What’s the Right Gear for Today’s Tactical Operations?
Plate Carriers vs. Full Entry Gear
By DEPUTY JOHN MONTENEGRO
January 14, 2022
One of the unique aspects of working for a sheriff’s department is the continual interaction with other agencies through academies, in-service training and mutual aid requests. At the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Enforcement Bureau, we host SWAT schools, explosive breaching courses, long rifle programs, K9-SWAT integration, carbine class, TacMed, public safety diver and numerous agency-requested training days. As a result, we have the opportunity to observe how teams are structured, what gear is utilized and what tactics are implemented by teams of varying size and experience.
Over the last several years, we have witnessed a trend away from entry-level armor and toward a smaller plate carrier footprint with, in some cases, a minimal amount of coverage. Two factors are driving this migration to plate carriers over traditional entry vests. First, tactical teams tend to mimic what Tier 1 level military units are utilizing whether it is uniforms, boots or gear. Second, tactical team members want to be comfortable for operations that can last several hours in all weather conditions.
We have all heard the axioms “Mission drives the gear” and “Mobility is life,” but are the missions of domestic law enforcement the same as military operations that drive their gear selection? We ask this question because some of the trade off in the reduction of armor coverage that makes perfect sense in combat simply does not in most law enforcement tactical operations.
Unlike military operations, the vast majority of SWAT call-outs do not include:
Insertions that require foot movement to the target measured in klicks or miles
Sustained operations lasting days or weeks without relief
Opposition predominately armed with rifles thereby negating the protection of soft armor
Carrying heavy weapons systems
Carrying an ammunition load-out to support prolonged engagements