The Spokane, Wash. Police Department is outfitting all of their patrol rifles with suppressors for safety reasons. After multiple officers filed claims of hearing loss as a result of gunfire the City Council agreed to purchase almost 200 units for police use.
“It’s nothing more than like the muffler you put on your car,” said Lt. Rob Boothe, Spokane P.D. range master and lead firearms instructor, to the Spokesman-Review. This is the exact same argument many Americans are making to ease suppressor regulations.
The department says that the suppressors will make it safer for the police using the rifles as well as for bystanders. Unsuppressed rifles are loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss to anyone not wearing hearing protection.
While many in law enforcement see it as a good thing, some Spokane residents voiced anxiety over the police use of suppressors.
“Those are serious concerns. Especially in this day and age of things that are going on with the public and law enforcement,” said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.
“We protect our people to the best that we can,” said the sheriff. “At the same time, we need to be cognizant of having the public understand why we would purchase that piece of equipment.”
“There’s this Hollywood mystique,” said Boothe, who pushed for the suppressors. “Probably the best way to say it, beyond [calling them] suppressors, is this is an OSHA-approved noise reduction device.”
“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets the bar at which people experience hearing damage at 140 decibels,” explains the NRA. “The discharge of the type of rifle used by Spokane P.D. measures at 152 decibels.
“The suppressor in use by SPD reduces that to 134 decibels — just under the OSHA safety level. The sound emitted from those rifles will still be louder than that of a chainsaw.”
The Spokane P.D. is getting Gemtech Patrolman suppressors to match their M&P rifles. Smith & Wesson makes the M&P series of rifles and purchased Gemtech earlier this year.
The department is getting a pretty good deal, 181 suppressors for $115,000. Patrolman suppressors have a suggested retail price of $875.
The Spokane P.D. is currently working with five officers over their hearing loss claims. “If we have to buy those for a person who lives another 30 to 40 years, these suppressors will more than pay for themselves,” said Maj. Eric Olsen.
According to police records, the department fired rifles in nearly half of all officer-involved shootings since 2009. Since 2010 every single officer-involved shooting included rifles.
Since these guns are being used frequently — and sometimes primarily — suppressors make a lot of sense. The Spokane P.D. SWAT team put suppressors on all their rifles in 2013 for similar reasons.