An armed robber is attempting to escape on foot while K-9 and patrol officers jump out of their vehicles to search the residential area. Outside there’s a below-zero windchill, and the officers are wearing nothing but their uniforms—no gloves or caps.
In another incident, a deputy responding to a domestic call isn’t wearing his body armor. His partner, after hearing that there’s an armed family member involved, shouts at him to go back to his squad car and put it on. The deputy does so and as he’s returning to the area of the house, he’s ambushed by the offender and shot twice. Although he’s wounded, the armor saves his life.
As both these examples show, during an emergency response, all the equipment stored in your vehicle or packed in a go-bag is of no use if it’s not worn, attached to you or within arm’s reach. Whether it’s clothing, body armor, firearms, flashlights or other gear—the everyday, all-day aspect of what we wear and how we carry the tools of our profession must be considered.
It may all sound simple and obvious, but that’s the point. None of this is
difficult—it just takes some effort to make good choices. What do we need to carry every day to ensure the best outcomes and to remain operational and successful? Let’s start with clothing.
Protect Your Feet
Good socks and durable boots are vital. You work on your feet for long hours and in some of the worst conditions: heat, cold, rain and ice. Buy good socks and boots. If you’re wearing cotton socks with holes in the toes and zero cushioning, spend a few dollars to get the type that’s designed for long-term use. You don’t have to romp through streams. Sweat is enough to render lesser quality socks ineffectual. A dollar a pair may seem like a bargain, but your feet will tell you otherwise.
At the IACP vendor show this past October, Magnum Boots was showing their new line of duty-type socks. The reps detailed the design features, such as cushioning the foot in impact areas and moisture-wicking blended material that make these durable, protective foot covers. I intend to get a pair for each of my officers to test.
I’ve always worn boots on duty, except when I’m wearing my dress uniform. Ankle support is vital. Years ago, my boots saved me from injury when I stepped into a pot hole while running to make an assist. My ankle started to turn but the old-style paratroop boots we wore back then stopped the foot roll and likely prevented a broken bone. Those old boots were the best we had then, but today’s market is filled with excellent lightweight, durable products. You can search the Internet to read reviews by working street officers before you put down your money. Some of the top manufacturers also offer money-back guarantees.
Uniforms Make a Statement
What you wear says a lot about you. A uniform is the foundation of the police officer—it’s important for identification, appearance and protection. A professional appearance is important to the citizens we serve and the criminals we encounter. They’re analyzing the way you present yourself from the first impression, and a professional appearance means a prepared officer. I understand that some agencies don’t permit side pockets, but years ago, we didn’t carry anything other than revolvers or shotguns. Times have changed and, respectfully, so should we. We need a support system for all the gear needed today.
There have been big advances in clothing for police. The blended materials allow us to have both hot- and cold-weather shirts and pants. These new material combinations withstand the rough conditions we often find ourselves in while on duty. For me, the Spiewak brand shirts are a favorite. They’re as soft as cotton but hold up very well to everyday use.
The use of cotton shirts beneath our uniform top is over. Yes, cotton is very comfortable. But it also holds moisture against your skin and puts you at risk in both hot and cold weather. T-shirts made by Under Armour and other manufacturers have become common wear in sports and law enforcement. These special blend T-shirts wick moisture away from the body, protecting you in all conditions. Some have anti-bacterial properties that reduce odor.
Remember: Buy T-shirts in dark or subdued colors to match your uniform. I believe that outlining your neck and throat with the white triangle of your t-shirt is a danger best avoided. In our CQB pistol training, we go over the concept of the “triangle of death” issue and it’s clear that we shoot where we look. If the eye is drawn to a specific point, the rounds follow. An article in Force Science Research Newsletter #93 discusses this issue (www.forcescience.org). For example, how many times in simulated force-on-force training have you been shot in your gun hand? Or have shot other officers the same? Where you look is where you shoot. Look at the gun, shoot the gun. Look at the white triangle—you get the point.
For pants, the Fechheimer Flying Cross Class B duty pants are my choice, especially in the poly-wool-lycra blend. These pants offer two types of side cargo pockets that are very professional in appearance, but also allow me to carry additional gear. They also have an expanding waist to allow me to wear my sweater in winter instead of having to buy a size larger for the season.
Cover Your Head & Hands
A ball cap or knit cap is needed to keep sun and snow off your head, face and eyes. Good leather gloves are a necessity for protection from weather, cuts and abrasions. Having two pairs of surgical gloves in your pocket at all times is a good way to be prepared to protect yourself against bodily fluids and disease transmission when needed. I also attach Nitrile gloves to a wound bandage so that they’re first on before providing field care. This is important to remember.
Protect Your Eyes
A pair of clear or tinted shooting glasses will protect you from sun, blood, body fluids and projectiles. One of my friend’s glasses saved his eyes from a felon who had sharpened his fingernails and stabbed at his face in a fight. Another officer was hit in the face and blinded in one eye by a birdshot from a shotgun. This could have been prevented by a pair of protective lenses.
Wear Body Armor
Unseen in some parts of the country, the outside vest carrier provides ballistic protection along with the ability to add essential gear pockets. Extra magazines, radio, light, handcuffs, knife, gloves, radio ear piece, etc., are easily attached. JG Uniform of Chicago is a longtime supplier and custom-builds the carriers to officer’s specifications.
Prepare for Field Wound Care
The Illinois Tactical Officers Association is vigorously pushing self-aid and buddy-
aid wound care training to officers to deal with gunshot wounds and serious injury on the street where immediate EMS response isn’t available. We train on pressure bandages and tourniquets. These materials must be on you—not in your car or go-bag. They fit nicely in side pockets or an ankle holster.
In the end, only you can decide what you need and what’s extra. Additional ammo, a tourniquet and a back-up pistol are vital upgrades to everyday carry. Weight becomes a factor, but those few pounds you add may bring you success under the most difficult and dangerous conditions. Choose wisely and stand ready.
Chudwin’s Everyday Gear List
Gear can be attached to your belt, pants, shirt pockets & outside vest carriers.
1. Duty and back-up pistol
2. Duty holster—Safariland ALS
3. Backup holster—ankle model or DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster
4. Concealment belt holster—Bianchi 82 CarryLok hip holster
5. Mag Pouches—Safariland 79 or Bianchi Triple Threat Open Top
6. Knife—Spyderco Rescue 93 mm or Emerson Commander
7. Hidden extra handcuff key
8. Belt flashlight—Surefire 6PX Pro LED
9. Shirt pocket flashlight—Streamlight Stylus Pro LED
10. Pressure bandage—Olaes or Israeli IBD-type with two pairs of Nitrile gloves attached in a baggie in your pants BDU pocket
11. Tourniquet—SOFTT-W with ankle holster from Tactical Medical Solutions
12. Lip balm, band-aids, insect repellent, foil packet (during the summer) in shirt pocket
13. Extra batteries for light and rifle optics in vest pocket along with radio earpiece
Tactical Medical Solutions
Jeff Chudwin, the 2009 Law Officer Trainer of the Year, serves as chief of police for the Village of Olympia Fields, Ill. A founding member and current president of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association and co-chair of the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System Region 4, Chudwin is a former assistant state’s attorney and has been a firearms, use-of-force and emergency response trainer for more than 25 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.