The Iowa Department of Public Safety is turning over 150 used bullet proof vests to the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office for a project to help fight gangs in El Salvador. Pat Mason leads the project at the Nebraska A-G’s office and says it came about through work with the National F-B-I Academy and the fight against the M-S-13 gang.
Mason says they started talking about what they could do to help with the fight against gangs in El Salvador and it was decided to try and help them get body armor. Mason says the Iowa State Patrol donation is part of an Iowa-wide effort. He says he’s been going around the state collecting the body armor and he says they started with a goal of 25 pieces of body armor and now they expect to reach 250.
Mason says helping the fight in El Salvador will benefit Iowa and Nebraska. He says they know there are M-S-13 gang members calling back to the gang members in the U-S and they are making decisions and giving directions to the members in the U-S. Iowa and Nebraska work through the same chapter of the F-B-I Academy Associates.
Story County (Iowa) Sheriff’s Department Deputy Barry Thomas is an Iowa representative for the group. Thomas says from a liability standpoint, once the warranty is up on the vests, they are no longer useful for Iowa law officers. He says the El Salvador National Police don’t have the same liability issues and can use the vests. “They need something to help save their lives when they are dealing with these violent gangs and drug cartels, so for us to recycle if you will, equipment that we can no longer use, but get such a great value down there, is truly, truly a wonderful thing,” Thomas says. Captain Thomas says the vests cost around 600-dollars new and generally have a warranty of four to five years before they are taken out of service.
Colonel Patrick Hoye, of the Iowa State Patrol, says they were anxious to take part in the program. Hoye says they felt it was a great opportunity for other law enforcement officers to use the vests that they can no longer use.
Mason says they are still working out the details of sending the vests to El Salvador.