Police Duty Belts

by Woodsbum

I found this article quite interesting. It from the Washington Post about police duty belts and how they have have become more militarized since the LA incident in 1997 where the police were outgunned. The article also goes on to talk about how carrying a piece of equipment tends to increase the desire to use that equipment. That really plays into human nature and is common sense. If you carry some really nice toys with you obviously you will want to play with them at some point.

Here is the article I am talking about:

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How the police duty belt went from Officer Friendly to Mad Max in 30 short years

The modern era of police firepower dawned on Feb. 28, 1997, when 200 Los Angeles police officers armed with pistols and shotguns struggled to slow down two bank robbers carrying fully automatic rifles and wearing 40 pounds of body armor. Outgunned, several officers ran to local gun stores to borrow semiautomatic AR-15s. The LAPD SWAT team brought the gunmen down.

After the Battle of North Hollywood, police across the nation vowed never to be overpowered again. And so they began adding the trusty AR-15 to their arsenals.

The moment was part of a wider trend: the steady accumulation of new, more accurate and more deadly tools on the U.S. police officer’s duty belt and in his patrol car. So far this year, police nationwide have shot and killed more than 900 people, according to a Washington Post database tracking such shootings. As the nation debates the propriety of those encounters, law enforcement experts say the modern police duty belt may play a significant role in an officer’s decision to use deadly force.

“The more crap you put on your belt, the more apt you are to use it,” said Mark Lomax, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association.

[Creating Guardians, Calming Warriors: A new style of police training emphasizes de-escalating conflict.]

Not that police didn’t have good reason to load up their belts. The ultra-violent crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s led police to fear for their safety, as did the increasing number of criminals who showed up for work armed with military-grade weapons.

“The transition of weaponry in law enforcement over the last 30 and 40 years is the direct result of what the civilian world was carrying,” Lomax said.

So the duty belt evolved. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was a leather belt with maybe five attachments, according to Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation: a Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver, ammunition pouches, Mace spray, a nightstick and handcuffs. Today, Lomax said, there’s usually a metal baton, pepper spray, a Taser and a semiautomatic pistol with ammunition.

Here’s a primer on the evolution:

The gun:

Police began shifting to semiautomatic handguns in the late 1980s. The handguns replaced revolvers, which require shooters to manually load six bullets into the cylinder. Semiautomatic pistols reload automatically though — unlike fully automatic weapons — they fire just one shot with each trigger pull.

Departments feeling outgunned by gangsters and searching for a new weapon found the perfect solution in the Glock 17, an Austrian weapon manufactured by Gaston Glock, according to Paul Barrett, author of “GLOCK: The Rise of America’s Gun.” When Glock peddled his cheap, easy-to-use pistol to stations across the
United States, police officials were impressed.

Officers actually shot more accurately with the Glock because it only required 5.5 pounds of pressure on the trigger compared to 12 pounds for the Smith & Wesson revolver. But this feature had complicated consequences, Barrett said.

“If you graze the trigger, the gun will go off, which led to safety problems before people were properly trained,” Barrett said. “They couldn’t have a finger on the trigger until they are actually able to shoot.”

[New recruits and a new weapon: How the arrival of the Glock 17 contributed to a surge of police shootings in the District.]

Pepper spray:

Revolvers weren’t the only weapons needing improvement. Police found tear gas sprays, such as phenacyl chloride or Mace, had little effect on drunks or people high on drugs. So they traded Mace for pepper spray in the mid-1980s, after the FBI adopted the weapon. The active ingredient, found in cayenne peppers, temporarily blinds suspects, burns skin and causes difficulty breathing.

Tasers:

Some new additions to the duty belt were made to solve PR problems. Take the Taser. In the 1960s, news reports described police jabbing civil rights activists with the same three-foot-long electrical poles “usually used for forcing cattle into chutes.”

“They didn’t like the optics of using tools meant for animals on people pushing for equal rights, so people started coming up with alternative means of delivering electricity,” said Adam Bates, of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice.

The first stun guns were marketed as a way to demobilize terrorists, particularly on airplanes, said Darius Rejali, a Reed College professor who studies electric weapons. Later, in the late 1990s, the Taser appeared on police belts after being declassified as a firearm.

Instead of pressing the weapon directly to the skin of an attacker, like a traditional stun gun, a Taser lets an officer fire a pair of electrodes, which remain connected to the weapon by wires, which then deliver the jolt. Tasers are now carried by more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies worldwide.

[Improper Techniques; Increased Risks: Deaths raise questions about the improper deployment of Tasers]

The baton:

The nightstick, too, suffered an image problem after Chicago police were photographed clubbing African Americans during the 1968 riots, said Massad F. Ayoob, the author of “Fundamentals of Modern Police Impact Weapons.”

The solution came in 1972 with the PR-24, a 24-inch side-handle baton modeled after a Japanese martial arts weapon.

Police grip the perpendicular handle and hold it like a shield across their chests in a defensive stance. While greatly improving police departments’ image problems, the altered training had unintended consequences.

“The offense was very weak because you were swinging rather than striking,” said Dave Young, the founder of ARMA training, a Wisconsin law enforcement academy. “Sure, the public image was greatly improved, but you compromised officer safety.”

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This is an interesting topic that I feel is the root of a lot of our current, rebellious attitude toward authority. Our police forces have moved from being “Peace Officers” and are not “Law Enforcement Officers.” Think about this change a bit. They no longer “keep the peace,” but instead “enforce laws.” They have gone from a group of people that find a way to keep everyone safe and peaceful. Instead they have become the strong arm of a authoritarian system designed to keep the masses enslaved by laws. This name change says it all. “Law Enforcement” says that they no longer are concerned with public safety. It is all about revenue generation and controlling the general population.

Since words are powerful and able to ignite an entire generation into action, the words chose to describe those that were once there to protect us tell a new story…….

Another article that I find interesting is here. It seems that a lot of blame has been placed upon our military for the current LEO mindset. According to the Seattle Globalist, the 1033 program that allows old military equipment to be transferred to enforcement departments and the hiring of former military personnel are to blame for the shift towards more heavy handed attitudes of police. They say that “Police officers who see themselves as soldiers fighting wars against drugs and terror are more likely to shoot to kill.” This really says a lot of the media’s and current LEO mindset. This “War on Drugs” idea and push has militarized our police? Interesting slant on the whole issue. Personally, I feel that there is more to it than a few MRAPS and hiring former military personnel. I feel that this is a symptom of larger issues that are being mistaken for the disease. That discussion should be left for one on one talks over lots of alcohol, however.

No matter where you stand on the issue or what your beliefs are one thing is sure. Our current LEOs running around on the streets do carry a lot of expensive toys that they like to use whenever they get a chance. Some of it is actually nice to have on hand for your own protection as well. Next time you see a cop, do yourself a favor and check out their duty belt. Some of that might end up being used on your the next time you don’t do a complete stop at a light if you get too sassy!

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