Spokane Police to Use Suppressors

Officers will soon outfit their 181 service rifles with Gemtech suppressors in order to protect their hearing and that of bystanders.

Spokane police Lt. Rob Boothe fires a Smith & Wesson M&P15 with a Gemtech Patrolman suppressor.
Spokane police Lt. Rob Boothe fires a Smith & Wesson M&P15 with a Gemtech Patrolman suppressor.photo from spokesman.com

Officers in the Spokane Police Department will soon be equipped with rifle suppressors while on patrol, at a cost of $115,000, according to this story from spokane.com.

The department says the move will protect officers and civilians from hearing damage, for many of the same reasons civilian shooters and hunters want greater access to the devices.

"It's nothing more than like the muffler you put on your car," said Lt. Rob Boothe, the department's lead firearms instructor.

The story says outfitting the department's 181 service rifles (mostly Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifles) with Gemtech suppressors will protect the city from the legal costs of worker's compensation claims filed by officers, as well as from any potential lawsuits that might be fired by bystanders exposed to firearm blasts.

Even one unmuffled gunshot can cause permanent hearing damage.

The story says the city council, which signed off on the purchase last month, was initially hesitant, asking for more information, and a guarantee the devices would soften and not silence a rifle's report.

The suppressors will reduce the noise level of gunshots to 134 decibels, which is still as loud as a jackhammer, but under the 140-decibel threshold for hearing damage.

While agencies wishing to purchase suppressors must complete ATF paperwork pursuant to the NFA regulations regarding suppressors, but law enforcement agencies are forgiven the $200 each tax imposed and the requests are usually expedited, the story says.

The Spokane SWAT team has used suppressors on its firearms since 2013, the story says.

But how often do officers use their rifles on duty? The story says the were used in nearly half of the department’s officer-involve shootings since 2009, translating to 12 of 26 shootings.

The Spokane County Sheriff Department has looked into suppressors as well, but hasn’t moved forward with a purchase.

"There's this Hollywood mystique," Boothe said in the story. "Probably the best way to say it, beyond suppressors, is this is an OSHA-approved noise reduction device."

The story says that five officers in the Spokane police department have filed claims with the state Department of Labor and Industries for hearing loss as a result of gunfire.

We have reported in the past that the U.S. military has been looking into suppressor use on the battlefield.

Experimentation with squad-level tactics using suppressors on everything from semi-auto rifles to heavy machine guns has been going on in both the Army and the Marines, with both branches seeing the undeniable benefits.