COLORADO SPRINGS — The Monument Police Department is one of the ten Colorado agencies being gifted rifle-rated protective ballistic gear by SHIELD616 as part of this year's border-to-border bike ride.
SHIELD616 has been working with many community partners to outfit the entire department. This goal will be accomplished on Saturday, September 11 when five additional protection vests are presented to the department. Monument Police Chief Sean Hemmingway says he sleeps a bit better at night knowing his department has top of the line protective gear, even in the small town of Monument.
“They go to an active shooter call, or they go to a high risk call if you're with one or two other people, and as an officer you're getting out of your car thinking about your family, you're getting out of your car saying, ‘I have an obligation to get home tonight, and I am going to get home tonight,’” Chief Hemmingway said.
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Even with the very best equipment, there are no guarantees for an officer’s safety. But, Chief Hemmingway knows from experience that the gift of this gear from the community has a powerful impact on his officers.
“These officers I've seen them with tears in their eyes when the community is coming out to write checks for this, or SHIELD616 is issuing them their vest," he explained. "And it shows them that people still realize, we are the good guys.”
Chief Hemmingway also knows from personal experience that supporting the bike riders, who are both first-responders and SHIELD616 supporters who work in the private sector, is important. During his time as a bike patrol officer in Florida he took part in long-distance rides supporting first-responders.
“I’ve done these rides, we didn’t do it like this group, we did it on flat Miami to Jacksonville roads, at 50 miles a day. Back then we did it on mountain bikes, it was tough, but I was keeping up. But truly, for a group of people to come out and not know if it’s gonna rain or snow or what the conditions will be like, but knowing once they start they’re not stopping - that’s a commitment to this cause. Kudos to the law enforcement officers that are doing the ride. I can tell you first and foremost why they are doing it. They are doing it to show support for this cause, and they’re doing it because this cause matters," Hemmingway said. "To our citizens and media folks that are doing the ride, and to KOAA we truly do thank you. This is a commitment and this is how you build community. This is not just law enforcement, and firefighters this is community - doing their part to build community.”
Even small donations add together to make a big difference Chief Hemmingway says. Although it can be huge to first responders, Hemmingway knows that the average citizen won't notice how impactful their donations have been.
“We don't measure prevention," he said. "You won't know what vest you donated to, but the overall agenda, the overall initiative of SHIELD616 will save an officer's life. Whether it's their mental state going into a high-risk situation and it helps them be calmer, or unfortunately if they do take a hit they are as protected as possible, that’s why this is an important initiative.”