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Police sergeant disciplined for raising money for a bulletproof vest

Police sergeant disciplined in case involving Go Fund Me page, bulletproof vests. (WPEC)

A Port St. Lucie Police sergeant got into trouble, after trying to raise money on a Go Fund Me page to buy bulletproof vests, without the police chief’s approval.

Sgt. Matthew Wood wrote on the Go Fund Me page that he and other officers need the vests for protection in dangerous situations where someone is armed with a rifle “to not only survive but protect the community we serve.”

Internal Affairs records show that in June, Sgt. Matthew Wood created a Go Fund Me page to try to raise more than $5200 to buy some bullet proof vests that the police force does not provide.

The vest, called a level 4 vest, has thick Kevlar plates that can stop a bullet from a high-powered rifle.

But since the department won’t pay for them, Sgt. Wood tried to get donations from the public on Go Fund Me without getting the chief’s okay—a violation of department policy.

“Although his intentions were good, he just went about it the wrong way,” said Asst. Chief Richard Del Toro, Port St. Lucie Police.

The Port St. Lucie Police department pays for level 3 bulletproof vests that can stop a bullet from a handgun. Each officer receives $850 to purchase a level 3 vest.

Those vests are mandatory and road patrol officers must wear them. They must be replaced every 5 years.

But the department says it doesn’t have the money for the more substantial level 4 vest that will stop a rifle bullet.

“If they want to purchase it on their own, they could do that,” said Del Toro.

The incident involving the Go Fund Me page raises questions about officer safety.

Especially in this day and age when people with assault rifles open fire in buildings such as schools or shopping malls, endangering the public and the officers who respond to the scene.

“Shouldn’t the department give them that kind of a vest so that they’re protected in a life and death situation?” asked CBS12 reporter Al Pefley.

“Yeah, I could definitely see that. We just don’t have $200,000 sitting around where we can say, you know what, we need to buy these right now,” Del Toro responded. The department has 235 officers and Assistant Chief Del Toro says it would cost about $200,000 to buy level 4 vests for all the officers.

The assistant chief says the Port St. Lucie Police SWAT team and narcotics officers do have the level 4 vests but they don’t have the money to buy them for all the road patrol officers too.

“We’re very prepared to handle the situations that our public needs us to respond to. We are more than adequately prepared and I hope the public realizes that,” Del Toro said.

We could not reach Sgt. Matthew Wood, the sergeant who created the Go Fund Me page. A police spokesman said Sgt. Wood is not available to comment.

Meanwhile, the assistant chief says he hopes someday they’ll have the money to get the level 4 vests for every officer. But for now, those who feel they need one will have to pay for it out of their own pocket.

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