By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published May 9, 2012

Burns police officers are wearing new, custom-fit bullet-resistant vests courtesy of a local church and grant funding.

The Covenant Church Assembly of God congregation donated a GH Armor Systems vest to the police department, making it possible for all four full-time Burns officers to wear the protective gear.

Burns Police Chief Tase Sturgill employed grant monies to purchase three vests to cover 75 percent of his full-time officers. The chief explained the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission, aka POST, requires full-time officers, working 20 or more hours, wear the vests.

The Burns Force includes four officers considered full-time. Sturgill used a Tennessee Municipal League grant and a Department of Justice Bullet Proof Vest Partnership grant to buy three vests, but lacked enough funds for the fourth vest.

The flock of Covenant Church donated proceeds to purchase the fourth vest; and presented Sturgill and BPD Officer Ed Ritchison with his new armor during a monthly fellowship dinner April 29 at the Burns community center.

During the dinner presentation, church Pastor Wes Sesler noted he couldn’t sleep at night knowing one officer would be without a new vest, which drew an “Amen” from the audience.

Sesler also thanked the law men for the service to the community, which prompted a standing ovation from the diners, and noted in his seven years of ministry, the vests ranked as “absolutely the most exciting, fun thing” he’s seen given away at a church function.

Ritchison said he feels more confident in his duties with the layer of armor protection, and that he has a better chance of coming home after his shift.

Sturgill commissioned the vests for service April 27. The chief attained the lowest bid for vests from CMS Uniforms and Equipment Inc. in Nashville. He and three officers were fitted for vests March 30.

The vests will cost about $550 each. GH Armor Systems is based in Dover, Tenn.

Covenant Church

Covenant Church assembled for the first time last September, with about 20 followers meeting at a congregant’s home. The church moved into the Burns community center around Thanksgiving, and now has 80-85 members.

The church, however, legally wasn’t permitted to assemble at the community center.

The Dickson County Board of Education deeded the old Burns School to the town in 2002, but language in the deed prohibited the school building’s use for religious functions.

School board Chairperson Tim Potter, also the town’s attorney, signed a release of all previous restrictions for the property’s use last November, officially allowing the church to meet there.

The church designates 10 percent of their financial collections to the community, with donations going to CareNet Pregnancy Medical Center, Dickson County Help Center and a benevolence fund for community service. The benevolence fund paid for the bullet-resistant vest.

Sesler explained his flock was “excited” about donating the vest. They saw the need, wanted to give back and the act fit with their mission.

The Burns town commission reached out to the school board last fall so churchgoers could continue meeting in the community center, he added, and the congregation viewed the vest donation as a “thank you” for the gesture.

Covenant Church services begin at 11 a.m. Sundays. Churchgoers prayed over Ritchison’s vest twice during the Sunday service before the April 29 dinner, asking for God’s assistance in keeping the officer safe.

The monthly fellowship dinner communes the last Sunday at 6 p.m. Bible study and youth and children’s ministries meet Sundays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m.