DEL NORTE— Shield616 began in 2015 with the hopes of providing support and equipment to Colorado law enforcement and have helped several communities afford tactical equipment for the last three years. On Thursday, Jan. 18 the organization met with sponsors and the Rio Grande Sheriffs department to present seven Kevlar Vests with other tactical equipment to keep the officers safe during an active shooter situation.
The program is based on serving law enforcement officials in rural communities and through donations makes expensive equipment like the Kevlar Vests affordable for small budgets. Each vest costs about $1400 to purchase through the program and is equipped with everything a field officer needs to remain safe. According to the program description, Shield616 was formed with the street cop in mind.
The goal of the program is to not only provide the safety equipment needed, but to also offer a support resource for those that need it after an incident occurs. The program was formed by an officer who was involved in an active shooter situation back in 2007 in Colorado Springs. It was after this incident that the officer began to look to community organizations for support and donations in order to provide this equipment to rural communities that may not have the budgets necessary to afford the expensive equipment.
The vision of the program is to rally the community together to show support for local law enforcement and to help sponsor officers who are in need of the active shooter gear. A lot of the equipment used in these communities are “soft armor” and cannot protect the officers from several types of artillery used today. The Shield616 program was created to help those communities provide for local law enforcement by supplying equipment that could withstand higher velocity rounds.
Thursday evening began with a presentation by organization creator Jake Skifstad who spoke to the attending crowd about the origins of Shield616 and how the barrier between the community and the Rio Grande Sheriff’s department had been removed. “You will see how much these lifeless objects before you change in just a minute,” said Skifstad. He then proceeded to call the officers up to the front of the room and to stand behind one of the seven vests. “Now as you can see, each one of these vests have become priceless. The officers standing behind the vests have families, friends and put their lives on the line every day to keep their communities safe.”
“We wanted a program that broke down the barrier between communities and their law enforcement officials. Each of the sponsors will choose an officer and be there for them in times of need and support. You not only purchased a safety vest, you purchased a person,” stated Skifstad. “I want the sponsors, Calvary Baptist Church of Monte Vista, Gateway Church of Del Norte, Rotary Club of Monte Vista, Monte Vista Eastern Stars and South Fork Kiwanis to come and stand behind these men.”
The evening was an emotional celebration and community friendship as each of the sponsors hugged and shook hands with the seven officers that will be receiving a vest and other tactical gear.
Rio Grande County Sheriff Brian Norton took a moment to say a few words before the end of the presentation, “I was thankful when I received word of this program; now I am even more grateful for what the community has done for me and my men. We will forever be grateful.”