Rural counties given vests for deputies - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Rural counties given vests for deputies

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What started out as a house bill in the West Virginia Legislature will improve the safety and lives of many officers in the Mountain State.

Ballistic vests were presented to several counties across the state at the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. 

Cabell County Sheriff Tom McComas said it wouldn't have been possible without the lawmakers behind the bill.

"(The bill) is attempting to assist counties that do not have tax rates to purchase vests," McComas said. "We appreciate the life this vest will save."

However, the vests come with a life expectancy of their own and will need to be replaced every five years, McComas said. They are hopeful the money will continue to be generated for the life-saving tool.

Speaker of the House Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said getting the vests has been a collaborative effort for members of both the house and senate.

"There is no greater or worthy cause than to help protect you guys who are protecting us by putting your life and safety at risk," Miley said.

Senate President Jeffery Kessler, D-Marshall, said Tuesday he was pleased to share his thoughts on the subject during the season of giving.

"These are the gifts that keep on giving and you folks are the folks at the front lines that keep on giving everyday," Kessler said to the members of various sheriff departments in attendance. "I give you my steadfast commitment and give you every took you need to maintain your job safely -- so everyday you go to work you come home safe to your families."

McComas said it didn't take long for them to understand the need of the vests throughout the state but one incident in particular really showed the important for many legislatures and police officers.

Roane County Deputy John Westfall was critically injured when a man who had just shot and killed two West Virginia State Troopers also fired several rounds in his direction. Westfall was saved by the bullet proof vest he was wearing, provided to him by the city of Spencer, where he was a part-time officer.

The legislation provides smaller counties like Roane County with the ability to protect their officers. The vests are an expense of about $700-$800 each.