Donation of Vests, Helmets to Range Police Officers

Updated: June 28, 2018 08:03 PM

A dozen police officers between Eveleth and Gilbert now have more protective gear to keep them safe on the streets.

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On Thursday, there was a special ceremony to hand over the vests and helmets. Shield616 is the organization that focuses on getting this equipment out there, with the help of communities.

Shield616 was founded by Jake Skifstad, who is originally from International Falls. He told the crowd inside the Eveleth Auditorium that as a police officer, he witnessed active shooters. It inspired him to start this program, and spread vests and helmets across the country.

"A lot of people don't realize that the vests we wear are designed to stop handgun-caliber only. When we are out there, protecting you from the threat of an active shooter, we often have no protection ourselves. Our goal, our vision, is to change that," he explained.

The chiefs in Eveleth and Gilbert are very grateful. Tim Koivunen, leader in Eveleth, said, "I'm hopeful well never use it. I really am. But the extra equipment, knowing it's there in a time of crisis, gives a peace of mind that there is a better chance that officers will return home safe to their loved ones."

So are the officers, including Tony Goulet, who works for Eveleth. "It's very humbling. It's fabulous to know we have the gear to be safe, and to keep the community safe."

The donation was made possibly by funding from the Cleveland-Cliffs Foundation. Cliffs helped purchase one vest and helmet through the Shield616 program last fall. Skifstad remembered, "That event was the one everyone talks about. It was next to one of the big production trucks," he said. 

Aftewards, Cliffs' employees realized they wanted to do more. A donation from the Foundation of $16,800 covered the costs of the gear for 12 more officers. Chad Asgaard, general manager of United Taconite, said, "On behalf of Cleveland-Cliffs and our employees, we are extremely honored to contribute to the safety and well-being of officers in our community."

A community that has their back. "This reiterates why we went into this job. And why we do this job," added Chief Ty Techar, from Gilbert.

Arrowhead Shield616 has given out more than 200 vests in the Northland.

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