A Closer Look at Police Protective Gear

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By Amy Fox
By Andy Shofstall

CARBONDALE-- We've seen countless images of law enforcement on the scene in Ferguson, many outfitted in special equipment designed to keep them safe.

Carbondale Police have had protective equipment for many years now. Officers say they've been fortunate and haven't had to use it. But it's something they always want to have on hand in the event of an emergency.

Rows and rows of gear, shields, vests and batons fill up this storage room at the Carbondale Police Department.

"We have enough that in a moment of civil unrest, we are able to keep our officers well protected," said Carbondale Police Chief Jody O'Guinn.

Carbondale bought $10,000 worth of new riot gear last year before Halloween returned to the strip.
But so far it hasn't seen any action.

That's not the case in Ferguson, Missouri, where officers in tactical gear have become a common sight every night since Michael Brown was shot and killed. Local officers say their safety can depend on what they wear.

O'Guinn said, "It also allows the officers to be in the area they need to be, which then, in effect, helps to curb some of the damage that occurs in unrest situations like that."

The Carbondale Department has 68 sets of gear, one for each officer. Plus, several extras in case something gets damaged. Officers are protected from head to toe.

"The main part of our gear is our self-protective equipment, which consists of knee pads, elbow pads, a chest protector, a helmet with a face shield and a gas mask," said O'Guinn.

As the situation in Ferguson continues to unfold, officers across the country are paying close attention. 

"I think civil unrest nationally and globally has brought awareness to a lot of law enforcement agencies that it could very well happen in their own back yard," said O'Guinn.

All Carbondale officers undergo annual training on how to use the gear.

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