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Why it’s so costly for departments to skimp on tactical communication

Think tactical headset first, not last, when assessing officer communications needs

Sponsored by Silynx Communications

By Yoona Ha, Police1 BrandFocus Staff

What do the most effective law enforcement officers have in common? If you ask the experts, the answer is quite simple: They understand that the best policing happens between the ears.

Over-the-ear headsets like the one on the left can be cumbersome, while the CLARUS XPR (on the right) is a lightweight option that doesn't compromise an officer's situational awareness.
Over-the-ear headsets like the one on the left can be cumbersome, while the CLARUS XPR (on the right) is a lightweight option that doesn't compromise an officer's situational awareness. (photo/Silynx)

It’s easy for us to take hearing for granted, but it’s really hearing and listening that drives the decisions we make as police officers. So it makes sense that researchers have also found that departments that equip their SWAT officers a solid tactical communications system that includes high functioning headsets have a significant tactical advantage.  Moreover, the risks of injury or death even in situations that are physically and psychologically distressing are significantly reduced.

Yet departments still spend relatively little money—or spend no money, expecting the officer to purchase the headsets out of their own salaries—in buying headsets, the crucial line of communication for officers, despite the value it brings to officers. In other words, equipping a tactical officer with a radio without a headset is like giving an officer handcuffs without the keys. 

Having a tactical communications system with a high-quality headset like the CLARUS XPR is essential to ensuring officers respond to the 21st-century demands of the communities they serve.  

The risk of low-quality headsets for critical operations

Police work will always be dangerous. Whether you’re dealing with a hostage standoff or responding to call involving a barricaded gunman, you’ll always find yourself in need to clearly communicate with other officers. Hopefully, you’ll go through your career never needing to discharge your firearm or take fire from an active shooter, but you will always communicate.

Knowing you will use it every operation, would you really want to take the chance of relying on low-cost headsets that may malfunction when you most need it?

“It’s a fairly common oversight that departmental funding isn’t allocated toward that one piece of gear that is used for that one task is accomplished during 100 percent of operations and is critical to mission survival,” said Matthew Hemenez, a former telecommunications officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, who now works as the CEO of Silynx.

Convinced that a headset is critical to operational success? 

As the recent shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School demonstrated, a broken communication system can hinder officer effectiveness and response levels. When it comes to police operations, the ability to communicate effectively is key to the success of your mission. In response, companies like Silynx have found ways to make this task easier for officers by focusing on ways to develop headset systems that don’t compromise quality for convenience and comfort.

For instance, Silynx has developed tactical headsets that can integrate with cellphones in addition to radio communication. This is an especially helpful solution for departments that would like to have the flexibility of having officers use both two-way radios and cellphones.

In-ear headsets as a modern alternative for better situational awareness and comfort

Tactical headset design has come a long way. Since the 1980s, tactical headsets, based on a decades-old design, were often worn over the ears. They were big and bulky (on average they weigh about a pound) and could easily make you look like an air traffic coordinator. Plus when it gets hot out, having to wear over-the-ear headsets on your head can be extremely uncomfortable.

The good news is that technology has advanced in a way that has made tactical headsets more compact and discreet, making them a much more practical option for officers. Also, in-ear headset systems like the CLARUS XPR don’t sacrifice your situational awareness since their “hear-thru” technology picks up the sounds you need to hear – and localizes that sound to a direction so you know where the sound is coming from--while filtering out harmful noise. It’s a common misconception that in-ear headsets prevent you from hearing your surroundings, but that’s not the case.

The earbuds have a variety of tips—such as foam tips that swell up to fit well in your ear—to accommodate the many body types in the field, and they’re compact and lightweight. You no longer have to worry about forgoing protection for your head by having to wear a headset that interferes with your helmet.

Protecting officers from hearing loss

Hearing loss has become a growing concern among law enforcement officers. One recent study revealed that noise-induced hearing loss affected 93 percent of officers among the 543 police officers who were surveyed.

It can be incredibly costly for both you and your department to overlook the threat of hearing loss. Hearing loss is cumulative and ultimately irreversible. Officers are often exposed to loud noises like gunfire, it’s therefore crucial that hearing protection is a priority and not an afterthought. Worker’s compensation and disability claims can add up, so departments should take proactive measures to purchase a tactical communications system that protects against noise-induced hearing loss. 

Another upside for departments looking to up their communications efficacy is that the CLARUS XPR headset system is surprisingly affordable. It has all of the functionalities that officers would need: hearing protection, comfort, convenience and clear two-way communications, situational awareness with sound localization, at a price that doesn’t require departments to stretch budgets to accommodate.

The other good news is that many federal, state, corporate and private foundations offer police departments grants that can help cover the costs of specialized law enforcement technology like tactical communications headsets.

Think of it this way: Every department has the obligation to keep officer safety top of mind. Investing in body armor and powerful weapons isn’t enough. Tactical headsets can significantly improve the chances of officer survival and success during each mission and are worth the value they provide. 

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