BCF Sheriff's Department Equipment Support Fund

The Berrien Community Foundation has issued a $5,000 challenge match for this fund.
For every $2 raised by the community, The Berrien Community Foundation
will match $1 up to $5,000.

Donate online by clicking the donate button above or make checks payable BCF/Sheriff's Equipment Fund to:
Berrien Community Foundation
2900 S. State Street, Suite 2E

St. Joseph, MI 49085

The July 11 shooting of three Berrien County Sheriff’s deputies left the community stunned and wanting to do something – anything – to make it better. Two officers, Joseph Zangaro and Ronald Kienzle, were killed and Deputy James Atterberry Jr. was wounded when a prisoner being transported in the court house took the Atterberry’s gun from its holster and began shooting in an escape attempt. The shooter was killed and the Atterberry is recovering.

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey said at first the department was in shock and mourning their long-time friends and fellow officers. Then, still hurting, he and other officers took a step back to look at how to further protect and prepare the officers as they serve. After evaluating the situation, what they determined they needed was funding to purchase higher grade protective vests and more secure gun holsters.

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

Helping to Raise the Funds – A Community Challenge

The Berrien Community Foundation is partnering with the Sheriff’s Department to help raise almost $30,000 needed to purchase the new equipment. The 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.

“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 vest protect against long-range rifle fire which is what is often being used in hostile situations. The Kevlar vests 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 wellbeing 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.