Public service…specifically Police officers. No doubt, one of if not the most thankless job out there. Day in and day out officers are sticking their necks out for people whom they've never met. We ask these people to sacrifice everything to better solidify our safety to the best of their abilities. So what recourses do they have to ensure theirs? That has been a topic of conversation between many since August 2014, when an 18-year-old local was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson Mo. The shooting sparked civil unrest in the city and eventually across parts of the United States. Some would call the incident in Ferguson a nexus for the distain for police as a whole. Truth be told, a bunch of crybabies followed some other crybabies and started a movement that makes NO sense. Albeit, as time progresses, that same distain for police officers has arguably gotten worse; nationally. Naturally, as threats increase the need for updated tactics, gear and overall demeanor must change.
We spoke to a retired Kentucky State Trooper about gear and how it’s implemented on a capacity other than specialized or SWAT levels. Before we go further, we would like to be clear that Captain Jeff Mayberry (ret) spent 28 years on KSP and served just about every level up to Captain. We asked him about the changing environment as a police officer and what he thought departments/organizations could do to better prepare their officers for it. Jeff explained that as a trooper “you are on your own for the most part, there could be 60-70 miles separating you from your closest back up or support, a trooper has to be self-sufficient”. He recalled a particular incident that took place on Thanksgiving in 1992 when someone in western Kentucky opened fire at people with a shotgun as they passed by. Sgt Mayberry (at the time) was one of the responding Troopers. He had just come off the Narcotics Unit, so his gear list wasn’t exactly extensive; in his articulate but definitive Kentucky accent “Man, whatever you got on, is what you have”. Long story short Jeff and the other troopers mitigated the threat with no collateral damage; other than Jeff getting “hit between the runnin lights” (short for getting shot between the eyes) with bird shot. (We work with Jeff on other capacities, and there is scar in the exact place where the shot hit him) At the time, headgear was few and far between, the ones who had it came from their local DRMO and in 1992 helmet companies like HHV weren't churning out the product they are now. Most departments don’t have the money to spend on helmets, and grant money is tied up in other facets within the department.
There are other factors that play a larger role in the lack of helmets though, it’s not ALL budget or other fiscal factors. Many officers get a call, depending on the severity, are suddenly immersed into whatever situation is at hand. Police officers more times than not, think about victims and innocent people before themselves so "We aint got time to sit and wait for a posse or team of to arrive on the scene" said Mayberry. The lionshare of the time officers get the call, assess the situation; then entry is made with the end state being securement of the scene. For all intense and purpose; we will use an active shooter scenario for one of many examples of immediate entry. We can use the most recent incident at Ohio State University as an example of risk and threat mitigation:
Lets look back to the events that unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014; just about every main stream news outlet was on the scene covering the unrest. Initially; local, state and federal law enforcement agencies responded to what was happening. In typical news fashion, the officers who were protecting life and property were filmed wearing equipment that the media captioned them as being “militaristic” or “too offensive”. When there is a city of around 21k people rioting around you and the destain for the police is volatile at best, officers had no choice but to progress further than “appearance”. Safety and efficiency trump appearance! “If we outfit every police officer with tactical gear and high speed equipment, we are taking away their ability to effectively police. We are then dehumanizing them; Police have to be approachable and empathetic to the public, that is their job, without it...we are rendered useless." Our officers have to possess the ability to grab their protective gear and put it on in a moments notice. Some would call it So, where is the happy medium? How can an officers remain effective in the worst-case scenario, yet remain approachable in their appearance and demeanor?
Circling back around, we are sitting scratching our heads. The idea of police officers driving around in full kit is not practical for obvious reasons. Do officers construct go bags to have their gear close by and available? We know of some who have go bags within one arms reach, the other side, we have spoke to some that will suggest a go bag of sorts is a waste of time, space and ineffective. If you are an active law enforcement officer, where are your thoughts on a go bag, having items such as helmets, ammo or other enabling equipment close by if needed?
We do not know the “end all be all” answer as 100 people will give 100 different scenarios as to why solutions will or will not work. What we do know, is police are targeted more so now than ever before. Whether it be the digital age publicizing the attacks or statistical data, the public is becoming more aware of the attacks and overall distain for the thankless job of being a police officer. In any case, there are more organizations and companies stepping up their game to help our officers as much as they can. Hard Head Veterans is one of those companies that are at the forefront of bringing ballistic solutions to head gear. The product that is Hard Head Veterans is affordable, reliable and readily accessible to our law enforcement officers who are keeping our communities safe. The ballistic helmets are NIJ Level III rated under fragment and impact standards. Hard Head Veterans is constantly testing and evaluating their products to better serve those who risk their lives to keep others safe.