

Continued availability of the AHRT team, Vallario said in the memo, amounts to one of the “essential services” provided to county residents.

If the grant does not come through, Vallario said, each of the participating agencies would be expected to come up with the funding for its officers.

“We’ll find a way to do it,” he pledged.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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