By NATHAN GREGORY
Motorists will soon see new Oktibbeha County Sheriffâ€™s Department cars when driving around now that the first four of 15 recently purchased 2013 Dodge Chargers to replenish the fleet have arrived.
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors unanimously authorized the purchase of the vehicles in September.
OCSD will make four annual payments of $102,097.18 for the cars, which cost $26,347 individually. Each vehicle has a five-year $100,000 warranty.
Sheriff Steve Gladney said two of the four have already been issued to deputies and OCSD will receive two more Monday.
â€śWeâ€™re shooting for the middle of December to have them all,â€ť Gladney said.
He said he appreciated the board for recognizing the importance of getting new cars and how doing so will benefit the county financially in the long term. Many of the cars they had before were in excess of 200,000 miles, Gladney said.
â€śTo me when they get that old and that many miles on them it becomes a safety issue. Youâ€™re going down the road and anything can happen,â€ť he said. â€śHopefully for the next four years as far as maintenance costs go, it will be minimal other than brakes and tires and we should really be in good shape.â€ť
OCSD also sought and successfully received a grant from the United States Department of Justice to purchase 22 new bulletproof vests for deputies. The cost for the purchases exceeds $17,000, according to Chief Deputy Chadd Garnett, but half of that will be reimbursed through the grant, and with the help of Golden Triangle Planning and Development District Program Coordinator Spencer Broocks, OCSD was able to use forfeited funds it had previously seized to cover the remainder of the balance.
â€śIt cost the taxpayers of Oktibbeha County exactly zero dollars for each deputy to have a brand new vest and be protected,â€ť Garnett said. â€śIt was a real step forward, I think, for the department to be able to do that because you just never know whatâ€™s going to happen and you need to be prepared.â€ť
The vests, made by body armor manufacturing company Second Chance, are a mixture of Kevlar and Dyneema fibers. The model OCSD purchased offers the maximum protection possible for vests designed to go under an officerâ€™s uniform, Garnett said.
Gladney said he has been in contact with officials from other law enforcement agencies who are interested in purchasing OCSDâ€™s old cars, which he said will offset the costs of the new ones.
â€śHopefully we can sell the ones that weâ€™ve taken off the road to another department somewhere,â€ť he said.â€ť
Garnett said he and OCSD Commander Brett Watson have brainstormed on what can be done with the old vests, most of which were more in use for more than five years. Surrounding agencies have shown interest in the used vests, he said, and barring liability, the department would consider providing them.
Another idea, he said, was to mount used vests on a frame which can be placed underneath a judgeâ€™s bench that could provide protection in case of gunfire.
â€śOne idea was to take them and line the judgeâ€™s bench so if somebody came into the courthouse with a gun, instead of trying to get up and run, they could get under their desk and be protected with body armor,â€ť he said.
Gladney said the purchase of new vehicles and armor is designed to provide the most safety that can be offered to county deputies while staying within OCSDâ€™s budget.
â€śI think itâ€™s my job to do everything I can to make these deputies safe and give them the equipment they need to do their job and do it in the safest way we can,â€ť Gladney said.