Earlier this month, deputies were involved in a shootout with a man in Pinch. The suspect opened fire on deputies, and was killed by return gunfire.
No deputies were injured in the incident, but the shootout reinforced the danger that deputies face while working. Rutherford said all the deputies on the scene of the shootout were wearing their body armor.
Rutherford said that, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, more than 1,200 police officers have been killed in the line of duty since the mid-1980s. They estimate 30 percent of those would have survived if they had been wearing body armor.
Ballistic vests can also help protect officers from knives, blunt force trauma and injuries from car accidents, Rutherford said.
Sheriff's Department Capt. Sean Crosier said the ballistic vests are a lot lighter than they used to be, weighing in at 2 or 3 pounds each. But some deputies may still occasionally balk at the weight of the vests, or say they are uncomfortable to wear.
But Rutherford said safety is more important than comfort.
"The number-one priority for us is to take care of the citizens, and along with that goes the safety of the deputies," Rutherford said.
"We'd rather make them wear their vests than go to a funeral."
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.