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Seattle Police Department Gears Up

Full gear and full face flip-up helmets are now an option for officers in Seattle

Among the general public, motorcycle gear has evolved rapidly over the last two decades  from ¾ shell helmets being the norm to full face helmets taking over a large percentage of the market share outside the cruiser market. Far more jackets and pants are now sold with padding in the shoulders, back, elbows, hips and knees than ever before. The options available today make it much more likely you’ll walk away from a crash than ever before if you choose to wear gear.

But look around at most law enforcement officers and you continue to see 20th century ‘traditional’ style gear that dates back to before many of us were born. Very little padding if any at the critical points, substandard ¾ helmets when a wide range of full face are available, minimalist gloves and otherwise continue to be the gear of choice among America’s finest.

Traditions are hard to break. Just ask John Abraham who is a motorcycle police officer, as well as the head of motorcycle safety inside the Seattle Police Department. In 1991, Abraham was involved in a head-on collision with a suspect (later charged with attempted murder) while on duty riding his motorcycle. Since then Abraham has been rallying SPD for better gear.

Several years ago, the SPD approved Abraham’s request to issue full-coverage textile suits to the 39 officers on the force who ride in the fall, winter and spring months – at the department's expense (not always the case as you’ll see in a moment). Initially the department used gear made by Motoport, migrated over to Gerbing textile suits and has finally settled on Aerostich's Road Crafter two-piece suits.

These specially-designed suits are made in black and feature additional reflective piping, loops for holding microphones, additional pockets and impact armor at all the key points with the exception of the back. The suit also claims to be waterproof but Aerostich admits the zippers may leak.

Next up, Abraham managed to get the SPD to  allow officers to wear heated gear while riding. However, each officer must pay for their own additional gear, which seems reasonable considering they may want to use it off-duty as well. The approved heated gear is none other than that of Tumwater-based Gerbing’s Heated Clothing.

Within the SPD, the standard issue boot, similar to those worn by RCMP in Canada, is a traditional-style boot dating back to before the last world war. However, that boot leaks in heavy rain, and once again Abraham has worked with the department to allow water-proof Gortex-lined military-style boots to be worn within the department on rainy days. Again, the officers must pay for the boots themselves since they may use them outside of work hours.

But Abraham hit on his biggest milestone last winter when the department agreed to the use of a flip-up full face helmet, rarely seen in use by law enforcement officers. The SPD choose HJC's Sy-Max 2 model which offers a variety of options including various tinted face shield and interior drop down lenses, replacement liners and a quick-release chin strap buckle. When the helmets arrive, the SPD affixes their official stickers to the helmets, sends them out to the radio shop for microphone and ear piece fittings and then puts them to work.

Times are changing for the better. Now if you think you see a police officer, but disregard them because he or she is wearing full gear, think again - it just may be one.

SR/Fall 2010

 


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