DOBSON — The Surry County Sheriff’s Office will soon be ordering new tactical helmets for its version of a SWAT team thanks mostly to donations from local business people.
The Special Enforcement Team has 14 members who respond to situations which could be hazardous, and the new ballistic helmets will provide much greater protection, the sheriff believes.
This is all possible with the efforts of Pam Morgan of Simmons Insurance Agency, according to Combs. She gathered together some of her business contacts and raised donation.
Morgan and local members of Business Network International’s Platinum Producers Chapter contributed more than $8,000 in donations to help purchase the helmets. BNI is a networking and referral organization with more than 211,000 members around the world.
Morgan had attended the Sheriff’s Office Citizens Academy, where regular folks get a chance to see how officers are trained and what they do in the course of their jobs. Mount Airy Mayor David Rowe and Commissioner Jon Cawley took part in a Citizens Academy held by the Mount Airy Police Department earlier this year.
During the Citizens Academy, Morgan saw a demonstration by the Special Enforcement Team and learned about the equipment the team uses including the helmets, which were an outdated military surplus style. That inspired her to reach out to her friends and colleagues.
“We are so happy to be able to give back to the Sheriff’s Office,” said Morgan. “The Sheriff’s Office keeps us safe, and we want to help them have equipment to keep them safe on the job so they can return home to their families.”
In giving thanks to Morgan and her BNI friends, Combs said, “Along with record amounts of drugs like heroin and methamphetamine being seized, the Special Enforcement Team has encountered several weapons in the residences they executed the search warrants on. In addition, the team has endured lengthy stand-offs with armed, barricaded subjects.”
In May the department had a seven-hour standoff on Knob Drive just east of the city limits.
On Aug. 1 a standoff on Red Brush Road ended when the SBI’s Special Response Team had to breach entry and shoot the suspect who allegedly was threatening a hostage with a knife.
A week later, city police needed a tactical entry on West Lebanon Street to disarm a suspect who allegedly had discharged a firearm and was threatening to kill himself.
A week after that, the sheriff’s office and the Mount Airy Police Department teamed up on a 23-hour standoff in White Plains that ended without injury when officers breached the home after a spotter saw the suspect inside without his weapon in hand.
Lauren Osborne, chief deputy, compared the old helmets with the specs for the new ones.
Unlike the old helmets, which covered the top of the head, the preferred model, Revision’s Batlskin Viper P2, covers the entire head, even the chin area.
The removable mandible section that guards the jawline is made of the same ballistic material as the rest of the helmet, so it can deflect a bullet, said Osborne. It can also protect against more common threats such as a fist or a thrown rock or bottle.
With the current helmets, officers still need to wear goggles for eye protection, he noted. The new model has a high-impact, yet lightweight safety shield that can be moved up out of the way if needed.
On the sides of the Viper P2 is a rail system that allows accessories to be attached such as a flashlight or night vision equipment, said Osborne.
The old style uses nylon strap webbing inside to rest against the head and isn’t comfortable to wear for very long. The new helmet has foam padding and ways to make adjustments, said Osborne. It also has a better four-point chin strap.
The $8,000 in donations will cover much of the cost of the 14 helmets and accessories. The rest can come from drug forfeiture money the department has to spend, he said.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.