Sun Prairie’s Westside Community Service Building Fire Station #2 on Thursday April 16 hosted the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association distributing 16,000 KN 95 masks donated by Shree Kalluri, founder and CEO of Zerology and owner of Green Cab in Madison.
Kalluri said the project began when his company wanted to supply KN 95 masks to Green Cab drivers to protect them, their passengers and food delivery service around Madison.
“I saw a need and wanted to help,” Kalluri said. “In a time like this, we need our law enforcement to be safe and able to respond to calls.”
Kalluri said he asked around and learned that priority was being given to health care workers and that many times, law enforcement personnel were not getting needed masks.
“Then I talked to my operating officer, he has lived in China and he has got a huge network there. Then I said, ‘Can you source some?’ He said absolutely, and he made some calls to China and we found some and they said, guess what? We can actually give you more.”
Even when he learned the need was 16,000 masks, Kalluri was still able to supply enough for all municipal, county and state law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin.
“Milwaukee PD needed 1,800 for all their officers,” said Sun Prairie Police Chief Mike Steffes, who was on hand for the distribution along with other WCPA members and the Wisconsin Police Leadership Foundation. “Brown County just left us. City of Madison was just here. They picked up 550 for their agency.”
When it came to a location to distribute the masks, the Sun Prairie Fire Department stepped up in the spirit of interdepartmental cooperation, according to Steffes.
“Because it’s 30 degrees outside, Fire Chief Garrison was willing to open up his bay for us so we could do a drive through delivery for everybody,” Steffes said. “We figured that would be the safest to maintain the social distancing of six feet as well as being able to just keep the squads driving right through.”
Steffes said the response — which included police agencies from all over the state like Wausau and LaCrosse as well as the Wisconsin State Patrol — indicates a real need.
“So that is really a testament to the shortage that there is out there — that squads are coming from all over the state right here to Sun Prairie to go pick these up through the gracious donation of Shree,” Steffes said.
That sentiment was echoed by Jefferson Police Chief Ken Pileggi, President of the WCPA, who was on hand to assist with the distribution of the personal protective equipment (PPE) at Sun Prairie Fire Station #2.
“I think it’s outstanding in the wake of such PPE shortages in not only in Wisconsin, but in the country,” Pileggi said.
“I can tell you, Wisconsin emergency management to the governor’s office, they’ve all been working really hard to get these kinds of kind of all kinds of PPE. And to actually have a businessman local in the State of Wisconsin donate 16,000 of these masks [is great],” Pileggi said.
“I’ve had so many contacts from chiefs and sheriffs around the state that basically say they have nothing or you know, they’re using cloth. So this is something that is really — it’s a blessing for all of us in law enforcement,” Pileggi said.
“And I think overall that the bottom line is these business owners, not just with Shree Kalluri here from Zerology, but I’ve heard stories around the state from chiefs and sheriff’s basically saying that their businesses and industries have stepped up,” Pileggi said.
The Jefferson chief said he’s been trying for months to get masks.
“Oh, we’ve tried really, it has been a real challenge for us,” Pileggi said.
“I’m a small agency, 18 sworn officers for a community of about 8,000 people, and the way that it’s set up through DHS is because healthcare workers are in such short supply in our hospitals, our EMS workers and fire, police, we were kind of at the bottom of the tier, so it’s been really difficult for us,” Pileggi said.
“I can tell you the Jefferson County Wisconsin emergency management coordinator, she’s been working very hard to try and get us masks . . . she has tried really hard and we have gotten some shipments,” Pileggi added, “but the national stockpiles depleted, so it’s been, what we’ve gotten is just a few here and there.”
“I wanted Wisconsin’s law enforcement to know how much we appreciate their dedication and commitment to keeping our communities safe,” Kalluri added.
“In this crisis, it’s important that we all try to help the people who protect us in any way we can, and this is my way. Hopefully it sparks others in a position to lend a hand to do the same.”