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Police departments sending gear to Ukraine

By Matt McFarland and Evan Sobol

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    FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Connecticut (WFSB) — As the fighting rages on, local police departments are the latest in a long line of Connecticut residents doing whatever they can to help those in Ukraine stay safe.

On Monday in Fairfield County, several police departments are sending over some of their older gear they’re no longer using.

More than 200 pieces of protective equipment like bullet proof vests and helmets will be boxed up and shipped to Ukraine.

Spearheaded by the Fairfield Police Department, this is the effort of 12 departments from across Fairfield County who answered the call when local leaders reached out.

Members of the Ukrainian American Club of Southport came up with the idea of collecting protective gear that was no longer being used.

“We asked what can we do? What’s the most meaningful thing. Certainly there is the humanitarian need, but they also said we really need protective gear. Thought about that for a few days and thought about how to make it happen,” said State Representative Laura Devlin.

There is nothing wrong with the vests, but in the U.S., law enforcement industry standards mean the vests get replaced every 5 years.

The previously warn vests and helmets will go to the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council.

From there, a Ukrainian organization that’s on the ground, which is licensed by the State Department and the Department of Defense, will then distribute the equipment to local defense teams in hotspots across Ukraine.

“It helps us give back. As police officers, we’re out on the road every day, trying to keep everybody safe, they’re over there trying to keep their land safe and their families safe, so there’s a lot of parallels there. The hope is they go over there and they’re used for a good cause and they protect lives,” said Fairfield Police Chief Robert Kalamaras.

Devlin, reached out to Fairfield’s Chief, along with Alex Plitsas, an Army veteran who served with Special Ops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and had connections in Ukraine from his time working for the Secretary of Defense.

“We’re looking to effect the outcome of the war. Putin may not be listening to protests in small towns across America, but when his forces are facing a well-equipped territorial defense force with protective equipment you see here, there’s no weapons, nothing offensive, it gives the Ukrainians a fighting chance.”

Plitsas hopes the effort spreads, and it already is.

Last week, departments from Hamden, New Haven, West Haven and Hartford showed off vests they’re sending over.

Since departments here get new vests every few years to keep up with industry standards, that means these old ones can get a new lease on life and hopefully save lives as well.

“It helps us give back. As police officers, we’re out on the road every day, trying to keep everybody safe, they’re over there trying to keep their land safe and their families safe, so there’s a lot of parallels there. The hope is they go over there, and they’re used for a good cause and they protect lives,” Chief Kalamaras said.

Fairfield police says they will be boxing up the donations and shipping them out Tuesday to the Ukrainian American Coordinating Committee.

From there, that organization will distribute the vests to defense teams in Ukrainian hotspots.

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