Each year, training gear becomes more and more of a liability to departments, trainers, and the officers in training. There are an assortment of training suits and duty gear from many different companies that offer various types and levels of protection. Some of the most important aspects to keep in mind when selecting protective equipment for training are:
1. Effectiveness: Does the gear work? The only way to find out is to try it on and go through a series of durability tests. Since there is no standard test available, look at your training plan so that you can predict what kind of abuse the gear will be going through. Then you can perform tests for those types of situations.
Only trained and certified first responders should be allowed to test the suits, especially suits that are meant for instructors. Training and educating your officers is a must!
2. Versatility: Don’t get caught in buying a protective suit that only fits a specific training system. The best gear can be used in ALL training programs, regardless of the exercises. Remember that when buying protective gear you need protection from strikes, falls, and various environments, especially since officers find themselves in such a wide variety of situations and surroundings. Your training gear should provide protection in different types of areas, from a basic gymnasium to realistic scenarios and outside locations. Don’t forget to prepare for ground and water environments as well as chemically contaminated environments.
3. Durability: How long does it last? Some training gear has been around since 1984 and it still works. No training gear on the market could be described as “indestructible,” but a beneficial characteristic you should hunt for is the ability to safely sanitize, patch, and repair the gear on the spot.
4. Protection: Coverage does not necessarily mean protection. For example, you can place a pillow over your arm and strike it with a baton, which will undoubtedly cause injury. The pillow provided coverage but not protection. You need to ensure that the padding you use is going to offer the best possible protection. To quote Dave Young of RedMan Training: “Pad and protect what will be hit, pad and protect what might get hit, and then pad and protect will could possibly get hit.”
5. Amount: How many do I need? This is usually based on budget and the number of officers you are training. We suggest purchasing an instructor suit for every two instructors, so they can switch off and give each other a good cool-down period between student drills. We also suggest purchasing two student suits for every three officers in training.
When planning and preparing for training, you should map out the scenarios you will be guiding. These scenarios can be defined in terms of “dimensions”:
One Dimensional — Scenarios where you pad up the instructor and not the student. Officers do not face many one-sided encounters, so try to keep those exercises to a minimum.
Two Dimensional — Both the instructor and student are padded up for light- to high-impact training. This situation is not practical if you are unable to go as high-impact as real life encounters may be. If your suit only allows for low-impact training then there is a potential for injuring both instructor and student.
Three Dimensional — Where trainers use force-on-force, both in light- and high-impact training using marking projectiles. This training exercise allows for the complete real world experience.
Do you have any other suggestions for officers purchasing and evaluating training gear? Please leave a comment below or email email@example.com with your feedback.
PoliceOne Contributor Dave Young, who also serves as Director of Specialized Programs for Northcentral Technical College - RedMan Training Division, contributed to this report.