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What police officers must wear to protect themselves while protecting the public

Police officers risk their lives to protect others every day and, in these times, they must increasingly update measures for protecting themselves.
With the fatal shooting of Tell City’s Sergeant Heather Glenn at Perry County Memorial, that greatly saddened the community, the subject of protective vests and other equipment officers must carry is at the forefront of thought for many.

Unfortunately, officers require extra protective gear nowadays, and Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris DeJarnette said the weight of the equipment they have to carry can add up to 20-30 pounds at times.

Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris DeJarnette made time in his busy day to show 2 different protective vests officers wear. Depending on the thickness level, one of these vests can weigh up to 6 pounds.

“It’s very taxing on the body over the years,” Deputy DeJarnette said. “Getting in and out of cars, it lowers your mobility. Officers, a lot of times, develop back problems because of the equipment they have to carry. I wear the protective vest that goes underneath the uniform shirt with the utility belt/pistol belt. The vest itself is several pounds, 5-6 pounds depending on how thick it is and what level you have.

They have a new carrier system now and it’s called MOLLE, that stands for Modular Lightweight Low-carrying Equipment. The carriers come with these straps and holds to where you can put holsters, your taser, handcuffs, tourniquet, first aid pouch and then all that same equipment that I have on my belt can actually be carried on the vest as well, because inside of that is the protective vest.”

The list of equipment that officers need to carry with them is extensive. “You have your duty weapon,” he said, “at least 2 spare ammo pouches, and at least one set of handcuffs; most wear two. We have a tourniquet that we carry. Some still carry the pepper spray; It’s not required, but you can carry it.

Then, your taser, and your ASP (Armament Systems & Procedures), which is an extendable baton (expandable and collapsible). It took the place of the night stick. And, typically, officers even on dayshift will carry some type of flashlight with them, because you never know if you’re going to go into a building or some dark area where you need a flashlight immediately.”

The equipment officers carry in their police vehicles adds up to quite a list as well. “You have your typical sirens, lights and radio communication,” he said. “We do carry a shotgun patrol rifle. Sometimes they’ll keep a spare, backup weapon available. Most of the time, the vehicle is mainly for carrying things you may need in an investigation, such as crime scene equipment, safety equipment, cones, flares and things like that.

And, you have your MDT (Mobile Date Terminal), your laptop computer that is used for the date base. It mounts on the passenger side. That’s the extent of the firearms and equipment we use in the patrol vehicle.

You can communicate with dispatch through the MDT, but typically we use the radio. Obviously, this day and age – cell phones, there are things that we don’t want to be transmitted over scanners, so we do text and use cell phones a lot with dispatch and with each other. That way, some of that information doesn’t become public.

The list of equipment that officers need to carry with them is extensive. “You have your duty weapon,” DeJarnette said, “at least 2 spare ammo pouches, at least one set of handcuffs, most wear two. We have a tourniquet that we carry. Some still carry the pepper spray. It’s not required, but you can carry it.

Then, your taser, your ASP (Armament Systems & Procedures, Inc.), which is an extendable baton (expandable and collapsible). It took the place of the night stick. And, typically, officers even on dayshift will carry some type of flashlight with them, because you never know if you’re going to go into a building or some dark area where you need a flashlight immediately.”

Shown here is the large amount of equipment an officer must carry and wear to attempt safety in the line of duty, which can add up to around 30 pounds of weight.

The equipment officers carry in their police vehicles adds up to quite a list as well. “You have your typical sirens, lights and radio communication,” he said. “We do carry a shotgun patrol rifle. Sometimes they’ll keep a spare, backup weapon available. But, most of the time, the vehicle is mainly for carrying things you may need in an investigation, such as crime scene equipment, safety equipment, cones, flares and things like that.

Then you have your MDT (Mobile Date Terminal), your laptop computer that is used for the date base. It mounts on the passenger side. That’s the extent of the firearms and equipment we use in the patrol vehicle. You can communicate with dispatch through the MDT, but typically we use the radio. Obviously, this day and age – cell phones, there are things that we don’t want to be transmitted over scanners, so we do text and use cell phones a lot with dispatch and with each other. That way, some of that information doesn’t become public.”

Police vehicles, DeJarnette said, handle differently than civilian vehicles and have a “police package” that consist of special detailing on such aspects as suspension and steering. “They handle differently,” he said. “It varies with the model of vehicles that you have. They don’t come armored. Some of those do exist, but they handle/maneuver better for pursuits and things like that you don’t typically have on just the commercial vehicle. They’re going up (in price). Everything is going up. We just got a Chevy Blazer in. We don’t have it striped or equipped yet, so we still have to get that done.”

The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office currently has 7 deputies.

Along with Deputy DeJarnette, they are: Jeff Hendrick, B.J. Burton, Aaron Emmick, and Hancock County School Resource Officers who help out on the road like Frank Howard (SRO at NHES), Butch Garst (SRO at HCMS/HCHS campus) and Mark Powers (SRO at SHES).

DeJarnette began his career by joining the United States Army in 1992, and served 5 years active duty as a Military Policeman. “After my 5 year enlistment,” he said, “I went to work at the Kentucky State Penitentiary as a Correctional Officer. Then, I spent a short time with the Department of Juvenile Justice as a Youth Worker. In 1998 I started with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.”

His job at the sheriff’s office includes a lot of administrative work. He sets up trainings and takes care of warrants and civil papers that come into the office, just to name a few of the tasks he is responsible for.

“I try to keep track of what the deputies need, as far as to keep updated on their certifications,” he said. “When they come up to a certification, I schedule them for that particular training and make sure all of their certifications are on time. I try to keep up with different mandates that come in from the state to make sure our agency is compliant with those. I also make sure that our policies and procedures are up to date of what KLEC (Kentucky Law Enforcement Council), and the Academy, requires for agencies.”

He occasionally works on cases, he said, but not as often as he did in the past. “There is more to the office and administrative job than what is seen,” he said. “We have an unbelievable amount of calls that come in. I do my best to try to take care of those calls, where a deputy doesn’t necessarily have to go out and make contact with the complainant or anything like that. A lot of these calls that come in, I can resolve on the phone. I try to do that for the deputies, so they’re not tied-up with things that could be handled otherwise.”

If you are currently looking into serving your community in the noble profession of law enforcement, Deputy DeJarnette has some words of wisdom for you, as well as advice for obtaining your education and training. “We all say it and we mean it, that: ‘Anything can happen anywhere,’” he said. “Unfortunately, it does take a tragic event before we really realize that this is a dangerous profession.

We have a tremendous amount of support from the citizens here in Hancock County and in the surrounding areas. We’re in a very good county overall, but anything can happen and you have to keep that in mind. If you’re going to get into law enforcement, it doesn’t matter if it’s a 3-man department or a 3,000-man department, you’re going to have things to deal with during your career.

It does cause problems at home sometimes, because you may be overworked, especially if you’re understaffed you may have to pull-in overtime hours. It’s very difficult for officers to leave work at work. You cannot go home and bring your work with you; that’s going to cause too much problems. And, that’s very difficult to do. Then, on top of it, you miss things. You miss your kids’ ballgames, birthdays, Christmas, holidays, graduations – very important events. And, that takes a toll on an officer over the years.”

If you want o to become a deputy

If you want to become a deputy, he suggests: “Either go and get some type of degree, it doesn’t even necessarily have to be in law enforcement, but it would be better if it did, or some type of military. Any job in the military will help a little bit transitioning into law enforcement, but obviously a military police (position) would help in that too. You can’t be one (a deputy) until you’re 21, so if you’re coming out of high school and you’re 18, 19, going on 20, go ahead and get that degree.

If college isn’t your route, like it wasn’t for me, look at the military. It helped me quite a bit. I worked patrol. I was part of the Army Special Reaction Team. I worked investigations in Panama. So, I just had to learn KY law as opposed to military law.

Once you are hired by a department, that department will send you to the Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT). That’s in Richmond, KY at Eastern Kentucky University. And, that’s a 20-week Police Academy. Once you graduate that, then you’re certified.”

Chris and his wife, Julie (Alvey) DeJarnette, have been married 24 years. Julie is a paramedic in Owensboro. They will be celebrating their wedding anniversary soon, on July 31st. They are blessed with 2 sons, Nolan will be 20 in October and Nathan is 15.

By Jennifer Wimmer

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