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The High Speed CERT Equipment You Invest In Today Could Save Your Life Tomorrow

STL Joseph Garcia

Why You Need CTN-Certified Gear

My lawyers tell me I should start this article with a disclaimer, but I don’t think the serious operators who read this publication need a disclaimer. I think you’ll agree with what I’ve written below, even though it’s critical of our profession. Like you, I understand the challenges we face, because like you, I’ve been the lead on that stack. I’ve breached that cell door. I’ve transported those violent inmates. I know what you’re up against every day.

So when I say this is going to be one of the toughest articles you will ever read, you need to believe me. It’s going to be tough because it is dedicated to making sure you, the CERT operator, are fully prepared to confidently move to contact, efficiently execute operations, and emerge victorious.

Look at your team. Look at your gear. Look at your training. Are you fighting with one hand behind your back?

I’ve seen equipment failures cost lives, cut into precious training time, result in injuries from improper use, and “worst of all” threaten operators’ lives. Having the wrong gear is almost as dangerous as having no gear at all. You have to have the right gear for the mission. That’s why I urge you to revolutionize your purchasing thinking and bring the POWER of the CTN certification to work for your team.

More on that in a moment.

But first, let’s examine a common problem: Departments with large teams but minimal gear. To this day I don’t understand the mindset behind the teams that have 30 – 40 operators yet can only properly (or barely) equip five or six of them. Why have a 20, 30, or 40-man team if you can’t properly equip, train and prepare them for operations? Let’s examine this from a fiscal standpoint.

Let’s say you have 20 operators and three to five shotguns or a couple of those high-speed FN303 with SE532 green laser setups. How do you truly maximize your training time with minimal equipment?

Ironically, you don’t do this by devoting most of your training time trying to give each operator a chance to use and train with each piece of equipment. This results in minimal training time, which leads to inadequate training and plenty of the dreaded “hurry up and wait” time. If your team is insufficiently trained, the result could mean big money to be paid out in potential litigation that alleges – correctly – negligent training and tactics. Rest assured, if and when you go to court, you can expect plaintiff’s attorneys to aggressively probe you in this area. The old “yes, he is certified” argument goes out the window and in the door comes Johnny Cochran’s law firm to take your money (and possibly, your job!).

If the fear of litigation isn’t enough to motivate you to institute proper training regimens, look at it from this standpoint. Per procedure, you arm a few team members. What happens to the other operators who do not have adequate operational equipment? Do you tell them to go hands on? Do you tell them that they are a token of force? Good move, that is, if the inmates don’t call your bluff. If they do, better iron your court room suit.

Make no mistake about this! Failure to properly equip all of your operators opens your team to safety and security vulnerabilities. As discussed above, it exposes you to potential litigation that could cripple and taint your agency’s reputation.

Operationally, how can you deploy a powerful response if you are going into situations with not even a half powerful response?

Solution: Minimal Personal, Maximum Munitions

With cutting edge technology and weaponry, CERT Battle Units (CBUs) and CERT Level 2 – 4 units have tools that give them unprecedented precision and effectiveness. This threat ALONE makes it difficult for inmates to gauge or even prepare for a major CERT response.

Certain technologies available today (see below) allow your CBU’s and CERT units to make an overwhelming response that will gain compliance faster than ever before.

Solution: Proper Equipment Minimizes Litigation

Ever been tired or exhausted after a run? Know that feeling when you are sweating hard and want to take off your shirt to cool off? How about that feeling of being light headed because you have not eaten? Good! You need to get into that mindset right now as you read this section.

The next time you want to purchase equipment I would like for you to think about these feelings. Because that’s what your operators are going through when you purchase them those turtle steel vests that don’t fit right. That’s what they are going through when you purchase those large uncomfortable riot helmets with face shields that prevent your operators’ heads from breathing and their eyes from seeing. Is that the way you want your teams to go into combat?

In response to poorly considered purchasing decisions, we have developed the CERT Tactical Network (CTN) Certification Standard. This standard – along with federal certification standards – informs units of products that have been tactically tested and specifically endorsed for correctional operations. The benefits to using such a standard include cost savings from not purchasing the wrong equipment and from not purchasing equipment that is not tactically applicable to corrections.

Stop Being Taken for Granted

It troubles me to see corrections CERT units being taken advantage of by vendors that use window dressing. Some vendors think that hiring some guy that has worked at a correctional facility will immediately bring credibility to their product line. Does this guy speak for you, or for the needs of your facility? The truth is that some vendors still believe that if it is good for SWAT it should be good for corrections.

Like you, I know our community is highly specialized.

And when it comes to CERT equipment and the supplying the modern CERT warrior, companies like ALD Company, ISI, Damascus, SafetyTech, Maxpedition, ESS, Under Armor, ALS Technologies, Trijicon, Luepold, RAP4 and a growing list of others are on the bleeding edge. These companies understand that CERT / Corrections CTN certification is an important aspect of conducting business within the corrections community. They understand that safety, security and mission readiness is at the core of any successful CERT Mission.

The CTN standard is determined by a 24-member panel that represents Direct Supervision, Traditional, and Linear setting facilities. The members of this panel have tested products in dynamic and static combat environment situations, and in unconventional correctional settings.

Or you can take your chances with a vendor whose “hired gun” says their product is good for corrections. Oh, and don’t forget the hired gun is on their payroll as an employee.

Now you know why the top CERT Units in the world as starting to use the CTN in bid RFP specification.

Who is the Modern CERT Warrior?

The modern CERT warrior is highly mobile, flexible, and protected from multiple threats. He (or she) has equipment that is CTN-certified and endorsed. His gear lets him go from one extreme corrections threat to another without having to change gear.

Modern CERT warrior equipment works with the operator and not against him – unlike equipment worn by his obsolete “old school” CERT gladiator.

Because of the sensitive nature of the CERT Warrior’s equipment, we show below only limited pictures of equipment (and in low resolution) for security purposes.

Without proper equipment, an operator can:

  • Overheat
  • Suffer from constricted movement
  • Have impaired vision
  • Have hindered breathing
  • Be insufficiently protected
  • Suffer from lack of confidence in their equipment
  • Make poor shooting decisions
  • Make potentially disastrous use of force decisions

The Modern CERT Warrior’s Arsenal

Weapons of choice for level 2 – 4 CERT Units / CBU’S

  • FN303 with SE532 Green Laser Active Optics System
  • Remington Shotgun 14 – 16 barrel with pistol grips, and SE532 Green laser Optics System
  • P90 w/suppressor and SE535 Green Laser Optics Active – This is new to many CERT Units
  • M4 with suppressors
  • Glock / HK 9mm – 45 caliber

CERT Vest Protection

Recently, the CTN certification standard panel reviewed a number of Corrections Vest on the market and singled out one whose performance sets the standard: The Hawk Operator Vest. This is arguably one of the best vests technologically, and in terms of protection and design.

The protection available in the Hawk Operator Vest is far superior to any other CERT vest currently available. Designed and developed in Northern Ireland, this vest is becoming a buzzword in the corrections industry among elite CERT units.

The CTN chose the Hawk Operator Vest to be featured in this issue for the following reasons:

  • Dual US / European Ballistic, Stab, Slash and Knife Certification
  • Outer Shell fire / Flash retardant
  • Extremely lightweight (approximately 25% lighter than the closest corrections vest)
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Extremely Flexible
  • Technology that is currently not available in the US corrections vest market

CTN Rating is 9.3

Protective Gear

When wearing protective equipment it is essential for operators to have appropriate limb protections that will stand up to the highest demands placed on them by CERT Spec Ops Units. Hands down, our panel selected the Damascus protective gear line for the following reasons:

  • High quality, clean hand-built products
  • Proven dedication to the corrections CERT Community
  • Meets and exceeds the toughest CERT test
  • Designed for CERT Special Operations
  • Enhanced designed for comfort, flexibility
  • Cost effectiveness

CTN Rating of 9.4

Gear Up To Win!

If you are going to have a High Level 2 – 4 CERT Unit it is imperative to ensure that your investment in equipment is done right the first time. SEA’s and SEC’s (Senior Executive Administrators and Senior Executive Commanders), I urge you to discover the resources available to help your quartermasters make informed decisions. There are companies within the CERT Community (see the list above) that have real corrections CERT information that your people can use.

Your equipment decision is among the most critical decisions you will make as a unit. Select the wrong equipment or unproven equipment and you will hurt your team.

There is one fact that no vendor can deny: It is the fact that an operator will use this equipment in battle. Not the administrator, not the procurement specialist, and not the vendor. A real person will go into harm’s way and possibly place their life on the line. When you think in those terms, having a CTN rated product is absolutely vital to making sure they emerge from combat safe and victorious.

We should all fight to place the right equipment on our operators. I can assure you that this equipment will be tested by the threat called “Inmate Violence.”

To request a secured detailed equipment list and high resolution pictures, please write to Be sure to use your current email address. The system will not respond to unknown registered emails.

To request a product evaluation, please write the CTN product certification program at

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