After killing two West Virginia state troopers last fall near Charleston, a drug-crazed man was cornered by Roane County sheriff’s deputies. He managed to shoot one of them, too, but the deputy survived.
“He’s going to be fine,” Roane County Sheriff Mike Harper said of his deputy. “He took one (bullet) in the abdomen, but he had his vest on, which I believe saved his life.”
If making public policy decisions based on “anecdotal evidence” ever was appropriate, it is this time.
West Virginia legislators are considering a bill that would require all deputy sheriffs be provided with bulletproof vests. The cost, around $575 per vest, would be paid by county commissions.
Some counties already provide the personal protection equipment and some deputies buy it out of their own pockets. One estimate is that about half the approximately 1,000 deputies in the state do not have protective vests.
Standard practice in most sheriff’s and police departments is to provide deputies and officers with service pistols. Why not bulletproof vests, too?
Deputy sheriffs in West Virginia are not paid lavishly. Many supplement their salaries with part-time jobs. Asking or ordering them to dig into their own pockets for the vests would not be fair.
Bulletproof vests can save lives, as seems to have been the case last summer in Roane County. And while legislation that mandates local governments to spend money seldom is a good idea, this is a situation in which the comparatively small expense is more than justifiable.
Legislators should approve the bill and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should sign it. This is a situation in which taxpayers should be happy to reverse roles – and serve and protect deputy sheriffs.