Standard police equipment: What Glen Ridge officers carry and why

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GLEN RIDGE, 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 Glen Ridge Police Department officer carry, on their belt or vest, when on duty, to protect residents from hazards? One day last week at GRPD headquarters, Patrol Officer Paul Cicchetti, who has four years on the force, explained what was attached to his bulletproof vest. The articles, including the vest, weigh 25 pounds, but Cicchetti is prepared for almost any situation.

“The setup I’m wearing more evenly distributes the weight,” he said. “I do have the option to wear it on my belt, but I’m more comfortable this way. For instance, my baton is on my left side, my less dominant hand. I want to use my strong hand to grab my firearm.”

He acknowledged that another officer may arrange their gear differently, and valid points can be made either way. 

Cicchetti was well outfitted. He wore a body camera and had two pairs of handcuffs. The handcuffs, when attached together, might be necessary to restrain a larger individual during an arrest. 

“There’s all different types of handcuffs,” he said, “but one key will open 99 percent of them.”

Cicchetti had a can of pepper spray, which, if deployed, would require a use-of-force report to be completed — the same as if an officer drew their gun. He confirmed that police recruits, while at the academy, are sprayed with pepper spray and then required to attempt to handcuff a resisting instructor.

He had a flashlight and a tourniquet. He carries the tourniquet, he said, because applying the tourniquet quickly to an injury could be a matter of life and death; he does not want to have to go back to his patrol car to fetch one. His firearm is a Smith & Wesson 9 mm.

“We just switched from a Smith & Wesson 45,” he said.

Sunglasses — these are optional — were attached to his vest, and he has a police radio with a microphone extender, which goes under his right arm and attaches to his left shoulder. 

“Some officers wear it in the middle (of their vest),” he said. “I feel more comfortable with it on my shoulder.”

Cicchetti said that everything he had on him was just in case somebody needed help or, in the event that “something should go badly,” to protect the surrounding area.

He had a small flashlight under his right epaulet. When inspecting someone’s license at night, he said, this allows him to use his flashlight without holding it in his hand.

“A veteran guy showed me this to keep my hands free,” he said.

All the keys he carried on his key hook are police related. The only personal items he had on him were his cell phone and wallet.

He carries Narcan nasal spray, an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids, including heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl, and he carries a package of combat gauze for serious wounds.

“This has a chemical in it that helps blood to clot more quickly,” he said, adding that he carries a pen and medical shears for cutting through clothing. “Not everyone carries these.”

Cicchetti carries 52 rounds of ammunition: two magazines with 17 rounds apiece — a 17-round magazine in his firearm and one in the chamber of the gun. And he carries a collapsible baton, or ASP. Police batons are commonly called ASPs, after Armament Systems and Procedures, the company that primarily manufactures them.

“I routinely check the handcuffs; the flashlight charge; the firearm, which I clean after training,” he said. “I check the tourniquet by making sure it’s set up to be used. You want everything set up for success. You don’t want to waste time.”

Cicchetti carries two types of gloves. One is for patting people down, and the other is for medical incidents or suspected drug use.

“The medical gloves are for checking for drugs,” he said. “There’s the possibility of a reaction to fentanyl.”

Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin. In police training films, Cicchetti said, people are shown losing consciousness from even touching fentanyl. 

“I would hope everyone uses the gloves the way I do,” he said. “Everything has to become second nature.”

Photos by Daniel Jackovino