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By Joe Siegel
On July 10, ten Smithfield Police officers were gifted with new bulletproof vests and ballistic helmets courtesy of a local business. The presentation was held at Smithfield Police headquarters at 215 Pleasant View Avenue.
The Angel Armor vests were provided by Shield 616, which was founded by Jake Skifstad.
Skifstad is a former Colorado Springs, Colorado police officer who responded to two high-profile mass shootings, one at the New Life Church in 2007 and another at a Planned Parenthood facility in 2015.
Skifstad’s goal was to provide the right protection for the first officers responding to a shooting incident like the ones he experienced. Skifstad was a member of the SWAT team and recounted the overwhelming amount of ammunition used by the shooter at Planned Parenthood.
The vests worn by many officers are only capable of stopping rounds from handguns, not rifles, Skifstad explained. According to the Shield 616 brochure: “The rifle rated vest can be worn all day internally or externally and provides the officer with the protection and gear needed to handle any situation.”
The full armor packages cost $2100 per officer and can put a “financial burden” on the town, according to Skifstad.
“It’s very very expensive and the way law enforcement has evolved over the last decade or two, you now see patrol officers handling the active shooter situations. A lot of agencies have SWAT teams and they spend tens of thousands of dollars on these teams. They got the good equipment, they got the good protection.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s going to be an ambush,” Skifstad continued. “(The officers) are going to have this gear on to keep them safe.”
Renewal by Andersen of Rhode Island, which has offices on Reservoir Road, donated the money for the vests.
Betty Shea, an employee of the company, runs a program called the Window of Giving.
“Five dollars for every door or window we install in the area goes to (the program),” Shea explained. “It’s really about local efforts, it’s really about touching communities where our non-profits touch us.”
Renewal by Andersen sponsored a vest presentation in Colorado a few years ago.
“The lifesaving equipment that we are donating is powerful,” Shea noted. “But what’s even more powerful is the community connection which is going to happen. We support (the police) and that we honor the job that you do for us. We want our law enforcement to know that we are a business that cares and we want to turn love into action.”
Smithfield Police Chief Richard St. Sauveur welcomed the assistance of Shield616.
“They’re saving lives,” St. Sauveur said. “They’re saving police officers’ lives and they’re getting the community involved in saving those lives.”
The police department has a total of 42 officers. St. Sauveur believes the department will be able to obtain vests for all the officers in the future.
“The idea is for other individuals, businesses, corporations in town to be aware of this opportunity to make donations just like Renewal by Andersen has done. Those individuals and businesses can donate vests to the officers. It’s hopeful the town won’t have to buy (the Angel Armor vests) at all.”
For more information about Shield616, please visit their website at www.shield616.org or call the company at 719-345-2442.