Blue Line

2020 law enforcement gear to keep on your radar

A review of pants, boots and one new weapons light

November 10, 2020  By Hilary Rodela, with files from Brendan Rodela

Gear and accessories are almost as important for law enforcement professionals as training. Having the right equipment can make the job easier and safer. This article will cover some of the latest tactical clothing and accessories made with law enforcement in mind.

As a police officer and private investigator, we both always have our eyes peeled for new products on the market that can improve our everyday work tasks and movements in law enforcement. Here’s some of the new clothing pieces and duty gear we have recently tested out.

Streamlight’s TLR-8A

Officers familiar with weapon lights have more than likely already used a Streamlight product. The company’s hand-held and weapon-mounted lights are extremely common in the law enforcement world. The clearest advantage of a weapon-mounted light is keeping both hands free for accuracy and weapon manipulations. Naturally a shooter’s preferences will determine what sort of light is best for them. Is the light enough? Would a laser help them as well? Is a strobe function necessary in their line of work? Will the extra weight affect accuracy? Streamlight offers a multitude of options for handguns and long guns, but when the client says they want it all, Streamlight now offers it all in one small package.

The TLR-8A is a rail mounted light and laser combination. It features a bright white LED beam with a strobe function as well as a red laser. This light is easy to engage and disengage while still maintaining proper grip of your gun. No tools are required for installation so you have an easy attachment right out of the box and a quick switch between weapons when desired. This feature was nice and made it easy to try it on different firearms.


This light comes equipped with an ambidextrous rear switch, which can be changed between high and low options, maximizing ergonomics so you can shoot with confidence.

When you’re already wearing more than 13 kilograms (approximately 30 pounds) of equipment, anything extra needs to be compact; we in law enforcement don’t have the capacity for anything that is more cumbersome. The TLR-8A is 6.5 centimetres (2.58 inches) long and weighs in at 2.64 ounces, making it one of Streamlight’s smallest and lightest offerings, even with all the bells and whistles. This lightweight design also means minimal changes to your shooting style as there is so little to compensate for, making your aim accurate. Having the TLR-8A provided me with more light but it was easy to use and so there is no need to overcompensate your grip while you’re shooting.

This light can be operated as a light only, laser only, or both, and these options are cycled through by holding one switch down and pressing the other.

This versatile piece of equipment is a spectacular addition to any firearm; you will have a difficult time finding a situation in which this light won’t meet your needs.

Women’s Liberty Flex shirt

The first time I saw the new women’s Liberty Flex shirt from 5.11 Tactical was at the 2020 Shot Show and I immediately liked the look of it. It features clean lines that resemble a collared, button-up shirt. Its cut keeps it professional looking while also allowing it to be feminine. The reason I say it “resembles” a button-up shirt is because there are no buttons. Instead, the shirt has snaps, which make it easy to put on in a rush.

The description of the shirt says it’s also moisture wicking and easy to move around in. That is 100 per cent accurate. The material is light and comfortable, making it breathable. Even after wearing it for several hours while working in a hectic environment, it is still crisp and sweat-free. The material is also flexible and stretchy, which I appreciate.

Additionally, for those who carry firearms on or off the job, its trademarked RAPIDraw feature makes it easy to conceal a small firearm as well as access it quickly. The Liberty Flex shirt is definitely worth investing in.

Women’s tactical pants

5.11 has a new line of women’s tactical pants that are great for wearing on the job or just for outdoor activities. I tested out three of them.

The ABR Pro Pant is soft to the touch and flexible to wear. It has several appealing factors for me, including extra pockets that are specifically made to hold particular items. For example, there is a pocket on the front left side of the pant that is ideal for cellphone storage. A D-ring is also hanging off the belt loop on the front of the pants, off to the right, and is ideal for hanging badge identification so you don’t have to dig through pockets to find it.

The ABR Pro Pant.
Photo: 5.11

There are seven convenient pockets total on the pants. Five of these are secured with Velcro. Each vary in size, giving the user plenty of options to store keys, wallets and other personal items conveniently.

ABR Pro Pants are light in weight yet durable with reinforced material in areas like the knees. The triple-stitching makes them so durable and subsequently long lasting. The pants have a relaxed fit as well, making them super comfortable for hours. They are even stain-resistant due to the Teflon finish. The ABR Pro Pant is one of a kind in my experience and especially great for those who are on the job for long periods at a time.

Another option for pants for female officers is the Icon Pant. These pants include Flex-Tac, which makes them extremely comfortable and long lasting. They resist not only major stains but also water and everyday dirt due to the Flex-Tac material so you can stay looking fresh through messy accidents or in tough, grimy situations. The pockets on the Icon Pant add up to 12 in total and include ones just the right size for extra magazines. The added pockets are definitely an advantage.

These pants are especially great for those who work in any first responder field — not just policing. Whether you’re at the office as a dispatcher, patrolling or hiking outside for hours as a conservation officer, or even in training, the Icon Pant is snug and satisfying. I found them favourable for both work and pleasure.

The Apex Pant. Photo: 5.11

Additionally, the Apex Pant is one versatile product. Truly any woman would enjoy them in my opinion — whether she’s working at home, exploring in the mountains or spending time on the range. That being said, they are especially ideal for women in law enforcement. The Apex includes the Flex-Tac material that is in the Icon Pant but they also present a more feminine silhouette as they fit a little snugger while still remaining highly professional. These pants’ pockets in particular are great for storing all kinds of gear — including extra knives and lights — as they do not show much of an outline or visibility of the gear’s print, allowing your accessories to remain discreet. For added security and peace of mind, there are zipper closures on the side and leg cargo pockets, which also have extra sections inside of them for maximum storage. There is even a secret pocket for securing a handcuff key.

The Apex includes the Flex-Tac material that is in the Icon Pant but they also present a more feminine silhouette as they fit a little snugger while still remaining highly professional.

The Apex pant is professional comfort at its best. For those who are on patrol, in a tactical situation, or on scene for hours, you will be able to work with ease in these.

A.T.L.A.S. boot from 5.11

Whether holding the line at a peaceful protest, chasing a fleeing suspect or walking a beat, we in law enforcement know what it is like to spend many long hours on our feet. Due to the array of duties we must carry out, comfortable, reliable footwear is paramount, and not just any old boot will do. Officers must be able to count on their boots to appear professional and perform at a high level, regardless of the task at hand. That being said, these boots must also carry the officers comfortably — we’re talking blister-free, squeeze-free zones here.

The new for 2020 A.T.L.A.S boot from 5.11 takes its name from the Atlas of Greek mythology, the Titan who held up the heavens. This is because these boots do the same for their wearers. 5.11’s A.T.L.A.S. technology stands for “all terrain load assistance system” and 5.11 claims it is the latest innovation in tactical boots.

These boots excel in all categories, I found. Firstly, it is impossible to overlook the immediate feeling of comfort when you put them on. They just envelope your foot in all the right places.

The A.T.L.A.S. boot line features several types of foam to absorb shocks and increase rebound, but most importantly is the Ortholite comfort foam foot bed. Ortholite is known for creating durable, breathable foot beds used by many leading footwear brands, and their top-of-the line performance is front and centre in the A.T.L.A.S. This soft padding allows law enforcement to endure long shifts without fatigue, sweat or discomfort.

You’ll also find added confidence in your step, not only because of the sharp appearance of these boots, but because of the highly adaptive soles. They’re slip resistant, traction focused and have better tread than a Humvee in a combat zone. The A.T.L.A.S. boots are designed to help you go anywhere you may need to with ease. It doesn’t matter if you’re walking, running or climbing; if you’re on asphalt, gravel, sand or otherwise, these boots will get you there. Plus, once you get there, the optional side zipper components makes it fast and easy to take them off — though you’ll probably want to keep them on, that’s how natural they feel.

Visualize this: after a long hot day, you come home to shed all the heavy equipment, peel off the shirt under the sweaty vest and finally ditch the belt cinching your pants to your waist. You’re just about ready to slip on your comfiest slippers… only to be met with the stench of grizzly death upon removing your boots. Problem solved with the A.T.L.A.S. boots; they’re made with a high abrasion air mesh, making terrible foot odour pretty near impossible from what I experienced.

The difference between the A.T.L.A.S. and solid leather boots is undeniable: far less heat and moisture build inside the boots, keeping the wearer’s feet happy and healthy. Plus, the water-resistant leather upper provides additional protection against my worst nightmare — soggy socks.

When wearing these boots, you’ll have an advantage on any and every surface, be it horizontal or vertical, and even when a suspect manages to get away after a foot pursuit, at least you’ll feel like you ran on a cloud.

These are just a few of the numerous, great tactical products that are on the market today. Each of these products were impressive and conducive for our law enforcement and investigative work, and we know having the right duty gear can make all of the difference in job performance.

Hilary Rodela is a licensed private investigator through the state of New Mexico, a former evidence technician and crime scene investigator. She has worked for the Ruidoso Police Department as well as the Lubbock Police Department.

Brendan Rodela is a patrol officer for the Ruidoso Police Department and holds a degree in Criminal Justice as well as certification in instructor development.

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