MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. - The Morgan County Sheriff's Office says recent events have highlighted the need for law enforcement to be protected. On Tuesday, Officer Billy Clardy III was laid to rest after he was shot and killed during a drug investigation in Huntsville. Morgan County sheriff's deputies are in need of newer bulletproof vests.
A bulletproof vest is just one tool to help keep law enforcement officers safe as they serve and protect, but that safety is far from absolute.
"One of the things we know when you get into this line of work is that when you put on that vest it's not foolproof," said Morgan County Sheriff's Office spokesman Mike Swafford. "Things can happen."
Still - any protection is better than none. Over time, the material in bulletproof vests degrades which makes it harder to block a bullet.
"We want to make sure that we have our guys in vests that are up to task," said Swafford.
The Morgan County Sheriff's Office is in need of 40 new bulletproof vests. Forty-thousand dollars would cover the cost of the vests and have a side benefit: getting rid of heavy utility belts.
"Some of these belts, depending on how much equipment you have on them, can weigh 15 pounds," said Morgan County transport deputy Misty Kelly.
You may not notice, but deputies can certainly feel the pain of harnessing on that safety gear day in and day out.
"A lot of people," said Kelly, "the first thing they do is take it off."
Deputies carry most of their equipment around their waistlines - which can lead to health issues down the line - but the newer bulletproof vests can help alleviate those problems.
"What that does is alleviate back strain," said Swafford.
Deputy Kelly said, "if our back or legs or any part of our body is unhealthy or unfit then that makes our job that much more difficult."
With the weight redistributed, the new vests would be more comfortable while still being safe on the job.
Bulletproof vests typically get replaced as new deputies join the force. The Morgan County Sheriff's Office says it hopes the commission office helps them fund the new vests in 2020.