The federal government recently became the biggest donor to the community’s project to raise $113,000 for upgraded Level III bulletproof vests for the Newton County Sheriff’s Office.
At the Sept. 15 Board of Commissioners meeting, NCSO Administration Service Coordinator Apryle Jones announced that the Sheriff’s Office will receive up to $28,770.50 from the U.S. Dept of Justice as part of its annual Bulletproof Vest Partnership grant program.
The grant is technically for up to $57,541, but the Sheriff’s Office will be reimbursed for half of whatever amount it spends, up to $28,770.50. The grant was applied for before the family of Deputy Wesley Atha started their fundraising campaign for the upgraded vests, after Atha was shot while on duty.
The fundraising campaign may not reach it’s $113,000 goal through the donations of businesses and individuals, so the BVP grant would help cover the gap, Sheriff Ezell Brown said. As of Friday, private donations were at $24,035.
Currently deputies are equipped with Level II bulletproof vests and the Help Protect the Ones Who Protect You campaign will upgrade all deputies to a Level III vest, which provides better impact protection.
The sheriff’s office does not have the money in this year’s budget to purchase Level III vests, which range between $500-700 depending on their size. Outfitting the 166 mandated NCSO deputies with the vests would cost around $113,000.
"We can only serve and protect when properly equipped," said Brown previously. "They are insuring that our department has the best protective gear that money can buy. They have advocated, collected funds from neighbors, relatives, businesses and community leaders to purchase state-of-the-art safety equipment."
Tax deductible donations can be mailed to Apryle Jones, 15151 Alcovy Road, Covington.
Jones said the NCSO had received the grant in several previous years, including 2007. The BVP program was started in 1998 in order to provide a critical resource to state and local law enforcement agencies.
Amber Pittman contributed to this story.