Residents donate 170 body armor kits to Texas police department
Two hard body armor kits will be placed in each of the approximately 60 patrol cars for officers to slip on during an active shooting scenario
By Sara Flores
BEAUMONT, Texas — In 2013, Beaumont police officer Erin Smith was involved in an on-duty active shooting that he described as surreal -- a situation that even training couldn't have prepared him for, he said.
Even though he wasn't hurt, Smith, 35, said he fears not being able to return home to his three boys after such dangerous incidents.
Thanks to the efforts of Judge Cory Crenshaw and various local families and businesses, Smith and 118 other division patrol officers will have access to 16-pound hard tactical body armor kits to be worn during shooting situations.
Crenshaw said he hopes they never have to be used, but officers and their families should know the kits are always there. The kit includes a vest and two body armor plates in a carry bag.
Smith, who has been a police officer for nine years, said that in a time when violence seems to be on the rise, he is grateful to have the support of the community.
"These officers have great attitudes. They back up dangerous calls without even thinking it may be their last one," Beaumont Chief of Police James Singletary said.
Patrol division officers currently wear soft body armor on a daily basis, Singletary said. He said that two hard body armor kits will be placed in each of the approximately 60 patrol cars for officers to slip on during an active shooting scenario.
The idea for the donation project, named "Protect our Peacemakers" and valued at $100,000, came to Crenshaw during a lunch gathering with friends shortly after the Baton Rogue, Louisiana, shooting in which three officers were killed.
Crenshaw led the efforts and got area community members to donate -- and donate fast. He said the donation money was raised in six hours.
"What this group of donors has done is amazing. We are blessed to have a group of citizens that really support and care about us enough to realize how hard we're trying and how hard this job really is -- how dangerous it has become," Singletary said.
Joe Penland's family was one of 11 from the area who donated money.
"It's the easiest decision if you have the ability to do so," said Penland, board member of The 100 Club of Southeast Texas, which assists families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. "It humbles me to be able to honor and protect our officials."
Two businesses also were donors.
"For the countless times officers have protected us, we now provide this life saving equipment to help protect them," Crenshaw said. "This donation demonstrates through action rather than words that the community does in fact appreciate and support our police officers."