Rethinking riot gear: Overcoming officers’ biggest challenges
This one-size-fits-most solution comfortably suits officers
Sponsored by Sirchie
By Yoona Ha, PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff
Just as the styles of protests have evolved over time, so have the styles of riot gear. Technological advances and modern challenges in tackling civil riots and large demonstrations have become powerful drivers of riot gear innovation.
Let’s face it: It’s nerve-wracking to face tens of thousands of protesters while doing your job to maintain public safety and allow demonstrators to exercise their constitutional rights. When there’s tension in the air and the possibility of unruly crowds, it’s important to be prepared for the potential of violence.
Challenge 1: Proper Fit
Despite increased efforts in law enforcement to protect officers, a recent study has shown that officers who are older or overweight were the least likely to wear body armor. It’s no secret that finding the right fit and comfort in body armor is a pressing issue among officers. But the reality is that this is also a problem with riot gear.
When John Roby, CEO of Sirchie, saw TV coverage of the Ferguson riots, he was dismayed to see officers who weren’t properly equipped. Roby said that he saw officers holding their riot gear from hanging off while they were running.
“I sat there and thought to myself, ‘There’s got to be a better way,” said Roby.
So Roby and his team started going to departments across the country to talk with officers and uncover their biggest frustrations with riot gear.
What they found was that departments often assumed that riot gear wasn’t going to be used frequently, so they made the mistake of buying riot suits that would only fit the officers currently on staff. When new officers joined the department, they often had to wear riot suits that were not the right size.
Arming your officers with riot suits that don’t fit properly can be a huge risk. Armor that isn’t in its proper position over vulnerable parts of the body is not going to be able to do its job properly. This often puts departments in challenging position, since it’s hard to predict what sizes they’ll need for new and existing officers.
To address those concerns, Sirchie developed the one-size-fits-all TacCommander Riot Control Suit, an adjustable suit that fits 95 percent of the world’s different body types and shapes.
“We essentially took all of the information about body sizing around the world and created a riot suit that can expand up to a 48-inch waist and fit people from 5-foot-5-inches tall to 6-foot-6-inches tall,” said Roby. “You have a foot and a half of height variability that can accommodate large ranges of both women and men.”
But what if you’re outside of the 95 percent range of body height and composition? Sirchie also created a small version and an extra-large version of the TacCommander Riot Control Suitto accommodate the 5 percent of the population that wouldn’t be covered by the original model.
Challenge 2: Comfort and Mobility
Another complaint Sirchie set out to tackle was lack of comfort and mobility.
When you’re responding to crowd control calls, you want to make sure that your protective equipment is designed with mobility in mind. The TacCommander weighs only 17 pounds and has a patented hammock system in the knee and elbow pads that prevent chafing to keep officers comfortable and also absorb shock in case of sudden impact.
The entire suit is connected from neck to toe and is fully adjustable and customizable. The shoulder pads on the suit offer extended protection in the neck area, in the front of the suit are removable armor plates, shelves on the thigh plates allow officers to rest their heavy riot shields, plus there are several straps on the suit that help officers secure and attach tools like radio systems and duty belts.
By designing the one-size-fits-all riot suit with officer safety and comfort in mind, Sirchie created a flexible suit that addresses common concerns with riot gear.
Don’t wait until the next protest to develop a strategy for protecting your officers.