For Cops, By Cops: In-Vest USA
Editor's Note: In our "For Cops, By Cops" series of articles, PoliceOne shares conversations we've had with people in the law enforcement community who — on top of keeping their communities safe — have started a business or job that aims to benefit other police officers. Below, we interviewed S.C. Police Chaplain Michael Letts, whose nonprofit organization sends body armor to departments in need.
By PoliceOne Staff
Business Name: In-Vest USA
Officer Name: Michael Letts, Police Chaplain
Location: Columbia, S.C.
Business website: http://investusa.org/
In-Vest USA raises money to donate ballistic vests to officers who need them. PoliceOne talked to the founder, Police Chaplain Michael Letts, to find out more.
What is your mission? Protect those who protect us. It’s stayed the same since we began in 1993.
Where did the idea come from? I learned that local officers weren’t provided protective vests as a regular part of their personal equipment. I resolved to correct the situation and purchase body armor for all the deputies in Richland County, but since city council didn’t have the funding, I formed a nonprofit organization to collect donations from the public.
How long did it take to get all those vests? We got our community supporting the sheriff's men and women. In-Vest made speeches at civic clubs and sought out media attention and within three years raised the $250,000 necessary to provide every officer with a vest.
What happened next? Nearby departments heard about what we did and asked for our help. In particular, there was a deputy in nearby Elgin who had died in an incident that left another officer was seriously injured, and the department wanted to be considered. We kept getting requests and grew from there.
How often do departments fail to issue body armor to officers? Few people realize it, but more than 25% of police officers in the US aren’t issued a vest by their agency.
How much does a vest cost? About $700.
Are the vests you donate always new? When a vest is five years old, it should be replaced, so instead of throwing them away, we give the used ones to communities who don’t have any as we work toward buying new ones.
What does the future hold for INVEST USA? We’re expanding. In 2004 we were named one of the Top 10 Angel Charities in South Carolina by the Secretary of State. We will not stop until every law enforcement officer in America is provided with a ballistic vest.