I’m sure many of you of a certain age fondly recall thumbing through the latest Sears catalog, a printing large enough to be used as the cornerstone of a NYC high-rise. Inside were images of practically everything imaginable—coats, shirts, shoes, shotguns, furniture, cookware, bedding, and toys, and more toys, toys and toys. The catalog was definitely the source of many kid’s dreams and holiday and birthday wish lists.

Well, cops and other public safety officials had their own book of wish list items. For them, it was the Galls catalog that initiated dreams of shiny new doohickeys. There was page after page of boots, clothing, sparkling new handcuffs, badges, flashlights of all types, knives, pepper spray, duty belts, survival gear and, well, the array of the latest “toys” and cool things was practically endless. And secretly we salivated over nearly every item.

Today, it pleases me to introduce you Lauren Hoyt, a marketing specialist for Galls, the company behind the catalog of public safety items. Lauren generously offered to explain why police use different siren tones, instead of all using the same ear-splitting warning sounds. And yes, for less than the cost of attending most writers conferences, public safety agencies may even purchase a siren of their choosing by visiting the Galls online site. They offer a wide assortment.

And now, here’s Lauren Hoyt.

Have you ever wondered why the police car speeding past you keeps changing their siren tones? You’re not the only one.

You might think that one loud siren was enough to get your attention, but that might not be the case for other drivers and pedestrians around you. Depending on the circumstance, police officers choose siren tones based on what they think will work best in that situation.

Siren tones are arbitrary, and certain tones do not indicate specific emergencies. However, certain siren tones can be more advantageous for a police officer to use depending on the incident.

Types of Siren Sounds

Sirens consist of many different parts. Adjusting sirens’ amplifiers, circuits, modulators and oscillators (electronic currents that produce periodic signals) create many distinct tones and rhythmic patterns. These rhythmic patterns have many variations that can be controlled as well as their sound output, allowing pedestrians to differentiate between the type of oncoming emergency vehicles. Some of the most common siren tones include (click the links below to hear the siren sounds):

Wail: Say you’re driving on an open road when suddenly, you hear a speeding police car not too far off in the distance. You’re most likely hearing a wail siren tone, a pattern of slow, automatic increasing and decreasing frequencies.

Yelp: As that police car gets closer, you notice the sound has changed to a louder and more rapid tone. In many cases, the officer has switched out the wail siren tone for the yelp tone to alert you they’re quickly approaching.

Airhorn: If you somehow missed that yelp siren, you’ll get an unpleasant earful of the airhorn – a deep, low sound that’s much like a car horn, but 10 times louder. If you hear this siren, that means you really need to move out of the way. The airhorn tone is especially useful at intersections and can come out in short, medium or long bursts.

Piercer: In heavy traffic, you’re likely to hear the piercer tone, a pattern of short, high-pitch frequencies in a high-speed cycle. This siren has a much higher frequency and breaks through the noise of running cars, music and horns.

Howler: Have you ever been in a situation where you can hear and feel the vibrations of an incoming siren? It’s more common than you think. What you’re experiencing is the howler tone, a pattern of deep, low frequencies used in conjunction with another siren. It’s made as an added layer of warning that the driver can both hear and feel.

These are some of the most common examples of emergency vehicle siren tones, but there are many other tones from a variety of manufacturers.

Functions of the Police Siren

Some might think that police take advantage of their sirens to run red lights or get home quick, but that’s not the case. They use them to safely navigate traffic when an emergency or crime is occurring. Depending on the severity of the situation, one or more siren tones may be necessary to use. Some of these situations include:

Crime: Just the sound of a siren can deter a crime in progress. This not only scares the criminal away but also avoids a potentially dangerous situation where lives are on the line.

Traffic: When traffic is heavy, officers tend to alternate between sirens to make sure they are heard through the hustle and bustle of rush hour.

Traffic Violations: In the case of a minor traffic violation, such as running a red light or speeding, it’s common for officers to use one siren or just their police lights.

Multiple Cruisers: Some calls require multiple police officers on the scene. When units are near one another, each officer will use a different tone to alert drivers that there’s more than one incoming police vehicle.

Safety: In order to avoid dangerous collisions, officers will use both their lights and sirens – especially when going through intersections. Sirens also alert pedestrians when it’s not safe to cross the street until all incoming police cars have gone by.

What to do When You Hear an Emergency Siren

At the sound of an emergency siren, what do you do? Panic? Veer to the left while others veer to the right? No, this is a common mistake made by many drivers and is considered dangerous.

When you veer to the left, the emergency vehicle is forced to split through the middle of the lane. First responders don’t like having to do this because they run the risk of a car in the left lane pulling back to the right and possibly causing a collision.

When you see an emergency vehicle approaching from the rear, your best course of action is to safely pull to the right when you can and come to a full stop. By having everyone shift to the right, this clears the left lane and allows emergency vehicles to safely pass through.

Another error to avoid is running a red light. Some drivers will run a red light when they feel they’re in the way of the emergency vehicle. This is a very dangerous move that can endanger yourself and other drivers. It’s up to the first responder to find a way around you, so if you can find a way to move to the side without entering the intersection, that’s the best course of action.


Lauren Hoyt is a marketing specialist for Galls, LLC, a leading provider of police and public safety uniforms. For over 50 years, Galls has serviced the needs of America’s public safety professionals with a full range of duty gear and apparel from top brands, as well as uniform fittings and customizations.

*Photo credit – © Galls, LLC / Wood, Cameron US15

Working the graveyard shift was always a thorn in my side, and the reason for the ill will boiled down to the simple fact that I like to sleep when the rest of the humans I know are sleeping. Yes, I too, like to go to bed when the moon is in the sky, when birds are roosting, and when most burglars are out and about plying their trade.

If, by design, man should earn a living at the time when bats are flitting, fluttering, and circling streetlights, well, we’d most certainly have leathery wings and would sit down to plates of steaming hot mosquitos for our evening meals. We’d also have built-in night vision and we’d enjoy long walks in cemeteries. So yeah, in spite of once being a hardcore night person who for many years played guitar in bands that performed in dive bars and clubs across the south, as an officer I had a hard time keeping my eyes open once the clock struck 4 a.m. That particular time, of course, was the precise moment when the sandman began to tug downward on the invisible strings attached to my eyelids.

I prefer to sleep AT NIGHT. Thank you very much.

But, being a person who truly enjoyed receiving a regular paycheck, at 11 p.m. each night of the midnight shift rotation I’d shower and shave and then begin the process of transforming from gardener, cook, dad, husband, neighbor, repairman, mechanic, and carpenter, into the uniformed police officer known to the citizens on my watch. By the way, this metamorphosis must be completed in near silence because your family is fast asleep and already dreaming of unicorns and fairies and happy thoughts of not having to go to work or school in the middle of the night.

So, after a dab of Old Spice to cool sensitive post-shave cheeks came the installation of proper undergarments—boxers, briefs, or whatever bottom-huggers were the preference, if any. This step also included donning a pair of anaconda-strength, calf-crushing socks that’re designed to never slip downward. After all, there are not many things worse than having your socks inch toward your ankles while you’re sprinting through backyards and alleys trying to catch the guy who just robbed the clerk at Billy’s BBQ and Butt-Waxing Emporium.

Also included in the installation of the “unmentionables” was donning a cooling t-shirt. These handy articles of clothing are designed to wick moisture, ward off humidity, and reduce the beneath-the-Kevlar temperature to a manageable degree instead of the typical “bake-a-loaf-of-bread-in-under-two-seconds” heat every officer endures on a daily basis, especially the men and women who work in areas of extreme humidity.

The type of trousers officers wear depends upon their assignment and/or department policy. For now, let’s put our feet, legs, and rear end into a pair of those fancy polyether pants, the ones with the sporty racing stripes that stretch from waist to ankle on the outside of each leg. This odd-feeling material is as slick as eel snot when the eel is suffering from a bad summer cold.

Once the pants are on it’s best to leave them unfastened until tucking the front and rear tails of the vest carrier (the material that holds the Kevlar panels in place) into the trousers. I knew several officers who also tucked the tails of their undershirts into their underwear to prevent the loose material from riding up and going all wonky beneath the vest. A dress belt is slipped through each of the pant loops (more on this belt in a moment).

After the pants are in place it’s time for the shiny shoes, which, by the way, are fabricated from some sort of space-age stay-shiny-all-the-time material. The days of shoe-shining, thankfully, went out with the round red bubblegum lights perched on the tops of patrol cars. Although, I sort of missed shining my own shoes because the scent of shoe polish was comforting, much like the cooking smells at grandma’s house on Thanksgiving Day.

I say now is the time to put on the shoes because it’s far easier to do so BEFORE hitching-up the Kevlar vest, a contraption that hinders bending, squatting, taking deep breaths, and scratching those pesky itches that always occur the moment after the vest is strapped in place.

This thing, “the vest,” a life-saving piece of gear for sure, is like strapping two chunks of dense clay to your chest and back. You slip the bulky thing over your head, taking care to not whack yourself in the noggin, a blow that could induce instantaneous unconsciousness. Heaven forbid you should wake the rest of the family when your body hits the floor, right? Anyway, a quick pull on the velcro straps while mashing the hooks and loops together, and then you’re ready to reach for the shirt.

The uniform shirt is a billboard of sorts that, by way of various pins, medals, and badges, advertises an officer’s rank, length of  time in service, conduct status, how well they shoot, and even their name in case a rock-tossing “I know my rights” protester for the cause du jour wants to include it in the latest social media video. It helps to attach all of the doodads in advance because it’s a bit tedious and time-consuming.

There’s a place on the shirt that’s designed specifically for the badge. It’s easy to spot due to the two permanently sewn-in tabs that help prevent excessive wear and tear on the material caused by daily pinning and unpinning.

The shirts also feature permanent sewn-in military creases, stiff collar stays, and a slick, stain-resistant finish for repelling blood, grime, and other “goop” that could find it’s way onto the material during a scuffle or bad burrito spill.

Some uniform shirts are also fitted with zip-up fronts. If so, the zippers are covered by a thin strip of vertical material and row of buttons that serve no purpose other than to give the appearance that they’re used to button-up the shirt. Zippered shirts are great because bad guys cannot rip and pop the buttons during a friendly “encounter.”

Here’s an example of some do-dads worn by officers.

From top to bottom:

– Name tag.

– Award ribbons – Community service award, length of service, expert marksman, lifesaving award, medal of valor.

– Pistol expert (in our area, to earn this award the officer must consistently shoot an average of 95% or better on the range).

– FTO pin worn by field training officers.

– K9 pin worn by K9 officers

*Remember, ribbons and pins may vary in individual departments and agencies.

Pins on the back of name tags, ribbons, etc. are used to attach the insignias to an officer’s uniform. A small clasp (similar to an ear ring backing) is pressed over the pin tips to hold them in place.

Unfortunately, the clasps often fall off during scuffles with rowdy bad guys, and (if the officer is not wearing a bullet-resistant vest) can result in the pin tips puncturing the officer’s skin.

For a quick fix in the field, lost clasps can be temporarily replaced with pencil erasers.

So, with all articles of the uniform in place, officers are finally in position to tuck the tails of the vest carrier into the pants, button up, zip up, close up, buckle the dress belt, and then add the final piece to the puzzle … the gun belt.

Gun belts wrap around the waist, hook in the front, and are attached to the dress belt to hold it in place. Belt keepers are are used to connect the gun belt to the dress belt. Their purpose is to prevent the gun belt from falling down around the ankles, an act that could cause a bit of embarrassment, and to make drawing the weapon an extremely difficult task to perform.

Two belt keepers, between the two handcuff cases, loop over both the gun belt and the dress belt. They’re held together by the two pairs of silver snaps pictured here. Some keepers have only one snap. Belt keepers are worn in various locations around the belt. Specific placement and the number of keepers used is up to the officer and depends upon where support is needed.

So, once the graveyard shift officer is properly attired and outfitted, it’s time to tiptoe out the front door, taking care to not wake anyone. However, leather creaks, keys jingle, shoes squeak, and the radio crackles.

Hopefully, somewhere between eight and twelve hours later the sweaty and exhausted officer, the one wearing the now wrinkled and rumpled uniform, will return home where he/she will begin the process in reverse … and then try to sleep when the sun is high in the sky, streetlights are off, and while the rest of the family is banging and clanging around the house, the TV is blaring, the neighbor is mowing his lawn, a mockingbird is singing its ass off in the tree next to the bedroom window, and the dog is licking their face.

Oh, and let’s not forget trying to drift off to sleep while thoughts of auto crashes, shooting and stabbing victims, pursuits, fights, and battered kids and women all are flashing through their minds.

Yeah, sweet dreams, officer. Sweet dreams …

My Aching Back: Gun belt

Admit it. You’ve complained at least once in your life about having to carry, lift, push, or pull something heavy while at work, right? Well, try this on for size … suppose your boss told you that from this day forward you’d be required to wear a bowling ball strapped to your waist for each of your entire 8-hour shifts. Pretty crazy, huh? But not so crazy for patrol officers, because that’s exactly the weight they carry around their waists each and every day throughout their career. And that’s not including the heavy and cumbersome bullet-resistant vest tucked neatly under those ever-so-stylish uniform shirts.

So what’s on those duty belts that weighs so much? For starters …

The sidearm

Pistols are loaded with, (depending on make and model) up to 16 rounds, or so. That’s approximately a third of a box of bullets. For example, 15 rounds in the magazine and 1 in the chamber. Cops always carry a round in the chamber. That slide-racking thing you see on TV is exactly that … for TV only!)

Magazines (not clip!)

A full brick

Some magazines contain 15 rounds. Therefore, 2 extra magazines = 30 rounds. 30 + the 16 in the pistol = 46 rounds. A full box of bullets = 50 rounds.

Note – a full box of ammunition is sometimes called a brick. However, the term “brick” is most often used to describe a 500-round container of 22 Long Rifle ammunition.

Portable radio, an officer’s lifeline

Above – Radio w/clip-on external mic and speaker

Above – Radio w/out external mic and speaker

Flashlight, one of the most important tools carried on the belt

Above image – Rechargeable metal flashlight

Handcuffs and cuff cases

Some officers carry two sets of handcuffs. Others opt for one.

Types of handcuffs

Most officers carry chain-link cuffs because they’re easiest to apply during a scuffle. Hinged cuffs are normally used when transporting prisoners. The latter is so because the hinge design limits hand and wrist movement.

Above – Two handcuff cases. Handcuffs are normally worn at the center of the lower back to enable easy reach with either hand. Although, when I worked patrol I wore my handcuff case in the front, just to the left of the belt buckle.

Belt Keepers

Also in the photo above, we see two thin leather straps containing four (two each) shiny silver snaps (between the handcuff cases). These are called belt keepers and they’re used to attach the gun belt to the officer’s regular belt, the one used to hold up their pants.

Keepers work by looping around both the gun belt and the regular belt where they’re then snapped into place. Once properly attached, keepers hold the gun belt securely in place, a means to prevent the gun belt from slipping down or from sliding around the officer’s waistline. After all, it wouldn’t be ideal, or fun, to have your gun belt fall to your ankles while chasing a bad guy!

Handcuff Keys

Handcuff keys are available in several designs. However, they’re universal and each work on all standard cuffs. The bottom key in the photo below is the factory default key that comes with each new set of cuffs. The others are purchased separately, if wanted/needed.

Pepper Spray

Batons

ASP expandable baton and case

Expandable batons are composed of a hollow outer shaft and two or three inner telescoping shafts. The tip of the smallest shaft is solid which increases the user’s striking power. The most recognizable name in expandable batons is ASP, which is actually the acronym for Armament Systems and Procedures, Inc., a company that manufactures and sells police equipment. The ASP baton became so popular among law-enforcement officers they began to refer to all batons as ASPs.

To extend the weapon to its full length, the officer simply draws the baton from its holster while making a striking motion. The baton will be in its ready position at the end of the movement.

PR-24 (side handle baton)

Some officers carry the PR-24, a side handle baton. PR-24s are typically used as both defensive and offensive weapons and are also available in expandable forms. Their use requires advanced/specialized training.

Tasers

Tasers are carried on the officers non-gun hand side, away from the firearm (the gun that fires lethal live ammunition). This is to prevent accidentally drawing a pistol when the officer actually meant to deploy a Taser.

They’re typically brightly colored, another means to prevent confusion.

The “bowling ball”

Yes, every day officers go to work with the weight of a bowling ball strapped to their waists. Suddenly that briefcase you’re toting feels a bit lighter, huh?

*The weight of an officer’s gun belt varies, depending upon the items carried. Some are more than 15 pounds. May even be closer to 25.

The Vest

The blue material pictured above is actually a cloth carrier that holds the Kevlar panels in place. Having a separate carrier allows the portion of the vest (carrier) that’s next to the skin (the blue, canvas-like material) to be washed. The panel on the left is the front panel. The panel on the right is, of course, the rear section. The flaps at the bottoms of each section are tucked into the pants as one would tuck a shirttail.

Kevlar itself should NOT be washed. Wiping it down with a damp cloth is okay, and necessary. Hoo boy is it ever necessary. Imagine the stink of trapped perspiration, day after day after week after week after month after month after year after … well, YUCK and PEE-EW!!

Kevlar

Kevlar insert (this is the front section that’s inserted into the blue carrier on the left in the previous photo). The rectangular outline is a pocket for a removable trauma plate (steel or ceramic) that provides extra protection over the center of the chest area.


Important Detail!!!!

*FYI – Bathroom breaks. Yes, the belt has to come off, which means unsnapping and removing the keepers and then the entire belt as one unit. All tools—gun, Taser, handcuffs, etc.—remain in place on the belt.

Note for the officers in your stories – When using a public restroom, NEVER, not EVER, hang your gun belt on the hook located on the upper back of a bathroom stall door. Why not? Because the belt is easy-pickings for a thief. Yes, while you’re seated and “taking care of business” someone could simply reach over the top of the door and grab the belt, leaving you in a bit of a very unpleasant bind.

 

Body armor has come a long way from heavy suits of armor or stylish outfits made from clunky chainmail. Of course, those types of protection served their wearers well against attacks by people swinging swords and axes, but today’s major threat is that of gunfire. Therefore, ballistic vests are the preferred option for law enforcement officers to wear as protection against incoming rounds of ammunition. Besides, getting in and out of a patrol car would be extremely difficult while wearing a steel suit.

Bulletproof or Bullet-Resistant?

Before continuing, we should first clarify that the vests worn by law enforcement officers are NOT totally bulletproof. Not at all. Every single vest can be penetrated by high-powered ammo. In fact, repeated rounds fired into the vest from nearly every type of firearm could eventually break through the material. Therefore, writers, the correct terminology when writing about an officer’s protective armor is “bullet-resistant vest,” not a bulletproof vest.”

There are various types of vests that offer varying levels of protection. The most common level of protection is found in Types II through III-A, the vests typically worn by patrol officers. These are the vests that are commonly worn beneath a uniform shirt. Look closely and you’ll easily see the outline of the vest beneath an officer’s shirt.

The outer front and back coverings of a bullet-resistant vest is called a “carrier.” It serves to contain the protective panels meant to stop bullets from striking the officer’s flesh. Carriers are made from heavy-duty material that can withstand daily use. Some carriers are made from lighter-weight materials/fabrics such as CoolMAX®, Cordura® or Gore-Tex®.

The front and back carrier-covered panels are fastened to the officer’s body by securing Velcro straps tightly in place, over the shoulders and around the torso.

vest-front-and-back.jpg

Front and rear sections of an officer’s vest. Desgned to be worn under the officer’s uniform. Vests are custom-fitted for each officer. The outer blue cover, the carrier, is not made of Kevlar®. It’s also removable from the panel to enable washing. Panels must be cleaned by wiping with a damp cloth and mild detergent. Submerging a Kevlar® panel in water greatly decreases the stopping power of the vest.

Pockets are sewn into carriers for the purpose of inserting and holding the removable protective panels. Without the panels the carrier is simply a thin vest similar to those worn by workers/clerks in big box stores.

Above left is the front panel for a male officer. The portion below the two horizontal Velcro straps is meant to be tucked into the pants just as one would tuck in a shirt tail. The rear panel at the right has a long “tail” that’s also tucked in the pants. The cut-out section in the front panel serves an important purpose. I’ll leave it to your imaginations as to why it’s there. Remember, this vest is designed to be worn by a male officer.

Protective Panels

Kevlar® was first developed in the 1930’s by DuPont™ chemist Stephanie Kwolek. Four decades later Kevlar®was used as a replacement for steel in racing tires. It’s now used in passenger car tires as well. In fact, I recently replaced a set on my personal vehicle.

Composition

Kevlar® Para-Aramid is a polyamide formed by lengthy aromatic crystal-like polymer chains.

“Para” refers to the precise bond point of the aromatic rings. Longitudinal placement of the hydrogen bonds permits high tensile strength.

“Aramids” are made by a reaction among an amine assembly and a carboxylic group, which generates an AABB polymer. This is liquid chemical blend is then transformed into a solid form by spinning it together with sulfuric acid. When the spun mix is cooled it can then be made into a fiber, powder, or pulp. It is the result of this process that allows manufacturers to mold the pulp, fiber, and powder into panels used for flexible and lightweight protective vests worn by officers.

In 1995,Kevlar®® Correctional was introduced as a vest/body armor that could stop attacks from knives and other edged weapons This development was a huge breakthrough since corrections officers are most often subject to attacks by edged weapons, yet sometimes encounter attacks by gunfire.

Vest types I through III-A are capable of stopping rounds fired from small to medium caliber handguns.

Type III and IV panels are capable of stopping high-velocity rifle rounds, such as .223 and .308 rifle rounds. These are the clunkier, bulkier vests seen worn on the outside of SWAT and special ops officers’ uniforms. They’re also worn over the uniform shirts of patrol officers who find themselves engaged in special circumstances, such as an active shooter or sniper/ambush situation.

hamilton-vest-front.jpg

Kevlar® by DuPont is probably the most widely known brand of brand of bullet-stopping para-aramid material (threads). Keep in mind, though, when including bullet-resistant vests in your tales, bullets do not bounce or ricochet off the vest. Instead, the material (Kevlar® or other brand) grabs the bullet and contains it within its tightly-woven layers.

Soft Body Armor

These vests, because of their flexibility, are known as “soft vests.” They’re pliable and somewhat bendable. Each vest should be custom tailored to the individual officer. Men and women obviously have different sizing needs. Vests worn by female officers are designed to accommodate their body shapes.

Soft body armor is basically meant to prevent penetration from handgun rounds. For added protection, metallic or ceramic ballistic trauma plates can be inserted into small pockets in the front and back of a vest. These plates help protect vital organs against rounds fired from rifles and some higher-powered handguns.

vest-panel.jpg

Front Kevlar® panel with rectangular pouch for ceramic or steel trauma plate. Front and rear panels are inserted into a carrier.

Protection Levels

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) sets the standards for body armor manufacturers. Those standards include the following protection levels:

Type II-A

Type II

Type III-A

Type III

Type IV

NIJ image

From the National Institute of Justice:

NIJ has been setting voluntary body armor standards since 1972. The NIJ standard is the only nationally accepted standard for the body armor worn by law enforcement and corrections officers. NIJ also administers a program to test commercially available armor for compliance with the standards to determine whether the vests meet NIJ’s minimum performance standards.

The NIJ ballistic resistance standard classifies body armor by levels of ballistic performance. For any performance level, NIJ’s test protocol requires that the bullet does not perforate the vest and that the vest protects against blunt trauma.

NIJ’s stab resistance body armor standard specifies the minimum performance requirements for body armor to protect the torso against slashes and stabs from knives and spikes; it also describes the associated testing procedures. The standard includes three performance levels, which are based on the armor’s ability to prevent a perforation deep enough to injure an officer’s internal organs at different strike force speeds. The standard also includes two protection classes: one for high-quality, commercially produced knives and another for lower-quality knife blades and improvised spikes that are likely to be present in a corrections environment.

*National Institute of Justice, “Body Armor Performance Standards,” February 22, 2018, nij.ojp.gov: http://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/body-armor-performance-standards


A few companies other than Kevlar® also manufacture bullet-resistant vests.

What a waist

Yesterday’s post about speed loaders inspired a question or two regarding the items carried on an officer’s duty belt. So …

Imagine strapping a bowling ball to your waist each day before heading out to work. Wouldn’t want to do it? No?

Well, the weight of a bowling ball is the equivalent to what police officers carry on their duty belts every single day of their lives. And they walk, sit, stand, and even run while toting all that poundage. Believe me, it’s not fun.

Here’s an example of what you could expect to find attached to an officer’s belt.

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Two magazines @ 15 rounds each, plus the magazine inserted into the pistol (another 15 rounds), and one in the chamber = 46 rounds. A full box/”brick” of bullets = 50 rounds.

By the way, officers ALWAYS carry a round loaded into the chamber. That business we see on TV where officers “rack” the slide before entering a dangerous situation…well, that’s made-for-television BS.

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Handcuff keys are generally carried on a key ring or in a pocket. However, in preparation of an unexpected emergency, it’s not unusual for officers to hide a spare key somewhere on their duty belt/gun belt. You know, in case the officer is working with a TV cop and the pair is kidnapped and handcuffed to one another. After all, if you’re assigned a television star as your partner, well, you can pretty much count on being abducted at some point in your fictional career. In real life, not so much.

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Of course, there are many other options, such as cellphones, flashlights, and batons of all kinds and sizes.

And then there’s the glue—THE most important attachment of all—that holds it all together … belt keepers. Without these small straps gravity would pull the gun belt downward around the officer’s ankles. Not cool, especially during a foot pursuit.

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Belt keepers loop around the duty belt and the belt worn to hold up the officer’s pants. With the keepers snapped into place the duty belt cannot fall to the ground, preventing those embarrassing thong-exposing moments.

And now you know the secret of where the phrase “thin blue line” originated. Shh …

 

In the days before semi-automatics took center stage in the world of law enforcement, police officers carried revolvers as their weapons of choice. Cowboys called them six-shooters, and many modern gun buffs often refer to them as wheel guns because their cylinders turn like the wheels of a car or carriage. Shooting enthusiasts love them. Even Deputy Barney Fife, one of my favorite all-time cops, carried a revolver while keeping the good folks of Mayberry safe and sound.

Why, then, if everyone loved revolvers, did police agencies make the switch from six-shooters to semi-automatics? Well, the answer is simple—law enforcement officers were often outgunned by semi-automatic-toting bad guys.

Most revolvers are capable of firing only six rounds of ammunition before needing a re-load (there are exceptions). Semi-automatics can pop off fifteen or sixteen rounds as fast as a shooter can pull the trigger. Therefore, during a gun battle officers had to reload two or three times before the crook emptied his first magazine.

Needless to say, reloading a revolver during a shootout was a problem.

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Cops back in the pre-semi-auto days (me included) carried spare ammunition in rectangular leather containers called dump pouches.

Dump pouches typically hold six bullets, or so, and are attached upside down to the officer’s utility belt.

To access the extra bullets, officers simply unsnapped the pouch cover and the contents, since the pouches were upside down, “dumped” into their waiting non-gun hand. The officer then fed the individual rounds, one at a time, into the open slots in the revolver’s rotating cylinder. Needless to say, this is far easier said than done when someone is shooting round after round in your direction.

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In the photo above, Barney’s left hand rests on one of the two dump pouches on his utility belt. His index finger touches the other. The deputy-in-training also carries two dump pouches on his duty belt. Both are directly below the ticket book. Release snaps are clearly visible near the bottom of each pouch.

*Note – The thin vertical leather strap (with center snap) located to the right (your left) of the deputy-in-training’s belt buckle is called a belt keeper. Its purpose is to attach the duty belt firmly to the regular dress belt. Keepers are used to prevent the gun belt/duty belt from sliding down over the hips. In the above photo the keeper is there, but it’s obviously not used properly.

To solve the problem of slow reloading came in the form of speed loaders. Speed loaders hold six rounds of ammunition that are perfectly aligned with the bullet slots in a revolver’s cylinder. A twist of a knurled knob on the end of the speed loader releases all six rounds at once. Shooters could now easily and quickly re-load their revolvers in tense situations, even in the dark.

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Revolver, speed loaders, and speed loader pouches. The pouches attach to a police officer’s duty belt.

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A revolver’s cylinder is designed to swing out for reloading. The knurled button between the hammer and the wooden grip is the cylinder’s release button.

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Speed loaders position rounds so they line up perfectly with the bullet slots in the cylinder.

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A twist of the knob in the officer’s right hand releases all six rounds at once.

Speed loaders are a wonderful tool. However, they don’t solve all revolver woes…

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It was a blustery, cold night in the mid 1980s, sometime near Christmas, when I had my first taste of tear gas. It wasn’t pretty. Not at all.

A man who was zonked-out-of-his-mind-high and terrifically “wired”after days of binging on crack cocaine, decided to pull a 9mm handgun on his mother, threatening to kill her. The frantic and extremely frightened elderly woman somehow managed to  escape her home unharmed and then call 911 from the home of a nearby neighbor.

I was in plainclothes that night and was riding with a sheriff’s captain. We’d taken a dinner break and stopped by a holiday gathering of his family members. He was driving his marked police car and parked it at the curb in case we needed to make a hasty departure.

The house was small—kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, and a hall bath. It was quite warm and cozy inside. Cedar logs crackled in a brick fireplace sending their pleasant scent wafting throughout. People were wall to wall in both the living room and kitchen. A couple of men stepped out on the small front concrete porch to smoke cigars. The partying family members were not lacking in smiles and laughter. Not one frown to be seen.

We’d filled a couple of paper plates with homemade goodies—country ham biscuits, candies, pecan pie, cookies, and the like. We’d also filled a couple of small plastic cups with homemade eggnog (no booze).

The captain and I had just sat down to enjoy our treats when the call came in. Shots fired. Officers were under fire and requested our assistance.

When we pulled up at the scene chaos was already in high gear. The two responding officers had taken a position of cover in the driveway behind their patrol cars. Backup officers were on the scene with more on the way. Each were crouched behind some portion of a police vehicle. The shooter had broken out glasses in two large front windows and was taking wild shots toward the officers. We later learned that he had plenty of extra ammunition and magazines.

The captain took charge and assigned several officers to posts around the perimeter, including at rear and side entrances. Water and electricity were cut to the home. The plan was to fire a tear gas canister into the house, hoping to flush him out. The captain carried a 37mm tear gas gun in the trunk of his car.

Fire and rescue were called to the scene and were staged a safe distance away. Sometimes tear gas canisters ignite materials inside a home, thus the need for the fire crew. Obviously, the barricaded suspect, or a wounded officer, might need medical attention.

Tear Gas = ortho-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS gas)

Once everyone was in place the command was given for the subject to come out of the house or tear gas would be launched. The order was given three times with enough time in between to allow the man to come outside. After the third announcement followed by a bit longer wait time, hoping he’d surrender, the captain fired a Type Il-Single-Thickness Penetrator round through a large front window, shattering the remaining glass and parting the curtains in its wake.

Type Il-Single-Thickness Penetrator rounds are designed to penetrate materials such as single-glazed windows, plywood sheathing, or drywall.

We again sounded the command to come out, but nothing. After waiting for a rather long time, another round was fired. Still nothing. Moving to the rear yard, the captain fired rounds through more window, including basement windows.

We waited.

Nothing.

Finally, a team of three officers donned protective gear, a shield, and masks, and then entered the home. They searched for long time but came out empty-handed. They said he’d somehow escaped.

Well, we on the outside knew there was no way. But they were adamant, saying they’d searched every single nook and cranny, from attic to basement.

The captain gave me one of his “looks” and told me to follow him. We were going to have a look for ourselves. So in we went. No protective gear (I wasn’t even wearing a vest), and no masks. I was armed with a Chief’s Special 5-shot revolver and the captain a .357 revolver.

We searched the home, coughing and crying all the way down to the basement, clearing one room at a time. Eventually the captain opened a closest door and saw a large pile of clothing. He poked it with his Maglite and the man leapt up like a clown in a Jack-in-a-Box.

The next sound I heard was a loud “Ding,” sounding like a baseball being slammed by an aluminum bat. The Captain nailed the guy dead center between the eyes and he went out like a light.

Together, with tears rolling like those of bawling babies, we carried the limp man outside and handed him over to EMTs.

The man used the time between warnings to wet several bath towels in the water inside the toilet tanks. Then he used them and the clothing pile to shied himself from the CS fumes.

Since EMS was busy with their newly handcuffed patient and had no time for either the captain or me, we spent the next several minutes flushing my eyes and skin using a water hose in a neighbor’s yard.


CS Gas – irritate the eye, mucous areas, the skin and airways. It causes immediate “crying” and convulsive eyelid closing. It slightly burns the skin and even causes sneezing, cough, a severe runny nose, and sometimes nausea. As I stated above, it’s not nice.

 

I’ve played in a number of bands over the years and each had it’s own particular flavor, or style of music. I played trumpet in a jazz band, guitar in several rock bands, drums in both rock and church groups, and I played bass in rock, raggae, and groups with a heavy leaning toward soul, like bands who covered groups such as The Temptations, Sly and the Family Stone, A Taste of Honey (I loved thumping out the bass line in “Boogie Oogie, Oogie”), and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

But it was James Brown, another superstar musician, who came to mind when I selected the topic for today’s article and this was so because of two points. One: during his action-packed performances this iconic man of soul perspired heavily, spewing liquid like a human lawn sprinkler. Two: sweat is the focus of this post.

In a Cold Sweat

“When you kiss me
And ya miss me
You hold me tight
Make everything all right

I break out – in a cold sweat.” ~ James Brown, Cold Sweat

Actually, Brown plays no role in this piece, but the mention of his appearance on stage brings about an excellent mental picture that ties in with sweating, so off we go …

As you know, our skin is our body’s largest organ. It’s also the fastest growing. Skin is our own personal gift-wrapping, a covering that protects our “insides” and it prevents our important “stuff” from leaking out onto our furniture, floors, and city streets.

Skin is amazing; it’s made up of three layers, and it’s complicated. A lot goes on in and on our skin, such as temperature regulation and a part of that is due to the constant contraction and dilation of the blood vessels that live near the skin’s surface. This expanding and contraction controls how we transfer heat from our bodies.

Also aiding in temperature control is sweat.

Singer James Brown’s sweaty performances weren’t part of his act. Instead, his body produced sweat to help cool him as gyrated and crooned while under all those hot stage lights. Yes, Brown’s 650 sweat glands per square inch (that’s how many we each have) remained in constant overdrive when he and his band were in front of frenzied audience.

No Sweat

The familiar phrase “No Sweat” means simply that a task is easy, and it’s possible that we could hear its humble use, for example, when a case is wrapped up and a killer is behind bars.

Reporter: “Wow, you caught that killer quickly. How’d you do it?”

Detective: “No sweat.”

However, based on new crime-solving technology, “No Sweat” could indicate the possibility that a crime goes unsolved. This is where James Brown and his perspiration enter the equation.

Picture James Brown walking through a hotel lobby after one of his sweaty performances. Gravity pulled those droplets of perspiration downward. Some, of course, were absorbed into the material of his clothing but others fell to the floor, on furniture, and they transferred to anything he touched, including telephone receivers, and ink pens when signing autographs, etc.

The same is true for eothers who touches an object. Everyone leaves behind very small, invisible traces of perspiration. And, like us, bad guys are also human with human skin that is also comprised of 650 sweat glands per square inch. And they, too, leave behind those invisible specs of perspiration.

With that in mind, scientists have developed a means of analyzing deposited perspiration, with results that provide insight as to the number of people who were present at crime scenes. And, they’re able to produce those results in real time while on those scenes.

According to Jan Halámek, an assistant professor of Chemistry at the University at Albany,  each of our skin secretions are different and, therefore, unique to us. Meaning that your sweat is different than the sweat produced by the sweat glands of Jeffrey Dahmer (thank goodness).

The makeup of our sweat is so distinct that it is as unique as our fingerprints. So unique that the chances of two people having the same levels of lactate, urea, and glutamate, the three metabolites examined, is, well, essentially zero.

For now, though, investigators will have to settle for knowing only the number of people who visited a crime scene, but not their names. This is so because the levels of metabolites in humans vary with exercise and/or diet. The same is true when a person is ill.

Someday, though, someone will start a sweat database much like fingerprint and DNA databases, but with instant results. Yes, in the near future, it’s possible that a detective walks into a crime scene, holds a SweatDetector 2000 to a doorknob, and within seconds the killer’s name, address, and shoe size pops up on a handheld monitor.

And, if a case goes unsolved we’ll most likely see a phrase used to mean the opposite of what it does today, such as when a detective responds to the reporter’s question, “Why couldn’t you solve the case, Investigator?”

Her reply … “No sweat.”

 

We all use them, those convenient “never-have-to-get-out-of-our-car” establishments, the joints that help us in our quests to not have to get off our ample rear ends to do, well, just about anything.

You know the places I mean, the drive-through fast food joints, drive-through coffee shops, and even drive-through funeral homes where occupants of minivans and Hondas can pull up to a viewing window to see dear old Uncle Sammy laid out in his finest Sunday “go to meetin'” seersucker suit while you listen to your favorite jams playing on Sirius radio.

Now, believe it or not, there’s a new drive-through that’s possibly coming to your town—Court in a Cop Car.

Court in a Cop Car

Yes indeed, no longer will Billy Buck Stealsstuff have the added worry of wondering how long he’ll have to wait before he gets a bit of face time with a judge, the official who he hopes and prays will grant him a low bail amount so he can get back home in time to watch the latest “can’t miss” episode of Swamp People.

Billy Buck loves, loves, loves to hear good ‘ol boy Troy Landry yelling “choot ’em” (shoot him) to the deckhand du jour, the person wielding the rifle that’s used to pop the gator between the eyes so the tobacco-chewing pair can reel in their catch without becoming the gator’s appetizer. It’s can’t miss television, so Billy Buck is extremely happy when he hears the arresting officer call for the department’s shiny and new specialized car.

Nope, there’s no wait time with Motorola’s newly- and specially-designed and soon-to-be patented police car, a vehicle that features a built-in weapon scanner in case Billy Buck is carrying a concealed firearm or knife, etc., an air filter that detects the presence of alcohol and drugs, and a combined fingerprint scanner and facial recognition system that conducts instant background checks.

Next, and here’s the best part of this judiciary contraption, by making use of several video screens, cameras, and microphones mounted into the car, Billy Buck, by live video feed to a courthouse, instantly meets both his public defender and the judge. Then, after a computerized virtual assistant explains the process, a brief hearing is then held. If the judge on the other end of the video allows a bond to be posted, the funds are collected on the spot—cash or credit card, please. If not, and here’s the cool part, the car takes the suspect to jail to be processed.

Ah, I sense your confusion. Yes, the car is autonomous, meaning there’s no driver. It arrives to the scene on its own after it’s summoned there by the arresting officer, and it drives itself to the jail. Therefore, officers are free to go back to patrolling the streets and answering calls instead of spending a couple of hours mind-numbing hours babysitting the bad guys during the processing/booking stage.

I suppose we’ll soon see group of autonomous police cars parked outside a drive-through doughnut shop at 3 a.m.

Will there also be autonomous cop car bars where robots serve gas and oil on the rocks?

 

You’ve all seen them, those portable signs that wink and blink and flash the speed you’re traveling along your neighborhood streets and local freeways and highways. Those police-installed rolling devices that make us quickly hit the brakes as if somehow a tiny motorcycle cop will magically spurt forth from the butt of the mechanism to chase us down to instantly scrawl out a traffic citation for the serious crime of driving three miles over the posted limit.

They’re the rulers of our roads. The kings and queens of our thoroughfares.

And they are …

SPIES!

Yes, it’s true. Some of those seemingly harmless speed-reducers are more than meets the eye. All while pretending to help cut down on zippy commuters or elect to ignore speed laws, their true purpose is to capture our license plate numbers at a number somewhere near 2,000 per minute if pressed to do so.

Sure, we know the local police drive cars equipped with license plate readers (LPRs) and they’re used to help locate stolen cars and even the folks who’ve skipped out on paying local taxes and utility bills.

But these winky-blinky and quite intimidating undercover radar speed signs serve yet another purpose … to nab drug and human traffickers and money launderers, and, well, practically any criminal type who travels the roadways, especially on high drug and money trafficking corridors such as the southwest border area and up and down the northeast and southeast drug corridors, such as Interstate 95, where even I’ve conducted drug interdiction traffic stops.

It’s true, not only is Interstate 95 used by “Q-tips,” the nickname traffic officers sometimes assign to the white-haired folks otherwise known as “snowbirds,” the road is also frequented by crooks, robbers, murders, chiefs, and drug dealers and their mules.

White-haired retirees are sometimes referred to as Q-tips by traffic officers patrolling the main drug corridors. This is so because a grouping of them stacked together in a sedan loosely resemble a box of cotton swabs.

To help catch the bad guys (not the Q-tips), the DEA (federal Drug Enforcement Agency) has and still is purchasing a number of trailer-mounted speed display contraptions from RU2 Systems Inc., a private Mesa, Arizona company, but the twist they’ve added is that their roadside warning signs are equipped with license plate readers.

A Canadian company called Genetec supplies the actual reader, but two small machine shops have been retained by the agent to conceal the readers inside the electronic speed signs. One of those companies is located in California, the other in Virginia, and their job is to conceal the readers within the signs.

I Didn’t “Do Nuffin’, So Why the Concern?

Well, license plate readers are a form of mass surveillance that collects information on everybody who drives by and the information is stored in case they may someday, somewhere commit a crime.

Okay, no big deal. You don’t do nuffin’ illegal so no worries. However, the police/DEA are not just keeping the data to catch crooks in the acts of crookedness, they’re applying more and more algorithms to the database that allows them to learn peoples’ travel patterns, the precise location of your marijuana supplier, where you sleep at night and what time you left that location and, another example—medical facilities that treat immigrants, including those not legally in the U.S.

The devices provide enough data that could allow those secret agents to enter an address and see everyone driver who visited it and when they were there.

These massive electronic files are stored at various location, such as Vigilant Solutions of Livermore, California, a firm the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency uses to access LPR data as far back as five years. This is particularly useful because to law enforcement because, and here’s a new twist, some readers capture images of the occupants of the cars that pass, meaning iCE, and other law enforcement agencies, can learn if one or more of your passengers were/are wanted for crimes committed. This is accomplished by using facial recognition software that compares images from the vehicle to the recognition software database.

Officers on the streets have realtime access to these programs and they’re able to do so almost immediately using their cellphones.

When officers want to search a home or personal records such as bank account information, they need a search warrant. A warrant is not required to make use of the Roadside Spies. The data is available to cops everywhere.

All they need to do is, well, ask and they shall receive.


Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you

~ The Police