California entrepreneur founds Cops Direct, bridging resource gaps for law enforcement nationwide
Inspired by a simple care package for a deployed Marine, Aaron Negherbon has created a lifeline for under-resourced police departments
A California businessman, Aaron Negherbon, sent a care package to a Marine friend who was deployed to Afghanistan. It was filled with things he thought might be practical rather than candies and thank you notes, and Aaron Negherbon was surprised by the response. The Marine appreciated the outreach but even more, he was grateful for useful stuff.
Negherbon, a businessman from a long line of businessmen, had always assumed that U.S. military members were issued everything they needed. That’s not the case at all. In response, Negherbon formed the nonprofit Troops Direct to fill the void. When troops he’d aided returned home, many of them transitioned into law enforcement and found even more glaring gaps between necessity and provision. They reached out to Negherbon and asked if he could help cops the way he’d helped troops in the sandbox.
One request turned into another; each department he’d helped told another one and so Cops Direct was born. “A lot of agencies were going to tacmed training and discovering deficits during their classes,” Negherbon said. The officers benefited from the training, but needed the tools to use it on the streets. Cops Direct, partnered with equipment company TacMed Solutions, meets the needs for both urban and rural officers.
Filling gaps from city to country
“These deficits are common in law enforcement from Chicago to the tiniest postage stamp of a town,” Negherbon said. “There are a lot of officers buying stuff on their own.” The budgets of individual officers make for a spotty public safety plan. Instead, agencies can apply directly for aid from Cops Direct, communicate with an actual human, and receive practical help in the form of supplies and training.
“We try to personalize response to what the officer requests,” Negherbon said. “We’ve seen the after-action reports; it makes a difference. The point is to bring more people home at the end of the day. A lot of the towns requesting (aid) are 40, 50, 100 miles from the nearest metro. That means a lot of search and rescue stuff is needed. There’s a lack of backup, of resources in that immediate moment, and often a lack of comms. The average EMS response in the nation is around 15 minutes, but it’s way more than that in a rural environment.”
Cops Direct has provided material support for tribal agencies in Arizona and active shooter response kits for police departments in the hills of West Virginia. They are preparing a load of gear for the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office in Montana, where deputies patrol nearly 3,000 square miles, including one of the main entrances to Yellowstone National Park. California’s San Bernardino County is 20,105 square miles of desert and mountain, some of it so remote that the sheriff’s department has to ask for help from Fort Irwin’s Army pilots to rescue injured hikers and mountaineers. Cops Direct supplied them with specialized SAR gear like ice boots and rappelling equipment. Finding resources is their mission, but their real specialty is cutting red tape.
Improving safety, reducing risk
In Idaho, a single academy provides training for officers around the state whose departments are too small to run their own academies. Jeff Sklar, the Idaho POST regional training manager for the southwest part of the state, has seen firsthand the practical good done by Negherbon’s nonprofit. Sklar has an extensive background in both law enforcement and the military. He knows sound training in tactical combat casualty care saves lives, and he also knows it’s of limited use without adequate equipment. He was instrumental in adding 24 hours of TCCC training to the basic POST course, while Cops Direct sponsored 150 new IFAKs for the academy: enough to issue one each to a year’s worth of cadets upon graduation.
“We train with identical equipment,” Sklar said. “Small sheriff’s offices have used this kind of equipment all over the state.” He described responses to injured hikers, shooting victims and a farmer with a brachial artery bleed after crashing an ATV. “They (Cops Direct) were great to deal with,” he said. “And Aaron was amazing. Super quick, less than 60 days turnaround and we were getting a pallet delivered.”
Mammoth Lakes Police Department (MLPD) found Cops Direct when they needed to update their first aid kits. The resort town of 8,000 residents swells to 55,000 or more during the ski season, and the U.S. Olympic ski team trains there each winter. “On paper, it looks like ‘Oh, we only cover 4.2 square miles,’” Officer Logan McCutchan said. “But we’re handling a massive population with usually two officers on a shift, and last year we had insane amounts of snow.” The snow stranded residents and tourists for days. Drifts blocked vents for propane pipes, causing fires and explosions. The equipment donations MLPD received from Cops Direct reduced the officers’ stress levels because they knew they had what they needed to respond to emergencies despite isolation and dwindling resources.
Folding litters included with the shipment were excellent sleds for medical evacuations and avalanche response. An MLPD detective who doubles as an SRO now has access to packs filled with tourniquets and bandages for active shooter responses. One is kept at the school and McCutchan, who is also an EMT, keeps the other. When there’s only one ambulance in town, the right equipment in the right hands saves lives. Getting that equipment in the right hands is the entire point for Negherbon.
Raising funds to keep the pipeline full
Keeping the pipeline filled isn’t always easy. “What I learned with Troops Direct is that everyone will support ‘the troops’ no matter where they live. With Cops Direct, support tends to be local,” Negherbon said. Potential donors may ask why they should support struggling officers in another state when there’s a sheriff’s office and a half dozen police departments in their own backyard.
“But everything has been stripped away from the rural officer, comparatively speaking,” Negherbon said. “They can’t plan for disasters without having the right equipment ahead of time.” So, he has a plan to help them do that. When a department needs more help than they can meet immediately, Cops Direct will work with them to plan a local fundraiser, facilitate the event and then see that they get the best possible value for each dollar raised, in the form of high-quality gear.
All they have to do is ask.