Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Shield616 provides protective gear to officers

Local law enforcement, communities taking part in program

 

April 20, 2017

Lois E. Johnson

Debbie and Kevin Skifstad with Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake, who is wearing the vest with heavy armor that will stop rifle rounds.

It was an active shooter call at a Planned Parenthood clinic that brought attention to the need for all law enforcement officers to have armor gear to protect them from rifle rounds. One officer was killed.

Out of that need, Shield616 was born, a program seeking donations to equip law enforcement with protective gear. Jake Skifstad founded the non-profit company and is now president.

Debbie and Kevin Skifstad spoke at the Refire! luncheon in Carlton on Monday, April 17, and Debbie told about the campaign to seek funds to equip every law enforcement officer with the protective gear.

"The call came in that there was an active shooter at the New Life Church," said Debbie Skifstad. "Both of our sons, Jake and Luke, were on that call. The shooter had been to a mission school first and shot two kids. Ironically, one of them, a girl, was from Chisholm, where we live. Luke was on that case.

"Soft armor won't stop rifle rounds. This equipment gives more protection."

Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake explained she and the other law enforcement officers in the county wear soft armor protection when they are on duty.

"It's not comfortable, but we need it," she said. "We would put this vest with the heavy armor plates on right over the soft armor vest when we need to."

Shield616 was formed for two reasons: to give officers better protection, and to break down the barriers between law enforcement officers and citizens.

"A lot of police departments don't have big budgets," said Debbie Skifstad. "This is a way to rally the local communities around an officer or a department. Support groups are formed to gather around the officer and to pray for him or her."

The equipment consists of a vest with pockets for armor plates, first aid pouch, and police or sheriff badges; a ballistic helmet; a monocular (like binoculars, only for one eye); an individual trauma kit; and ballistic glasses.

Gas mask pouches are also part of the equipment, but the company was unable to get gas masks, said Kevin Skifstad.

Debbie Skifstad explained the retail cost of the gear is $2,200. Jake Skifstad went to all of the manufacturers and spoke about the Shield616 program, and he is able to get the gear for $1,000 for each officer.

To date, funds have been donated for almost three sets of gear in Carlton County, she added.

"People in the community show the officers that the community does care," she said. "This equipment will save some officer's life."

The company is faith-based.

The 616 in the company name refers to Ephesians 6:16: "Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all of the flaming arrows of the evil one."

"That verse is printed inside of every vest for the officer to see when he or she pulls the vest over his head," said Kevin Skifstad.

Support groups are asked to pray for the officers they have sponsored and to stand behind the officer they support when the vests and equipment are presented to the officers at a ceremony.

"People can donate any amount," said Debbie Skifstad. "They can designate their donation to an officer or to a department. If they want to support an officer, they can get to know him, if he agrees, and find out more about his interests outside of his law enforcement career."

Debbie Skifstad said, through the program and donations, 40 vests have been purchased for the entire Chisholm Police Department.

"We had a vest presentation for all of the officers at a church service," she said. "The donors pray for the officers everyday. They have gotten to know them."

Churches hold fundraisers and ladies' groups from the churches also hold fundraisers. In Chisholm, the city council gave funds toward the project.

The community of Hermantown is collecting funds and plans to present the kits to officers at a ceremony on June 5, said Kevin Skifstad.

"Jake presented kits to the 150 officers in the Duluth Police Department," said Debbie. "The story was featured on the KBJR-TV news."

The program is spreading all over the Iron Range and northern Minnesota, and in other states as well.

"It's in eight states now," said Debbie. "The state of Texas is going to purchase the equipment for all of its officers."

In answer to a question from the audience, Sheriff Lake said there are 57 law enforcement officers in Carlton County in all departments. Moose Lake Police Chief Bryce Bogenholm said there are seven in his department.

The vests stay legally with the department if an officer leaves, it was said.

Chaplin Cindy Crestik pointed out that conservation officers also need the equipment.

Shield616 is a non-profit organization. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Donations can be made online or checks can be sent to Shield616. It was pointed out that if checks are sent to a police department, they can't cash them. When the Skifstads receive checks, they send them to Jake Skifstad in Colorado.

"People can donate any amount, like $10, $20 or a $50 donation," said Debbie Skifstad. "It all adds up. It makes everyone feel like they can be part of the community."

"You can put an officer's name or a department on your check," added Kevin Skifstad.

"The local chief or sheriff chooses the officer that the vest goes to," said Debbie Skifstad.

For more information, visit Arrowhead Shield616 on Facebook or send an email to kenindebbie@shield616.com or jake@shield616.com. Visit the website at shield616.org.

Donations can be sent to: Attn: Shield616, New Horizons, 5550 Tech Center Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80919.

 

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