Bail Out Bags for LEO’s, good idea or fad?
By: Joshua Gideon
For nearly a decade now I have trained or assisted with training with law enforcement officers in the farming communities of East Central Indiana. My experiences as a private security contractor (semi-retired) and unique skillsets have blessed me with the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the finest law enforcement officers in the Midwest. Although I am a civilian, many of these men have accepted my presence and allow me to assist them and their brothers when I can.
It was during these volunteer training days where my good friend (Officer Jason) and I began discussing what we would eventually discover was called a “Bail Out Bag.” We had spent a very rainy training day simulating vehicle stops and throwing scenarios at each other when I inadvertently hit him with a scenario where he ran out of ammo on his belt. This was a complete mistake on my part, as I did not account for the amount of rounds he may need to fire in order to complete the scenario.
The scenario started as a robbery at a local bank. Officer Jason responded pulling his cruiser into the back parking lot of our simulated bank. Blocking his view from the range berm (or back door of the bank) was my F150 Pickup Truck serving as the get away vehicle. Behind the truck were four heavily armed paper targets carrying their loot with simulated unarmed civilians standing around them as hostages. As soon as Officer Jason arrived on scene (still unable to see around the get away vehicle) he began to take fire and was forced to bail out of the vehicle. Due to his approach on scene he was forced to quickly exit the vehicle and take cover behind the rear wheel and axle of the truck. While approaching cover, he was able to return fire and score multiple high center chest shots at close to 20 yards. From cover he continued firing and moving toward the front of the get away vehicle. During this process he emptied the mag in his gun, his spare mag, and was on the last mag on his duty rig. Scoring hits on all three targets he was allowed to shoot.
For the sake of the scenario, the fourth target would only be engaged if I gave the command. The intent was to simulate a fourth bank robber who was lagging behind and could pop out at any minute. However, it was said up front that I may or may not call that target. Officer Jason knows me a bit too well and refused to leave cover until I called the last target (smart guy). So the wait began. I didn’t go much more than a minute, before I got bored and called the last target. Officer Jason finished up the remaining rounds on that target from cover until slide lock.
Afterwards during the debrief we both agreed it really bothered us that he was so far from his cruiser without many of the tools he may have needed. In his quick exit from his vehicle he really would not have had time to grab extra magazines, backup pistol, blow out kit, etc. Although he considered grabbing each one of these, too many options forced him to abort that thought process and get off the X. We both agreed that at best, he would have only had time to grab one thing before bailing out of the vehicle.
What would you grab if you had to bail out of your cruiser and could only grab one thing? Our conclusion was some sort of bag that had what we needed, a Bail Out Bag. This is where Officer Jason tasked me with helping putting one together for him and his fellow officers. I began doing a bit of research on bags and after a while aborted that process and decided I needed to get some expert opinions on these so called “Bail Out Bags.” I turned to retired Officer David Williams of the Dayton Police Department and he suggested we pose the question on his Facebook page. I had tons of responses and surprisingly most agreed that these “Bail Out Bags” are important and necessary kit. Another friend and avid hiker (Phillip Martin) added some great input into the rather lengthy post. It’s what I learned from these experts that I share now.
A “Bail Out Bag” is indeed an essential piece of kit for on and off duty LEO’s. The content of these bags will vary depending on area and may need to change depending on the seasons. The most important thing is to first apply back packing logic (a bag of stuff you need to X, for X long, X far away from “home”). Or in other words, a bag of stuff with extra supplies to help you survive and do your job that can last for several hours when you are away from normal supply sources such as your cruiser. Some examples might be an active shooter situation, a bail out situation like described earlier, or even an incident where an off duty officer needs to respond to an incident. I think it is important to realize this bag is not intended for a long duration, but rather should be built with weight in mind. We all evolve when it comes to packing gear, regardless if it’s backpacking or assaulting a compound in Afghanistan. The less experienced start with packing everything they may possibly ever need (although the folly of this is that you never can pack everything you need). The more experienced pack based on plausibility and tend to pack more efficient kit or kit that allows them to build other kit. The same is true when it comes to “bail out” bags. Ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain.
As I started building the bags, I quickly figured out that the bag is the last thing you should get. First, figure out the contents, then the bag itself. What items will you need to supplement the gear on your person for a short duration of time until you have a chance to resupply? For the purpose of this department, we based it on a 4-hour maximum duration. When we could, we found the most compact versions of each item. For instance, sunscreen was found in small tear off packets that resembled ketchup packets. Below are some of the items that were included in one of the kits.
Two extra handgun magazines, backup handgun with extra magazine, extra M4 magazines (or shotgun shell cards), spare radio battery, spare LED flashlight, large non-folding knife with strong blade for prying, monocular or small binoculars, Wedge-It tactical door wedges, sharpie, multi-tool, lighter, compact rain poncho, hand warmers, spare batteries for scopes & lights, energy bars, oral-iv or similar hydration product, 550 cord, trash bag, bug spray, sunscreen, and medical (blow out kit).
I break out medical specifically. This should be a tear off pouch attached to whatever bag you decide. I like the Dark Angel Medical tear off pouch, but there are others out there as well. It should at a minimum contain an Israeli bandage, clotting agent, airway kit, chest seal, and non-latex gloves. I am a big fan of the Tactical Response VOK (Ventilated Operator Kit) and supplement it with a few other items in my own personal kits. Now if you are one of those guys that will not carry something you don’t know how to use, this is not the place to do that. When it comes to medical, it’s okay to pack items outside of your skillset. In fact, you better! Think of it this way, if you are on the ground with a sucking chest wound, it’s the off duty EMT that just happened to be nearby on his way to the grocery store who will need to use that kit to save your life. It certainly won’t be you.
Note that almost every kit varied a bit from person to person. K9 could have added a bowl with water, bag of treats, and extra leash. Snipers could have added a Mildot Master, Slope Doper, and Scope Dope calculation chart for known distances in case his electronic equipment failed. You get the point.
After putting all the kit (contents) together in a pile, it became evident that the bag we needed did not have to be very big. It also needed to have a long strap on it so it could be slung over the head and fit over soft body armor and shoulder mics. The other requirement was attachment points for the tear off medical pouch. In my research I found that the single sling bags or satchel style bags really worked the best. However some of the officers wanted to use a small plate carrier to get the added benefit of additional ballistic protection. Either way you go, as long as you meet the basic requirements it’s personal preference. In the end, this is not a one size fits all solution.
Is a “Bug Out” bag a fad? I don’t believe it is. Whatever it is called and will be called in the future, I think it is just a logical extension of the gear needed to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the modern law enforcement officer. I am sure some creative marketing person will coin a new term for it in the future, but you and I will know better. I hope that this article at least pointed you in the right direction. Find what “Bail Out” bag works for you and pack efficient and light. Most importantly, TRAIN WITH IT! Stay safe out there and thank you to all those who put on the badge every day to keep us safe!
Below are some suggested “Bail Out” Bags:
S.O.E. Micro Rig
S.O.E. Active Shooter Bag
DARK Gen 2 Pouch
Below are some suggested “Bail Out” Bag Contents:
Wedge-It Tactical Wedge
Tactical Response VOK
HALO Chest Seal
Oral IV Hydration
SOE Shotgun Shell Card