Thanks to a body armor grant from the state, one of Summit County’s smallest law enforcement agencies will be one of the best protected.

Reminderville Police Department Lt. Jamie Siegfried said the $15,249 the department received helped buy 10 bulletproof vests. The Akron Police Department secured $27,971 and was the only department to acquire more funding than the village of 4,200 people.

“The vests we had before this grant were halfway through their life cycle,” Siegfried said. “We upped the threat level of the vests.”

The Ohio Law Enforcement Body Armor Program provides 75 percent of the cost of the body armor. The receiving department pays the other 25 percent.

Siegfried said the grant also helped free up funds to improve the department’s computer system, which had 10-year-old servers.

The department has six full-time and four part-time employees.

“Whenever those grants come around, we try to take advantage of them,” he said.

Reminderville may be small, but that's no guarantee of safety, he said. Last year, the state's biggest methamphetamine bust took place in nearby Boston Heights on Olde Eight. About 140 pounds of the drug were seized. 

"It seems like the trend now is that the bad guys are finding quiet little towns and villages," he said. "Our philosophy is that if and when it comes to that, we want to be prepared."

On Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced another round for the program. In fiscal 2020, which began on July 1, $3.5 million will be available to qualifying agencies.

In fiscal 2019, $3.5 million was distributed to 405 local law enforcement agencies. An individual department can get as much as $40,000, but no Summit County department approached that level.

Akron Police Lt. David Laughlin said that Akron's department bought 56 active-shooter, hard-armor vests with its grant.

“These vests are being deployed in our patrol cars to use as a secondary vest protection for response to an active shooter who is using, or believed to be using, a rifle,” Laughlin said in an email.

Normal vests are designed to stop standard and magnum pistol rounds, but the hard armor units are needed for rifle rounds.

In Barberton, the $7,412 received from the state was sorely needed in a time of tight budgets.

Barberton Police Department Lt. James Dawson said the department has a mandatory wear policy that wears down vests from constant use. The vests have to be replaced every five years.

With little spare funds and increasing costs from body cameras to pricey cruisers, departments everywhere are being squeezed, he said.

“We have a lot of costs that 20 years ago we didn’t have,” he said. “These grants really helped offset our budget [challenges].”

Of the department’s 39 full-time employees, 19 were due for new vests, he said.

Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or emailed at aashworth@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconjournal.