Standard equipment: What Bloomfield police carry and why

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Lt. Daniel Niekrasz shows the equipment he and his fellow officers carry.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Time was when all a police officer walking the beat would carry was a sidearm, handcuffs and a nightstick, a veteran cop might tell you. But times have changed. For the present-day officer, the emphasis is on nonlethal encounters and the possibility of acting as a first medical responder at the scene of a crisis. So what does a Bloomfield Police Department officer carry, on their belt or vest, when on duty, to protect residents from hazards? On a day last week, Capt. Anthony Sisco and Lt. Daniel Niekrasz explained the gear attached to Niekrasz’s belt.

At first, Sisco, who has 23 years on the force, and Niekrasz, who has 10 years, pointed out a small canister of oleoresin capsicum, better known as pepper spray. Its active ingredient is derived from chili peppers. In the event of its use, Niekrasz said the spray is pointed at the target’s forehead and discharged, causing burning eyes and breathing difficulties. Police academy training, he said, requires the recruit to be sprayed, too. The recruit must then perform calisthenics and wrestle with a drill instructor while attempting to handcuff the instructor.

“They do their best not to be handcuffed,” Niekrasz said.

Sisco said this training is required because an officer can be “collateral damage.” They may use the spray in a confined area, or the target might flail, causing the spray to hit the officer, who must still control the situation. As a pepper spray instructor, Sisco said he also had to be sprayed.

Niekrasz carries a Glock 23, .40 caliber, the handgun used by the BPD. He said an officer’s duty weapon would be on one side of their belt while a Taser, flashlight and ASP baton would be on the other side. The police batons are commonly called ASPs, after Armament Systems and Procedures, the company that primarily manufactures them.

A BPD officer must qualify twice a year for handgun use, Sisco said.

“It’s a 60-round day course from 1 yard to 25 yards,” he said. “An officer must score an 80. That’s 48 hits out of the 60 rounds.”

The distances from the target are 1, 5, 7, 10, 15 and 25 yards. At the 1-yard line, Sisco said what is being tested is an officer’s “weapon retention” or the ability to draw one’s handgun and avoid being wrestled for its control by an assailant.

Niekrasz also carries two magazines, each with 13 rounds of ammunition, as well as handcuffs and rubber gloves for administering medical aid or when the presence of illicit drugs is suspected. He has a collapsible ASP baton, which extends by striking it on a hard surface, and he wears body armor. He carries Narcan nasal spray, an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids, including heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl. Sisco said increases in the number of overdoses to which emergency personnel must respond occur in waves. Niekrasz said the use of Narcan in a suspected overdose, which is determined not to be an overdose, is not harmful to the patient.

“Reactions to Narcan vary from person to person,” he said. “The person wakes up and sometimes they get combative because of disorientation.”

Sisco said the police radio carried by Niekrasz is state of the art.

“There are a lot more channels,” he said. “There’s more range, possibly across the state.”

Niekrasz carries a flashlight — even if patrol is your day job, you may have to enter a dark basement — and a Taser, which he has never deployed. Niekrasz pointed out that if an officer fires their Taser, the same procedure is followed as if a handgun had been fired, and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office must be notified. Sisco said the Taser that Niekrasz has is the second model used by the BPD, larger and more powerful than the first. The officer’s body camera must be activated if the Taser is used. Taser qualification tests occur annually. Sisco said only lieutenants and sergeants in the patrol division are certified to use them. He added that when he started out, Tasers, body cameras and Narcan were not in use. 

“The older Tasers had their own camera,” Niekrasz said. “They wanted a video and now they have body cameras.”

In a statement to The Independent Press, Public Safety Director Sam DeMaio said that, with the constant support of the mayor and council, the BPD has been able to equip its officers with state-of-the-art equipment that protects not only the officers, but also the citizens they serve.

“Our officers are outfitted with equipment that gives them several options that are less than lethal force when dealing with a violent suspect,” he said. “We train our officers to exhaust all measures of less than lethal force before making a decision to use lethal force.”