Sheriffs reject Virginia attorney general’s request for body armor

Published 6:30 am Thursday, November 2, 2023

Prince Edward County doesn’t have any extra or expired body armor to give. The same goes for Buckingham and Cumberland counties. The three sheriffs were not among those that donated body armor and other tactical equipment upon Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares’ request. According to Miyares’ office on Tuesday, 23 sheriffs in Virginia have provided 800 vests, 50 helmets and 75 protective plates, which Miyares plans to ship to Israel, to support the Israeli Defense Force.

When The Herald asked about the three departments mentioned above, the attorney general’s office said they didn’t donate. 

“They are not part of the (list of) 23 sheriffs,” said Victoria LaCivita, speaking of Prince Edward Sheriff Tony Epps, Buckingham Sheriff Billy Kidd and Cumberland Sheriff Darrell Hodges. 

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The reason is pretty simple. Miyares had asked for spare or expired material. That’s not something the three sheriffs keep around. 

“We don’t keep outdated vests,” Epps said. “The vests we use are good for five years and have to be discarded upon expiration. So we just didn’t have any to donate.” 

There’s a good reason why Sheriff Epps doesn’t keep expired vests. The fibers in the bulletproof vests break down over time. Think of it like your regular clothes. If you wear them enough, they break down, tear and have to be thrown away. It’s the same for vests and other body armor. Once they reach that five year mark, according to the National Institute of Justice, the armor weakens, so if anyone uses it, the material won’t provide the same amount of protection. 

In this region, Charlotte County Sheriff Royal Freeman was the only one who donated equipment. 

“The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office is donating expired ballistic vests, to be given to the Israeli military,” Freeman said in a statement. 

How does this work? 

Freeman added the items were packed up on Oct. 31 and delivered to the attorney general’s office in Richmond. On Nov. 1, Miyares and his staff confirmed they packed equipment received from the sheriffs in Virginia, loading it up into a truck to be taken to New York City. Then the material was flown to Israel. 

The request came back on Oct. 17, as Miyares said he wanted to do something in the wake of the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7. 

“I am shocked and grieved by the senseless terrorist attacks on Israel by the Hamas terrorist organization,” Miyares said in a statement. “The loss of innocent life and disregard for human rights is painfully tragic to see.” 

Miyares said he’s seen multiple groups offering support or humanitarian relief. What he wanted to do was something along the same lines, but given to a different group. 

“My office is coordinating efforts to collect surplus body armor, protective gear, and tactical equipment from local law enforcement departments that want to help the Israel Defense Forces fight terrorism in Israel and Palestine,” Miyares said. “If you have excess law enforcement protective equipment, my office will collect them and ship it to the Israel Defense Forces.”

Some departments can’t give body armor

As previously mentioned, Lunenburg, Prince Edward, Buckingham and Cumberland sheriffs departments all declined to take part. 

Miyares said he recognized some departments couldn’t contribute. 

“While I’m aware that some police departments are stretched for resources, there are many departments that have expired equipment (that is) required to be donated or discarded,” Miyares wrote. “During my trip to Israel earlier this year, I met women and men who serve in the Israel Defense Forces who are willing to give their lives to maintain peace in this region of the world. They are committed to democracy and the public safety of their land, and I am proud to stand with them during this difficult time.”