On 8/14/2019, narcotics officers working a search warrant in Philadelphia were met by a shooter armed with a rifle, during this exchange, several officers were shot and two officers were pinned down on the second floor of the house. These two officers were in uniform and had duty equipment on, they were equipped to conduct patrol duties not a prolonged stationary position with an armed and active shooter below them. This is a very specific situation which was very unlikely to happen, until it did, and one of the principal questions which was reported to have been asked by a supervisor to those officers was “do you have enough ammunition?”
Whenever I get new officers fresh out of the academy, I explain to them the redundancy concept of equipment. There is a lot of equipment every officer should have and every one of those pieces of equipment should have a backup of, or near, the same capacity and function. If policy allows a backup pistol, have one and it should take the same magazines as the primary pistol. Have at least two magazines, three if space allows. Two blades, and they are not supposed to be for cutting seat belts, but can do that job if needed. Two medical kits, one for another person, and one for personal care. Medical is always discounted as unnecessary until it is immediately required, which means if it is not present then death may be an outcome. Ankle kits, soft armor velcro kits, duty rig kits, does not matter how you carry it, just have it. A real world proven tourniquet, hemostatic, chest seal and nitrile gloves. They should be easily accessible by either hand, in any position.
While there are many officers who do not carry liquid mace spray anymore, it is still something which has a good application and is a redundancy to the taser. Two pairs of handcuffs is a good idea, if weight is an issue on the rig, use a hook/loop pouch on the vest under the shirt. Have a copy of the patrol vehicles key in a wallet or in a boot. Redundancy is how officers stay in the fight, and able to affect the outcome of a high stress situation. Training, however, is what takes the average street officer from having a basic understanding of implementation and pushes them into the professional law enforcement officer tier. Proper training on the equipment the officer carries and its effective application is the cornerstone of effective use of force and should never fall into a “check the box” type of scenario.
For duty pistols and backup pistols, there needs to be minimum standards which each officer should be able to make. Not state mandated standards, most of those are really low skill and do not rise to the level of competency which is needed to be a top tier professional law enforcement officer. Can the officer deploy their duty pistol from retention with either hand? How about the backup? Reload and clear malfunctions with one hand? How effective can that officer be one handed shooting, how about while moving? Can the officer apply a tourniquet from any position with one hand on any appendage effectively? How about in the dark or while retaining a flashlight? Does the officer understand what the requirements are for application of hemostatic and/or a chest seal? These are just a few of the things which need to be addressed when considering equipment and training.
The officer on the street needs to not only be equipped properly, not only needs to have the proper level of training with the equipment they carry, but they also need to understand that the proper application of mindset as it applies to their equipment. A clear example is the need for armor, helmets and rifles whenever doing a warrant. As the situation in Philadelphia has shown, no officers on scene at the time of the warrant being served on that house had any of these items. This is not just unacceptable, it is disregarding modern policing standards. These types of tactics may have worked thirty years ago, but in 2019 sending officers to serve a warrant without armor or rifles is very much unacceptable. We are fortunate that we can learn from the serious situation in Philadelphia without the loss of life, but it is lost if these lessons are disregarded.
VDMSR is a full-time LEO in a very dense urban environment, and has been writing on the topic of law enforcement for more than a decade. In addition to his op-ed pieces, he also conducts unbiased reviews of equipment and training cases. For more information visit VDMSR.com