The History of Riot Gear: Changes in Crowd Control Equipment

The History of Riot Gear: Changes in Crowd Control Equipment

Although the images in the media of law enforcement in full riot gear appear intimidating, the average citizen may not realize today’s riot suit is actually protective crowd control gear. The commonly all-black riot suit and accompanying gear appear imposing for a good reason. That visual element reinforces the critical psychological tool that lawful force can disperse a crowd and quell violence when necessary. Even though using force is always a last resort, officers must protect themselves from the inherent dangers of any crowd control situation such as blunt force and projectiles. That’s where riot gear becomes essential.

Next-Generation Riot & Crowd Control Gear For Police

Crowd control did not always rely on non-lethal crowd control gear such as the iconic riot suit. In fact, police strategies have evolved toward de-escalation, and riot gear has proven a reliable resource in efforts to reduce injury and loss of life on both sides. At Haven Gear, we proudly design and manufacture next-generation crowd control gear that ensures the peace and helps the brave men and women in blue go home safely. We hope this historical overview provides perspective about why riot gear has emerged as critical public safety equipment. Let’s dive into the history of riot gear.

Lethal History of Riots

The notion of non-lethal crowd control may be more modern than the average person realizes. In the United States, one need only look back as far as the pre-American Revolution to see evidence that protesting crowds were too often met with lethal force.

The Boston Massacre was the result of Colonial protesters rejecting the notion of taxation without representation. Rather than employ de-escalation techniques, British soldiers opened fire on Colonists who were only verbally targeting Redcoats. The shots killed three people on the spot, and two later died of wounds. Although the British soldiers were later charged, the point remains that even non-violent protests were commonly met with deadly force. Other than a Billy Club, police rarely were equipped with equipment that could provide bodily protection and aid in effective crowd control.

The Rise of Non-Lethal Riot Gear solutions

The French were among the first to assemble a police force specially trained and equipped to handle aggressive crowds early in the 20th Century. Called the National Gendarmerie, these French law enforcement groups evolved into mounted platoons that could be mobilized to nip rising violence before it escalated. In many ways, their mighty steeds were the equivalent of today’s wall of riot shields and vehicles.

During the 1930s, Polish riot police were equipped with protective body armor, helmets, and shields. Although this equipment was bulky and impeded their agility, it was helpful against hard impacts from flying objects. And given polycarbonate had not been conceived, holding up a protective shield reduced the officer’s visibility. However, numerous other 20th Century technological advancements delivered improved crowd control innovation.

The advent of tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, water cannons, and tasers, among others, provided enough non-lethal deterrents to remove traditional firearms from critical crowd control situations. This type of riot gear delivered potentially life-saving benefits when disgruntled citizens made the turn to an angry, violent mob. Although clashes between law enforcement and protesters appear unsettling in the media, everyday people may want to consider that police officers are using the best non-lethal equipment and strategies available.

Today’s Riot Control Gear Solutions

While tremendous advancements have been made in terms of developing non-lethal crowd control technologies, police safety equipment appears to have taken a backseat. Many law enforcement agencies and local police forces wear a riot suit that bears a striking resemblance to those used nearly a century ago. A bulky, unwieldy riot suit reduces the agility of front-line officers. And many more agencies are not equipped with anything at all to protect themselves when in a violent crowd control event, besides their normal work uniform. Everyday citizens should consider that an unacceptable risk for the men and women who keep us safe.

Fortunately, Haven Gear has worked diligently to develop riot gear that safeguards police officers from hard impacts, stab wounds, and flammable objects and liquids hurled at them by mobs. The pursuit of non-lethal riot control gear during the last century has been noble. However, law enforcement officers risk their health, safety and lives during periods of social unrest. The next-generation Haven Gear crowd control gear and riot suit designs improve the chances officers will safely complete their shift.