To the Editor:

I have been a lifelong resident of Monroe County but recently relocated. I still love my hometown and keep in close contact with friends, family, local sports, politics, etc.

I appreciate the editorials, Facebook posts and letters to the Journal reminding all of us to support our men and women in blue. It seems almost every day I hear of an officer being hurt or killed in the line of duty. We should never take our law enforcement for granted, and I think we should all do what we can to support them.

I also believe our law enforcement, to do the best job, should be provided with the best equipment possible to keep them safe. I did research and discovered that the body armor (bulletproof vests) must be custom-fitted to each officer to be the most effective and has a life span of four to five years. The cost of these vests varies from approximately $700 for the basic vest to $1,000 for more advanced vests used by units such as a SWAT team.

What bothers me is the statement from the Wives of Warriors website saying, “we provide vests to departments that can’t afford to purchase them.” What??? My understanding is that the board of supervisors has allocated to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) a budget of $4,200,000 for the current year and Sheriff Cantrell has the absolute discretion to spend this money any way he chooses.

In the past seven years, MCSD has spent more than $28 million. Since a vest must be replaced every four to five years, and there are only 14 to 15 full-time deputies, why does Monroe County need help to purchase vests? If Monroe County received three vests, does that mean these officers were wearing vests that did not fit them or were out-of-date? Are all other officers, full- and part-time, wearing vests that are fitted and in-date, and has the SWAT team been provided with advanced vests?

I would like-and I’m sure the taxpayers and voters of Monroe County would like-for Sheriff Cantrell to provide invoices for all vests he has purchased and the officers for whom they were purchased during the last seven-and-a-half years of his administration. This brings up another question: is other equipment such as tasers up-to-date? I was told that deputies must pay for their own duty rounds of ammunition.

Can this possibly be true? Surely, we are not sending Monroe County police officers in harm’s way to protect us without providing them the adequate equipment necessary to protect them. If we are not providing what they need, then why not? Can anyone-or better yet-will Sheriff Cantrell answer these questions?

Thank you,

Robin Culver

Quitman

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