More than $3 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds are heading to the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office as CARES Act funds begin to run dry.
The bulk of the funds heading to the law enforcement agency will fund 47 new patrol vehicles with enhanced COVID-19 safety features.
Last month, Andrea Dean with the department read the names of five Oklahoma law enforcement officers who died of COVID-19 contracted on the job.
“These officers left behind 16 children between them,” she said. “All five of these officers were married.”
Following a brief conversation about whether the new vehicles qualify for CARES Act funds, the board voted 8 to 0 advancing the funds to the Board of County Commission, where it also received unanimous support this week.
Commissioners approved $2.8 million for 47 new Chevrolet Tahoe patrol vehicles to be purchase from Joe Cooper Chevrolet, $377,249 for mobile computer systems to outfit the vehicles and $260,000 for respirators and filters.
“These are specific vehicles that have that separate air systems that are designed to protect the person in the front seat from the person in the backseat or vice versa,” Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert said.
“Even separate filters for them, so it’s totally different air,” said Aaron Brilbeck, Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. “We’re different than a lot of police agencies in that way not only patrol and arrest people like other agencies do, but we also do a lot of extraditions so it’s not unusual for our guys to be going across state lines and spending hours in the car with somebody."
The vehicles coming in at about $60,000 a piece include passenger compartments that can withstand repeated heavy-duty disinfecting.
“Yes, this is a pretty big expense, but I felt that it met all of the qualifications for CARES dollars, and it was something that we needed to do,” Blumert said.