MARION, Iowa — Bill Graham is a retired police officer from Baton Rouge, Louisianar. He served in the force for 15 years, until he retired to Marion and became a pastor.
But he said even though he technically left the police department, he still feels like he’s part of a brotherhood.
“I still have a heart for police officers,” Graham said. “So I found a way to help other police officers in different countries.”
He started an organization called Signal 63. Police officers from around the United States send bulletproof vests and other gear that is no longer under warranty by the manufacturer, to Graham.
Then he flies the gear to countries like Madagascar, Israel, and the Philippines.
“Bulletproof vests are very expensive,” Graham said. “A lot of police officers have to pay for their own gear in other countries. When they make 150 dollars a month, there’s not a whole lot of room for purchasing protective gear.”
Local law enforcement agencies, including the Marion and Cedar Rapids police departments and the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, also donate gear to Signal 63.
“If we can take our used vests that are still in good condition, and we can donate them to another nation who doesn’t have access to that kind of equipment, it just seems to be the right thing to do.” said Sheriff Brian Gardner.
Graham has taken about 400 vests overseas so far.
And he said he plans to continue that work for the officers that need it.
“I’ve seen grown, hardened police officers who are a part of SWAT teams, hugging me and thanking me for bringing those vests over to them,” Graham said.
The Linn County Sheriff’s Office plans on donating about 50 more vests to Signal 63 in about a month.