BCF Issues $5,000 Challenge Grant for Sheriff's Department Equipment Fund

The tragic events of July 11 that ended in the deaths of two Berrien County Sheriff’s bailiffs and one officer being wounded left the community stunned and wanting to do something – anything – to make it better. 

“We want to protect our officers and make sure an incident like this doesn’t happen ever again,” Sheriff Bailey said.

To that end, The Berrien Community Foundation has established the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Equipment Fund and is issuing a $5,000 challenge match to the community to kick off the fundraising effort. For every $2 donated by the community, the Berrien Community Foundation will donate $1 up to $5,000. The funding will be used to help raise almost $30,000 needed to purchase higher grade protective vests and more secure gun holsters for county officers. The courthouse shootings occurred when a prisoner being transported in the court house took the officers gun from its holster during a struggle and began shooting in an escape attempt.

“We received many calls from community members asking what they could do to help,” said Berrien Community Foundation President Lisa Cripps-Downey. “Like everyone else, we wanted to do something. We contacted the Sheriff’s Department to determine the need and if we could be a part of the solution.”

Equipment Need
The needed equipment goes beyond what the department has had in the past. The Sheriff’s Department has identified two specific needs, plate carrier vests to protect against rifle fire and more secure holsters. The vests will cost $18,000 and the more secure holsters are estimated at $9,750. 

The plate carrier vests offer more protection than the common Kevlar vests officers wear, Sheriff Bailey explained. The vests protect against long-range rifle fire which is what is often being used in hostile situations. The Kevlar vests currently being used do not protect against rifle fire. 

The holsters are the level 3 security holsters to protect an officer’s gun from being stolen during a struggle. The holsters have an Automatic Locking System in addition to the foundation of the Self Locking System and locks the weapon in all directions upon holstering.

“With the recent acts of violence against law enforcement this equipment has become a reality for the men and women who serve at the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office,” Sheriff Bailey said.  “This equipment will serve to protect the officers who have sworn to protect the life and well-being of others.”

If additional dollars are raised, the Sheriff’s Department is hoping to purchase 75 weapon mounted flashlights. The lights would allow the officer to have both hands on the gun instead of holding a gun in one hand and a flashlight in the other. It would also allow the officer to have a hand free for apprehending a suspect. The type of holster purchased would be determined by the ability to buy the mounted flashlights through either donated or budgeted equipment funds.
How To Donate
Online Donations can be made through the Berrien Community Foundation website at:

Donate by Check 

Make checks payable to BCF/Sheriff Equipment Fund and send directly to: 
Berrien Community Foundation
2900 S. State Street, Suite 2E
St. Joseph, MI 49085

For information on donation of stock or other gifts, contact Lisa Cripps-Downey at 269-983-3486 or Lisa@berriencommunity.org.

The Berrien Community Foundation holds endowment and other funds for a number of non-profit organizations in Berrien County. Through these funds the Community Foundation is able to support the ever-changing needs of Berrien County now and into the future. The Community Foundation’s Community Endowment and field of interest funds have provided funding to support a wide variety of services and agencies for over 60 years. For more information on the Berrien Community Foundation visit our website at www.BerrienCommunity.org or call (269) 983-3304.