DENHAM SPRINGS – Pat Englade knows the bravery of a police officer.
“They will go (on a call) no matter what they’ve got on, no questions asked,” Englade, former Baton Rouge police chief, told the Denham Springs Kiwanis Club.
“These guys need every advantage to do their jobs and not get killed,” said Englade, president of Capital Area Law Enforcement Foundation (CALEF), a nonprofit group that provides protective equipment to law enforcement agencies in a seven-parish area.
“All we want to do is put vests on police officers,” he said.
Englade outlined what led to the formation of CALEF and its effort to get protective vests and other equipment to police officers
“Everyone is familiar with July 17,” Englade said, when two East Baton Rouge Parish deputies and a Baton Rouge Police Department officer – all Livingston Parish residents – died in a shootout.
“It changed policing and a lot of us on our positions of what is going on in Baton Rouge,” he said. “I never thought I would see this in Baton Rouge.”
Englade, who spent 32 years with Baton Rouge Police Department, said with a group of friends, they decided to do something.
“Everyone out there that day, July 17, had Kevlar on and it did no good,” he said.
“I’ve seen video,” of that July shootout, Englade said, “It was the most disturbing and professional law enforcement event I’ve seen. I’m not sure anything would have stopped (the rounds).”
Englade said he asked David Couvillion, a retired Marine, if officers had had ballistic vests, would it have helped.
“He said probably not, not with that much impact.” he said.
Depending on the rifle round and its power, the protective plate would stop it, but the impact to the chest would stop the heart, he said.
CALEF looked at area departments and chose to focus first on the Baton Rouge Police Department and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.
It raised $500,000 and “spent every bit” on protective vests, Englade said. CALEF’s 2017 goal is to raise $1 million.
“It’s a big goal,” he said, “but we have so much enthusiasm. People won’t say no. The need is too great; we need to continue this.”
Vests have a five-year shelf life, Englade said.
The group’s ultimate goal is for every officer in its seven-parish area to have a Kevlar vest, ballistic vest and Kevlar helmet, he said.
A Kevlar vest is worn under the shirt, while the ballistic vest would be worn over the shirt if an officer faces an “active shooter,” he said.
“Let’s be frank, it doesn’t cover that much area,” Englade said. “It will protect the vital organs, heart, lungs, liver.”
The former police chief asked Denham Springs High Key Club member senior Abby O’Donoghue to come up and pick up a large, red bag.
“It’s weighted,” she told Englade.
He opened the bag and took out a helmet and two vests.
“Your dad wears this every day,” Englade told O’Donoghue. “Imagine putting this on every day. Can you imagine this in July? It’s a shame we’ve come to this.”
The three protective items cost about $1,500, he said, the Kevlar vest $650, the helmet another $650 and the ballistic vest $350.
The plates are the most expensive item, Englade added, which is why fundraisers are needed, and getting the word out is important.
“My goal is for y’all to spread the word of what we have going on,” he said.
Sullivan Steakhouse in Baton Rouge will host a CALEF fundraiser on April 30, Englade said. There will be no admission charge and an auction will be held. On May 1, a golf tournament will be head at Santa Maria golf course.
CALEF has supplied vests to police departments in Denham Springs, Walker, Baton Rouge, Plaquemine, the East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge Sheriff offices, and the LSU and Southern University Police departments, Englade said.
The group has sent inquiries to Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard but has not heard back from him, he added.
“We go to a department … and ask what do you want? We leave it up to the head of that agency,” Englade said. “We want to buy the best we can buy them.”
Uniform officers, “the first to a scene and react to a call,” are the first to receive vests, he said, then other officers who don’t patrol are helped.
Some police departments don’t make vests mandatory, Englade said. “If we buy them a vest, they have to have mandatory policy they will wear it.”
Englade was introduced by Denham Springs city Councilman Jeff Wesley, former Denham Springs police chief who said he worked with Englade in Baton Rouge.
“Back when we were doing real police work, a .32, a Saturday Night Special was all we had to worry about,” Wesley said.
“I don’t think either of us could do this job anymore” Englade added. “I’m old school and the old-school ways.
Information on CALEF and its fundraisers can be found on it two websites, on protectourprotectors.com and calef.la., Englade said.
But in response to a question from the audience, he said people don’t get chance to learn about the positive things his group does.
“We’ve begged the media to cover our golf tournament, but it’s not sensational enough. We co-sponsor the BRPD awards banquet,” Englade said, “We can’t beg the media to cover that.”
According to Englade, to make the news something must “have some blood involved. It’s why people stop and slow down at a bad wreck.
“I’m not sure why you would slow down and look,” he said. “Weather and bad news dictate how things on the news cycle work.”
CALEF also helps the families of police officers in times of distress, if an officer has sick child with mounting medical bills,
“We’re a little broader,” than just vests, Englade said. “We think of the families as an extension of law enforcement and try to help them.”