‘We just want everyone to come home’

Project under way to protect Marshall County’s First Responders

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS
These images are just a few examples of what some of the new ballistic protective equipment might look like for members of Marshall County’s First Responders. Members of the Advocates of Marshall County Rescue Personnel are in the midst of a campaign to raise at least $100,000 for the purchase of vests and helmets that law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs will be able to wear during emergency situations.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS These images are just a few examples of what some of the new ballistic protective equipment might look like for members of Marshall County’s First Responders. Members of the Advocates of Marshall County Rescue Personnel are in the midst of a campaign to raise at least $100,000 for the purchase of vests and helmets that law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs will be able to wear during emergency situations.

We know that First Responders are there to protect us. But what can we do to help protect them?

That’s at the core of a new initiative that is seeking the funding that will help to purchase new ballistic protective equipment (BPE) for law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs throughout Marshall County.

Advocates of Marshall County Rescue Personnel (AMCRP) — a committee comprised of citizens and first responders — is working to raise $100,000 to purchase 70 sets of equipment (vest and helmet) as well as to establish a small savings account for future needs.

The committee is the brainchild of Tom McCoy, who was inspired to do something following a presentation this past September at the Marshalltown Rotary Club meeting.

The presentation highlighted a recent active shooter training that had been held on the campus of Marshalltown Community College.

It became clear to Tom that more was needed to be done locally to protect the men and women who are called into dangerous situations, and not just police officers and sheriff’s deputies, but also firefighters and EMTs, who are often first on the scene after 9-1-1 is called.

Tom then partnered with Dr. Dennis Drager and thus was born the AMCRP and their drive to see that all First Responders are protected.

While members of the Marshall County SWAT team have 12 sets of the BPE, other law enforcement officers throughout the county only have the traditional Kevlar vests. And firefighters and EMTs, who have also been targeted by those who wish to do harm, have no such equipment.

It’s a lot of money — each BPE set is roughly $1,300. Multiply that by 70 and that’s $91,000.

But Tom noted, along with Heidi Drager and Cindy Brodin, who stopped by my office this week, the money spent is an investment in public safety — safety for those First Responders who are dedicated to providing safety for the rest of us.

“It’s about protecting these guys who are trying to do their job,” said Heidi, adding that the BPEs are designed to be more effective against some of the high-powered weaponry that has been used against First Responders.

And as Cindy pointed out, Kevlar vests and BPEs must be replaced every few years — as with anything, she said, “Just like our computers, at some point everything needs to be upgraded.”

So far, the AMCRP has raised roughly 30 percent of its $100,000 goal, but in the weeks and months ahead, Tom added they are confident they will be able to reach or even exceed the goal.

“Everyone we’ve talked to has been extremely positive about this,” he said.

For Cindy and Tom, this initiative is personal.

For Cindy, friends of her children growing up, are now in local law enforcement.

And for Tom, his son is a police officer and member of a SWAT unit in Ohio.

Both know the inherent dangers First Responders face everyday and so participating in this fundraiser was too important not to be involved.

“I had extreme respect for firefighters, the sheriff, but now working shoulder to shoulder with them, my respect level has went up from 1,000 percent to 10,000 percent,” Tom said.

Heidi agreed. She said seeing the cooperation that this initiative has provided, has given her a greater understanding of the work that First Responders do on a day-to-day basis.

“If our First Responders don’t have the protection they need, how can they save someone else’s life?” Cindy asked. “They’re trying to make our lives better.”

“This is an investment in everybody’s safety,” said Tom. “We rather we were proactive for public safety, because these guys and gals have to be reactive to a fire, a shooting, whatever.”

“We just want everyone to come home,” Heidi said.

And that’s a sentiment we can all support.

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Contact Jeff Hutton at 641-753-6611 or jhutton@timesrepublican.com

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How you can make a difference

To contribute, donations may be submitted to the City of Marshalltown or dropped off or mailed to:

Tom McCoy

8 North 1st Ave., Suite 7

Marshalltown, Iowa 50158

Checks payable to: City of Marshalltown

In the memo line write: Advocates of Marshall County Rescue Personnel

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Documentary examines officer-involved shootings

Free will donations will go toward fundraiser

Back in 2016, I was asked to watch an unedited version of a new documentary, “Officer Involved.”

The film offered insight into officer-involved shootings from the perspective of law enforcement.

For me, it was a true honor because the documentary proved to be an emotional journey — one that only a few could ever relate to — the trauma, the stress and the ramifications of killing someone while in the line of duty. The film humanizes police officers, giving us an insight into how the use of deadly force transforms these heroes in blue.

Throughout the film, officers and sheriff’s deputies, some of whom have been involved in a recent shooting, others of whom were forced to make that split-second decision decades earlier, all recount their stories. The emotional toll is evident; many continue to be haunted, dare I even say tormented, by their actions. Not one of these officers took any pleasure in having to kill someone — they were doing their job, following their training.

Now, Marshalltown and Marshall County residents will be able to see the final version of the documentary.

Along with my colleagues at the Times-Republican, and support from the Orpheum Theater and the Advocates of Marshall County Rescue Personnel (AMCRP), a two-night airing of the film has been scheduled this spring.

At 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 29-30, “Officer Involved” will be presented at the Orpheum, 220 E. Main St. A free will donation will be collected with proceeds going to the AMCRP.

The event is two-fold — to showcase what law enforcement officers go through after having to make the heart-wrenching decision to end a life; and to raise awareness and money in an effort to outfit all county First Responders with ballistic protective equipment.

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Contact Jeff Hutton at 641-753-6611 or jhutton@timesrepublican.com