Retiring The Modern-Day Suicide Strap
The FreeMic 200.
Cops and their departments have always had a certain reverence for tradition. It’s most evident in our uniforms; from our badges to highly shined boots, stripes on some of our pants, the uniform belts we wear and even the stars, badges or shields we’re issued. Almost every department across the US retired the traditional Sam Browne belt and shoulder strap for use in daily patrol in favor of just the leather belt. Even those eventually morphed into plastic, nylon or some other material with the look of leather, but not the weight.
Nowadays, the shoulder strap can only be found on some formal uniforms. It looks pretty cool to us old guys, just look at the formal Rhode Island State Police uniform. But, there’s a reason the shoulder strap is nicknamed the “suicide” strap. Many an old cop can tell you stories about being flung around by the shoulder strap by some “hopped-up ne’er-do-well” pretending to be Roy Rogers roping a calf.
Today’s Suicide Strap
The radio you carry is your lifeline. You can call for cover, air a suspect’s description and direct others to your location. But, it can also put you in grave jeopardy. Just like the suicide strap on the old Sam Browne, the microphone cord most patrol cops wear today can be used to swing you around like the tail of a dead cat. It’s even been used to strangle officers.
A 34-year-old Washington State Corrections Officer, Jayme Biendl, was murdered in January 2011. An inmate wrapped her microphone cord around her neck and strangled her to death. A Riverton, Wyo. patrol officer was ambushed in a bar in March 2010. The suspect wrapped the officer’s mic cord around his neck and attempted to kill him.
While corded radio mics were meant to make communicating faster and easier for cops, the unfortunate downside is their ability to be used as weapons. And aside from a strangulation hazard, there’s the danger of diverting your eyes from a subject — turning your head toward your shoulder to talk into the mic clipped to an epaulette.
By Dave Douglas
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