Diane Dimond: Helping first responders respond more safely
You know that emotionally satisfying feeling you get when you help someone in need? Aaron Negherbon gets that feeling every day. And now, he’s doubling down on his generosity.
In 2010, Negherbon established TroopsDirect after a college friend serving as a U.S. Marines commander in Afghanistan told him of the dire need for lifesaving supplies and equipment. Uncle Sam, he was told, had sent U.S. troops to fight on foreign soil without essentials like adequate body armor, medical supplies and footwear that lasted in the desert heat.
Negherbon sent a care package to his friend, filled with gun stethoscopes, gauze and gun lubricant, among other items, and was soon inundated with requests from other in-theater U.S. commanders. To date, Negherbon’s charity has shipped about 3 million pounds of requested supplies to military personnel all over the world.
“I, as a civilian, assumed our troops had what that they needed to do their jobs,” Negherbon told me. “But I realized they didn’t so … If our military needs it, we ship it out.” And he ticked off a random list, saying they send “uniforms, sturdy boots, helmets, stethoscopes, stretchers, sniper supplies, helicopter life support kits” He pays for the items with charitable donations and by getting steep vendor discounts, and he sometimes gets outright gifts from manufacturers.
Not content with that monumental feat, Negherbon has now turned his attention to helping beleaguered police and sheriff’s departments across the United States, especially those in small towns.
After learning that officers in cash-strapped departments also go to work without lifesaving equipment, Negherbon established a new organization called CopsDirect. His plan: do for cop shops what he’s done for the troops.
“It is sickening that there are police departments that are actually having to do community bake sales and barbecues to try to get funds for things they need,” he said. And then, with his rapid-fire enthusiasm, Negherbon recited another list, this one of law enforcement groups his new charity has helped. “We’re supplying departments in the Carolinas, Massachusetts, Texas, Arizona, Wyoming, Ohio, Florida and New Mexico,” he said.
In early April, Negherbon says, CopsDirect sent the police department in Taos, New Mexico, 50 first responder trauma kits it was not able to buy. Since officers are often the first on the scene of an accident, these kits are stocked with all sorts of life-saving items, including a tourniquet, bandages, trauma shears, gauze, a pressure cup for wounds and rubber gloves. How a gunshot or other serious injury is treated in the first 60 minutes is crucial to the person’s chance of survival.
“We believe what we are providing to these police departments is going to save the lives of the public and, God forbid, the lives of police officers as well,” Negherbon said.
Many departments have reported that they don’t have funds to stock Naloxone (the antidote for drug overdose) or supplies for their K9 unit. There’s just not enough money for new communications equipment, body cameras, Tasers, specialized helmets, night vision goggles or enhanced body armor.
I hadn’t realized that a bulletproof vest has a shelf life and is degraded by sweat, water and regular wear and tear. They should be replaced every five years for maximum safety.
Negherbon and I had a frank discussion about how tough it is to be in law enforcement these days. The situation in even a small community can turn into a war zone in an instant. One never knows when civil unrest, catastrophic weather, a flood or a forest fire might strike. Or where another mass shooting or act of terrorism might occur.
“Some departments are diligently working to create a first responder kit for mass shootings,” Negherbon told me. “Lots of departments just don’t have equipment to take on these bad guys who take over schools, theaters or start shooting in malls.”
“The great thing about CopDirect,” Negherbon said, “If another (disaster) happened again … we could tap into our channel of vendors and get supplies out the next morning.”
We all probably assume that our tax dollars are enough to pay for what our police officers need to do their jobs. But, obviously, it is not enough. Negherbon’s organizations are duly registered 501(c)(3) charities, and his open financial records boast that more than 90 cents on the donated dollar goes toward supply fulfillment, not administrative costs. He says he quit a rather lucrative job in the real estate industry to concentrate on his mission full time.
“I take a salary, but compared to other originations, my salary is very modest,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a higher calling in life than how many zeros are on the end of your W-2.”
I thought you’d like to know that a man based in San Ramon, California, who you will probably never meet, may be helping make your community safer.