The mere sight of this causes anyone to cringe. So why take the chance of putting our law enforcement officers in the same position?
In general, great care is taken among law enforcement departments to keep their officers safe in the line of fire. Protective devices such as body armor, bullet proof vests and ballistic shields are standard issue to the majority, if not all law enforcement officers. However, only a few select SWAT officers are currently provided with suppressed rifle systems to protect their hearing.
When SWAT teams started switching over to AR platforms in the late 1990’s, very few teams accumulated suppressors for their long guns. It is speculated that SWAT teams didn’t identify suppressors as a requirement since most of these teams have communication equipment that already protects their ears. As more patrol officers are now equipped with the AR platform long guns, there is a greater need to protect them from high frequency decibel gunfire before irreparable permanent damage occurs to any officer on duty.
A basic law enforcement long gun produces approximately 160-165 decibels of noise when fired in an open area. If the same long gun in fired within a confined space, like one experienced in close quarter combat, the blast is significantly increased, extremely loud, painful and almost always causes some form of hearing loss. The National Institute for Occupational Safety identifies any exposure to noise over 140dB as high risk for irreparable hearing loss and recently, a report to Congressional Committees reported an excess of $1.1 billion in annual payments have been made to military veterans with hearing loss caused from the firing of weapons in active duty.
While adequate hearing protection is currently not provided in the personal protective equipment for most law enforcement officers, there are some agencies that are providing their patrol officers with suppressors for their auditory safety. One of the leading departments in making this change is the Tempe Arizona Police Department who equipped all of their patrol rifles with suppressors in 2008. Those training in patrol have a quote: “the only reason you have a handgun is to fight your way back to your long gun.” While the widespread introduction of long guns into law enforcement was a “game changer” for patrol officers, carrying sufficient ear protection while on duty, much less having the time to place the protection in your ear during a critical incident, is not likely. Installing suppressors is an effective way to ensure that the hearing of every officer is protected. Suppressors should be treated no differently than any other firearm accessory. It’s time to seriously consider providing law enforcement officers with a suppressor to protect their hearing.