With somewhere close to 18,000 individual police forces in the United States alone, departments vary widely when it comes to size, scope, and budgetary limitations.
Metropolitan police departments can employ tens of thousands of officers, which equates to hundreds of thousands of pieces of tactical gear. Policing a major city is a complex endeavor backed by billions of dollars from state, federal, and private sources.
What do metropolitan police departments need out of their police gear? Tactical vests, body armor, and K-9 protection are only some of the items topping the list of law-enforcement essentials. Here we will break down the needs of four of the most active police departments in the country: Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., and Charleston, S.C.
Chicago Police Department (CPD)
The CPD is the 2nd largest police department in the United States. It employs nearly 13,000 officers and over 2,000 additional employees. Although statistics are improving, the Chicago metro area has seen a stark uptick in crime, particularly violent crime, in the last decade.
All officers in the CPD are required to supply the majority of their own tactical gear. Most officers choose to wear protective tactical vests, given that violent crime is so prolific, and although they aren’t required to carry a backup weapon in addition to their duty weapon, many do. The expense of auxiliary equipment such as weapons retention straps, ammunition pouches, and magazine holders also falls on the officers.
The Windy City sees below-freezing temperatures on average of 3-5 months every year, and summers are hot and humid. Such extreme conditions can cause gear containing fabric, like tactical vests, to breakdown and malfunction. Choosing quality gear, such as NIJ-Certified gear that has been tested to withstand the rigors of extreme conditions, could mean the difference between life and death.
The NYPD is the largest and most well-known police department in the country. The department employs over 38,000 sworn officers and more than 10,000 additional personnel. In addition to field officers, the NYPD maintains special services including harbor patrol, bomb squad, counter-terrorism agency, an anti-gang agency, and more.
NYPD officers are involved in a surprisingly low number of shootings each year, averaging less than 50. All new NYPD officers are allowed to choose one of three firearms for on-duty carry. Over the last ten years, the department has been incrementally introducing new gear including tactical vests, soft body armor, ballistic helmets, and more. Since 2014 alone, the department has been granted over $320 million towards new equipment and training.
The NYPD K-9 unit is one of the biggest in the country. Made up of four separate departments (emergency service, bomb, transit, and narcotics) there are nearly 100 dogs in service with the NYPD at any given time. All dogs are equipped with high-end K-9 protection vests and trained handlers, and are subject to a rigorous training protocol.
We are proud to provide the NYPD with both Hugger tactical vests and vests for their K-9 officers.
The MPDC employs nearly 4,000 sworn officers and covers one of the largest geographic areas of any metro police department at over 68 square miles. It is unique in that it serves as a local police department with significant federal responsibilities, given its location within the nation’s capital.
Because the MPDC is often called upon for federal use, it is particularly well-outfitted with protection gear. Tactical vests, ballistic armor, and ammunitions storage are standard-issue for the force. In the department’s 157 years of existence, fewer than 70 MPDC officers in total have been killed by gunfire.
The MPDC is a particularly visible police department given its location. The department regularly invests in new uniforms and the department’s fleet of 1,700+ vehicles is top-of-the-line. Officers are encouraged to pay special attention to the cleanliness and maintenance of the auxiliary gear they choose to purchase themselves such as weapons straps, utility pouches, and plate carriers.
The City of Charleston Police Department is the largest police force in the state of South Carolina. With nearly 600 officers, it is regularly recognized for being one of the highest-achieving police departments in the country.
The CPD supports a wide variety of departments including a harbor patrol, canine unit, computer crime unit, and several special-activated units like SWAT.
Tactical gear used by Charleston police officers must be able to withstand the scorching southern sun and humidity. Tactical vests and upholstered plate carriers must be maintained meticulously, being aired out after each shift and replaced on a regular basis.
Tactical Equipment from Vel Tye
Vel Tye is a leading manufacturer of American-made tactical gear for law enforcement and military personnel. We work with dozens of municipal police departments around the country—including the NYPD—to supply high-quality, durable field equipment such as tactical vests and NIJ-Certified soft armor.
We’re veteran-founded, and we understand the responsibility that comes with producing equipment specifically for the men and women in blue. Our gear is never mass-produced; it’s built to be tough, long-lasting, and to perform when it counts.