GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) – Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger has a plan in place to keep his deputies safe. He said it was long before shootings in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that he had been looking at new body armor for the men and women of the sheriff’s office.
“I pay attention to what’s going on and I’ve seen the escalation of violence. Not just with the recent escalation, but the escalation in general,” said Cloninger.
His hope is to purchase dozens of new protective vests. Cloninger said the vests, designed by Premier Body Armor, are plated with curved steel and designed to withstand bullets from an AR-15, AK-47 or .308 sniper rifle.
“It does give that additional protection in certain situations,” said Cloninger.
The “situations” he’s referencing, are those involving an active shooter with a long rifle. He said that the soft body armor regularly worn by his deputies and many other law enforcement officers won’t always stop bullets from more powerful firearms.
He said the new steel vests could be carried in patrol cars and worn whenever a deputy felt unsafe in the field. He’s been working on the project for months, but said he just recently got word that he would be getting support from local elected officials.
Gaston County Commissioner Tracy Philbeck said that the recent killings of police publicized in the media have become a reason to support the vest expenditure.
“I think with the increased violence toward those who protect and serve us, I think we should do everything we can to protect them,” said Philbeck in a phone interview.
Cloninger said the added protection could mean the difference between life and death if a deputy is targeted with gunfire.
“A momma or daddy that wears a badge will go home one night when otherwise if they didn’t have something like this, I would be going to their house to knock on the door and tell them that their loved one is not coming home,” explained Cloninger.