A goal of the We Got Your Back group - to have all officers and deputies in Douglas County equipped with new active-shooter protective gear - has now been fulfilled.

In a ceremony Friday, Oct. 19, at the Alexandria Technical and Community College, 30 kits were donated to officers and deputies in the Alexandria and Osakis police departments and Douglas County Sheriff's Office, as well as to medical personnel who respond with SWAT team members. An additional three kits were donated to police officers in Glenwood, in Pope County.

In March, the first round of gear was donated to 16 Douglas County deputies and 14 Alexandria officers.

Jake Skifstad, founder and president of Shield616, a Colorado-based organization that helps equip law enforcement personnel with the necessary advanced gear, presented the kits to the officers. The gear is to be used for active shooter and crowd control situations.

Shield616 works with sponsors to provide officers and deputies with a vest package that includes a helmet, vest and other gear. Typical vests used by law enforcement agents, which are often referred to as bulletproof vests, are used to protect officers from handguns. The new active-shooter vests offer a higher level of protection for not only handguns but rifles.

Teaming up with Shield616 was We Got Your Back, a local support group for law enforcement started by two Alexandria businessmen, Craig McMillan and Gordie Billmark. Because of the work by those groups, all deputies and officers within Douglas County have been provided with the kits. The kits, which have a price tag of $1,200 each, were donated by individuals or businesses in the Douglas County area.

During the presentation, law enforcement agents were not only presented with their new gear, they also had an opportunity to meet their donors.

Sponsors offer support

Becky Hensley, representing Hensley Trucking from Osakis, said the company was also glad to be a sponsor of the Osakis Police Department.

"We were honored to support the community that watches our backs," Hensley said.

Chris Reed, manager of the Osakis VFW, another business sponsoring the Osakis Police Department, agreed with Hensley and said it was an honor to be able to equip the officers and protect them so that they can protect the community.

The three full-time officers from the Osakis Police Department - Chief Chad Gulbranson, Calvin Uhl and Mark Grinstead - were sponsored by Hensley Trucking, Osakis VFW, the Elks, Panther Distillery and Tom Marthaler.

"This was huge," Gulbranson said of receiving the equipment. "To be appreciated from our community and to have that support, it means a lot."