Sirchie set out to rethink the design of body gear to protect officers during riot control deployment and similar situations to complement the company's helmets and shields. The Tac Commander is a system of pieces that fit together to adjust to a wide range of body sizes using the same suit.
"Our goal was to develop body gear that helped keep law enforcement safe and protected, but also didn't impede them performing their mission," says Andy Mariella, Senior Director of Global Marketing and Commercial Strategy for Sirchie.
Traditionally, officers have been issued body gear for riot response in a standard size such as small or large that most closely matches an officer's measurements, but it might not be a perfect fit. Any changes in weight would necessitate a different suit and gear in a different size, and that new size still might be uncomfortable because it's not customizable.
"So we designed gear that's adjustable and allows for maneuverability, so officers can spend a couple of hours or a full shift of eight to 12 hours in this gear," says Mariella. Sirchie's Tac Commander will fit the 95th percentile of people, he says, which covers those who would wear a size small to size 2XL. That means an officer can adjust the suit by cinching the pieces' connecters more tightly or letting them out more as needed, and give each officer what feels like a custom fit. And once a suit is adjusted for an officer, it takes under one minute to put on, he says.
"What it affords law enforcement is flexibility," says Mariella. "They don't have to be assigned to an individual officer. You can have a cache of suits available to deploy. "
Launching in 2018, two additional suits will fit officers outside the current suit's size range: one suit for officers smaller than usual, and one for officers larger than usual.
"We wanted to make sure we were also providing the best protection available," says Mariella. The Tac Commander provides full torso coverage with included front and back blunt force trauma plates and can accommodate all levels of 9x12-inch ballistic plates in the front and back. Side deflector shields protect the sides of the neck without impeding movement, and shelves and notches on the thigh plates provide a place to rest a riot shield so the officer stays protected without bearing the full weight of the shield. The suit even includes protection for the feet and ankles.
Designers at Sirchie also wanted to make sure the Tac Commander's components wouldn't fall down while an officer was running or kneeling. "Our suit is designed to stay in place once you're locked into it," says Mariella. A combination of Velcro, D-rings, and quick release buckles connect the pieces together, with a snap system to attach the duty belt. The upper body pads are hooked together and the lower body pads are hooked together. If you put the duty belt through the back loop, the upper section also connects to the lower section.
Officers had expressed concern about accessing their duty belts while in riot gear. This system's incorporated duty belt is made to always be accessible. Or officers can simply fasten their everyday duty belt into the suit system if they prefer.
To promote airflow among all these parts and regulate the officer's temperature, Tac Commander pads are perforated and mesh was incorporated into the design. Ergonomic 45-degree angle MOLLE and strategically placed loops and caribiners allow for convenient gear storage.
The suit is sold as one unit, from shoulder to feet covers, including the incorporated duty belt. It comes with a mesh carry bag that allows for airflow to keep the suit inside clean and odor-free. The cost of an individual suit is $525, but the price goes down with orders of multiple suits, and they can also be sold bundled with Sirchie helmets and shields.
"Sirchie's Tac Commander is designed for all law enforcement officers. From tactical, to patrol for crowd control or otherwise, to prison teams for cell extraction," says Mariella. "The goal is to be protected, and practically anyone in the department can don and doff the gear."