Chief Deputy Ralph Wright has been in law enforcement for nearly 20 years. For the past four, he's been with the Marion County Sheriff's Department. All of those years, he's never gone a day without wearing a bulletproof vest. However, those vests can be a bit pricey, ranging anywhere from $550 to $700. Every year, his department applies for a federal grant, which pays for 50 percent of every vest that's purchased. In addition to that, the department uses money from drug forfeitures to purchase extra equipment.
"Currently, our policy states that all road deputies will wear mandatory vests and we provide those to our deputies," said Chief Deputy Ralph Wright, Marion County Sheriff's Department.
But not every department has that option. Chief Deputy Wright has worked for several different departments over the years and says some are financially strapped.
"They do obtain vests but then the life expectancy on a bullet-proof vest is roughly five years. So, you've got guys out there wearing vests for maybe seven or eight years, when they're outdated. That's a big problem."
A new bill, proposed by Senator Bill Laird, D-Fayette, would give all law enforcement officers in the state access to bulletproof vests. For lifelong law enforcement officers, like Wright, the idea is a must.
"It's not only just their safety in a shooting incident or if somebody has a knife. It adds a little bit of protection for even just a vehicle crash. When you're involved in a vehicle crash, the blunt trauma to your chest, if you're thrown around in the vehicle, it can help you in that manner. So, we just feel that it's necessary for all of our deputies to wear one."