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Connellsville police closer to getting new bulletproof vests

| Monday, June 23, 2014, 9:57 p.m.
Celeste Van Kirk | Daily Courier
Connellsville Elks Lodge #503 and Elks Past Exalted Ruler Association made a donation of $500 to the Connellsville Police Department for the purchase of new protective vests the department could get via a grant program through the U.S. Department of Justice. From left are John Basinger, Elks Lodge #503 past exalted ruler and with the Elks Past Exalted Ruler Association; Connellsville Police Chief James Capitos; and Dick Basinger, treasurer of Elks Lodge #503.

The Connellsville Police Department is closer in reaching its goal to raise enough money to receive a matching grant for new bulletproof vests.

On Monday, the department received a check for $250 from the Connellsville Elks Lodge #503 and $250 from the Elks Past Exalted Ruler Association.

In April, the department entered its application with the Bulletproof Vest Partnership through the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Program (OJP) to apply for specialized vests to be custom-designed to fit each officer.

Connellsville Police Chief James Capitos said the cost for the vests will be between $815 and $915 each, so about $16,000 will be needed to purchase the vests. Through the program, the department only needs to come up with $8,000, which is half the money, he added.

Currently, Capitos said the department has received approximately $6,700 in donations.

“That is very, very good,” he said, adding that many organizations, like the Elks Lodge, had donated along with many private donations from individuals living in and out of town. “One parent even sent her kids in (the police station) with cash.”

“We donate to a lot of community activities,” said Dick Basinger, treasurer of Elks Lodge #503, adding that the Elks Past Exalted Ruler Association raises money for such donations through its annual golf outing.

The department also received donations from the Lions, Masonic Lodge No. 562, Connellsville Crime Watch, Connellsville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 21 and many others.

“It just goes to show people will come out and give you a hand when needed,” Capitos said.

According to the OJP, in fiscal year 2012, protective vests were directly attributable to saving the lives of at least 33 law enforcement and corrections officers in 20 different states, an increase of 13.7 percent over fiscal year 2011. At least 14 of those life-saving vests had been purchased, in part, with the program's funds.

Capitos said the department's application is pending approval. He believes he will receive word sometime in September. Also at that time, he should find out how much the grant is and how much the department needs to match it.

“It all depends on how much money the Department of Justice awards us,” Capitos said. “We won't know until we get the notice.”

Donations are still being accepted. For more information, contact the Connellsville Police Department at 724-628-2501.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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